The Europeana Data Exchange Agreement and Irish Cultural Institutions

I had the privilege of chairing a symposium organized by the Irish Manuscript Commission which invited participants from a variety of Irish cultural institutions to discuss issues arising from the new Europeana Data Exchange Agreement. Presentations from Jill Cousins, Director of Europeana and her colleagues, Georgia Angelaki, Paul Keller and Lucie Guibault sought to bring clarity to the new agreement and the issues emerging from the online presentation of digital cultural artefacts.

Unfortunately, I had to leave during what was shaping up to be a very lively roundtable discussion. The presentations laid bare some of the salient points that surround Europeana’s new DEA. The key points of the new agreement are changes to licensing that will open up metadata submitted by contributors to wider and most ominous to many contributors to commercial uses. Metadata submitted must be done under a CC0 license placing it entirely in the public domain. Thumbnails provided are not covered under the CC0 and the contributors have the opportunity to define their licensing. This has alarmed many past contributors who see their data suddenly becoming prey to commercial vultures and open to be radically reused with or without any attribution.

This symposium provided a forum for free and open discussion of these issues as well as the challenges presented by the online. I opened the session with a short welcome which I include here should you be interested:

“The DHO has been privileged to work with the IMC and Europeana over the past two years. We have facilitated some of the technicalities involved in the metadata aggregation process and many of you have worked with Niall O’Leary directly in this. Thanks to many of you who have shared your cultural objects with Europeana in the past. The nature of the relationship has I hope been mutually beneficial.

Europeana has been a powerful initiative during the past decade and we hope it will continue to take a leadership role in increasing the freedom of access to Europe’s cultural and scientific heritage. It’s a fluid world though and we are here today because Europeana is changing. The objective remains the same but Europeana is moving from the role of being solely a portal to your collections to service becoming a service platform – dedicated to increasing access to the metadata representing the contributed artefacts.

What does this all mean? Well, today we have an opportunity to find out and to interact directly with the folks from Europeana to get the answers we need to make our own decisions. Each of your own institutions has its own objectives and briefs and you have to make a decision as to whether these coincide or are furthered under the new Europeana offering and their new Data Exchange Agreement. It’s crucial that you do take the time to consider your own objectives around what is presented today and how it is best served in this changing cultural space. In this fluid world, there are new challenges to how we do what we have done in the past. The way that we engage with our audiences have changed…your artefacts have become data (and metadata) and more importantly, people (through such social media like Facebook, Flickr or twitter) look to new ways to connect with you. Likewise, new services and applications – especially in the mobile arena mean that your cultural objects may find new forms of expression – either by your own efforts – or by someone else’s.

And this is a crucial observation. There is a challenge to how you have carried out your own curatorial and dissemination activities and how you have sought to meet your objectives – but this also provides new opportunities. Europeana offers an opportunity. What you have to decide is whether it is an opportunity that makes sense for your institution.

At the DHO we have spent the last couple of years demonstrating some of the ways that working with metadata can positively change the user experience of the digital collection. We have engaged with Europeana and with many of you to explore how people engage with ever-larger collections of artefacts. The magnitude of these collections challenges the traditional ways of browsing and in many cases denies the utility of the search function. We have chosen to demonstrate how cutting edge data visualisation techniques can provide a route to discovery. And we have been thrilled with the response. DHO: Discovery has been one our response to the challenges that we have seen Irish cultural institutions facing and we have seen similar efforts undertaken by many of yourselves.

Working with Europeana has been one of those responses many of you have undertaken and we have all shared their objective to provide access to Europe’s cultural and scientific heritage. Although Europeana remains committed to this objective their new DEA has asked providers to commit contributed metadata and thumbnails to the public domain. The new DEA is a response to the changes taking place in the cultural sector and we are all called upon to find opportunities in the changes taking place. This has huge implications for existing and future contributors who may worry about others making commercial use of their data. One of the obvious and positive responses here is to be open innovators and to seize the powerful opportunity for you to both shares and to draw benefit from what others are sharing to create new ways of meeting your own objectives.

Current EU directives have waded into this nebulous area and have similarly challenged our perceived notions of who has the rights to objects that we present online. And again we come back to this question of how to deal with the challenge.

Today we are all here to ask the questions and the participants from Europeana have come to brief us and to attempt to respond to these queries.”

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