So, what is open data and how can it help cultural heritage organizations?
Today is Open Data Day! As ePSI describes it, the day is a chance for “programmers, data journalists, designers and statisticians from around the world gather to create applications, open up data, create visualizations and publish researches conducted using open public data.” But it’s not just programmers and stats geeks who should be interested. Cultural organizations like museums and archives also have much data to celebrate. More and more often, cultural heritage organizations have made data and content available in digital form to the public without any restrictions.
Why does it matter to your museum or archive? Joris Pekel, writing on the Europeana Professional blog, suggests a few ways that open data can help cultural organizations. For one, open data can help to fulfill your mission by opening up collections to new audiences: “Institutions that publish their material in an open way have seen it being re-used in a variety of new places such as Wikipedia, educational apps and websites, or innovative new apps by the creative industry. This has resulted in millions more views of their collection.” For another, open data can help your institution to connect and contextualize collections while allowing audiences and creators to create their own mashups of material. Europeana has expanded on the possibilities for open metadata in its report, “The Problem of the Yellow Milk Maid.” Pekel also offers a list of potential tools to make use of cultural data. Putting digital versions of materials on social sites, such as photographs on Flickr Commons, has also allowed for the improvement of information about collections through crowdsourced metadata, which I previously described as the “social life of archives.”