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Open GLAM in Germany

January 22, 2012 Leave a comment

This post is the original blogpost I wrote for the open GLAM website. The final (edited) version can be found on www.openglam.org

Here in Germany, it appears that the open data debate is not quite as far ahead as in the UK or in the Netherlands (although they are working on it). All the more reason for different groups to set up new initiatives in order to fire up the discussion about making digital heritage available under an open license. Especially concerning the major role Germany has played in the history of Europe, amazing achievements can be obtained when the data can be freely (re)used by anybody. With the millions of paintings, photos, videos, maps, sculptures and archives available, the possibilities will be endless. Imagine watching any event during WWII through the eyes of both a German and a British Soldier, or to see the famous Pergamon Altar being enriched with objects from Greek institutions. New stories can be told and new insights in history can be found.

Different projects are being organized in different parts of Germany with GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) institutions. Goal is to bring different groups of people together and help each other to get as much open-access, freely-reusable cultural content available for the public.

A great example is the cooperation between Wikimedia Germany and the German Federal Archives (Deutsches Bundesarchiv). In 2008, the archive donated 100.000 photos out of its huge collection to Wikimedia under an open license. The photos made it possible for the Wikipedia volunteers to enrich the Wikipedia articles with images and this way bring them to life. The archive itself also benefited greatly from their donation. This cooperation led to dramatically increased visibility of their holdings and at the same time and the metadata and descriptions of the photos were constantly improved by volunteers.
The cooperation between Wikimedia and the German Federal Archives has since then been one of the prime examples of how successful releasing digital heritage under an open license can be. The full case study can be found here

The Wikimedia Foundation is currently the driving force behind most of the Open GLAM projects. Not only in Germany, but in many other countries as well, as for example the wikilovesmonuments project.

Organizing more successful GLAM projects is all about bringing people together. Lots of people at institutions are thinking about opening up their data but do not have the expertise. Both technical and legal. Others do not see the use of opening up their data or are skeptical towards it. By showing the rich scale of possibilities and letting programmers create new tools and visualizations with their data, we can show the advantages when cultural data is available under an open license.

In the future, the Open Knowledge Foundation will work together with different organizations to organize even more Open GLAM projects in Germany and help them making it easier for everyone to add, find and reuse cultural works which are under an open license.

Those who are interested in GLAM outreach and helping to join the effort to encourage cultural heritage institutions to open up the data they hold on their collections and digital copies of works, please join the discussion on the Open GLAM/Open Heritage mailing list. Or send me an email: joris.pekel@okfn.org