Common Challenges, Common Solutions #OKFest 20092012


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Talk at Open GLAM Workshop, September 20, 2012 at OK Festival, Society of Swedish Literature, Helsinki

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  • Thank you for having me here to contribute to the Open GLAM workshop. I have the honour of stepping up in place of Lizzy Jongma from Rijksmuseum Amsterdam. I am truly sad that Lizzy couldn’t make it to OK Festival to share her awesome expertise and wonderful spirit. The work for open data of the Rijksmuseum is a great inspiration to us, and they are way ahead of us in terms of big scale digital accessibility. I will try to bring Lizzy’s work and spirit into my talk.
  • My background is in Art History. I get lost in tech discussions. But even I can see the enormous potentials of the infrastructure and openness of digital media in museums.
  • Being an art historian, I care deeply about art and cultural heritage. I see it as my foremost task to spread that joy, to contribute to building an environment where people will care for cultural heritage. Museums need users to care as much as we do. In order to make that happen, we need to allow users to own, share and use our assets – otherwise they won’t be useful to them, and then why should they care?
  • This question is crucial to me. As I see it, museums should want nothing more than to have our images be among those that are used.
  • These are some obvious common challenges that museums face in web 2.0 reality: Most Danish museums have insufficient capacity/means to utilize digital media potentials and offer the services that users are more and more expecting, for instance mobile platforms and easy online access to digitized resources. The museums are already struggling to meet the demands of the Danish Museum Law requiring us to do collection, registration, research, conservation and education. The demand to also provide online/mobile access is still relatively new, and still widely perceived as a ’nice to have’ add-on in many museums. We work in a silo culture of reinventing the wheel over and over again, custombuilding our own individual systems and apps that aren’t compatible with each other. And once we’ve all made our own individual systems, we realize that we forgot to think about maintaining/sustaining them. We are used to fencing in our digitized collections and charging for access to and use of them. Our business models define images as assets we can sell to make money. The fact is, though, that hardly no museums are making real money from this – on the contrary it is losing us money . At the same time, there is a growing awareness that we need to do things differently to ensure our relevance to new generations of users. It is a standard joke that our typical user is a highly educated woman, 55 years old or more, from the most wealthy third of the population. We all realize that this is not a sustainable situation. And it is not in balance with the fundamental mission of museums to reach out and make art and culture meaningful to the whole society. I’m stating the obvious, I know. But while it may sound trivial here in this crowd I tell you, it’s still a pipe dream to many museum professionals. Take it from one!
  • Again, I’m stating the obvious, but again I must stress that this is an ongoing discussion even at the largest art museum in Denmark to get these things written into our core mission and permament budgets.
  • So; what to do about it? Like so many other GLAM people I have been using the incremental change method to try and make things happen. Think big – Start small – Move fast.
  • At SMK, we’ve initiated a couple of pilot projects to get Danish art museums to work together to solve common challenges in smart and efficient, and fun, ways that utilize the potentials of digital media for outreach and participation. The first ran from 2009-11 dealing with how we can establish free image sharing between Danish art museums. The second one is still running; we expanded from 5 to nine museum partners and are working to get more to join. In this project we are building a shared networked mobile platform in order to put the principles of free image sharing into practice.
  • Throughout these pilots, we have learned that the Danish art museums are just waiting for the National Gallery to take leadership in the change process. Here, we could take the lead from Yale who (though on a completely different scale) has provided thought leadership in the US museum community: “Discussion among twenty of the largest museums at the Mellon Foundation last year made clear that they as a community are ready to embrace new policies, requiring only a leader they can point to in order to effect similar policy with their boards.” (Yale memo as cited on slide 3). If we take on the coordinating role, and move first by sharing our assets for free, our colleague institutions are likely to follow.
  • The invitation for SMK to join the Google Art Project gave us a chance to do just that. We contributed a selection of highlights from our collections for the launch of version 2 of GAP in April 2012, seeing this as an excellent opportunity to reach out to new and wider audiences on an international platform.
  • But, to quote what Michael Edson has expressed in clear terms, ”access is not equal to sharing”. GAP is a great showcase but it’s also a walled garden. We used our participation in GAP as an opportunity to go further. In the winter of 2012, Michael offered us the idea to make the batch of approx. 150 artworks into a “charter collection”  for testing free image sharing and open access on various platforms.
  • What we did was create a simple and no nonsense page on our museum website where you can download the hires images that we feature in GAP. They are free and available in the highest resolution available ranging from 10 to 400 MB.
  • Each image is available for individual download under CCBY. All the artworks featured in the charter collection are in the Public Domain. Sp why not just use CC0 or PD Mark?
  • Personally, I am not happy with putting new restrictions on images of artworks that are in the Public Domain. But for SMK it was a major leap to even consider implementing Creative Commons licenses in stead of charging for the images as usual. The economic argument was swiftly ended by hard evidence, for instance Simon Tanner’s report from 2004 on ”Reproduction Charging Models & Rights Policy for Digital Images in US Museums”. But there was much concern that our images would be abused. After lengthy discussions and advice from Creative Commons Denmark we were able to decide on the CCBY license that stresses correct attribution to the source. This is similar to the process at the Rijksmuseum, that started out using the CCBY license on their open API, but changed it to CC0 after 6 months because it didn’t guarantee correct attribution anyway and they don’t have capacity (nor the desire) to chase down users who don’t make correct attribution. I foresee a similar change at SMK when we evaluate the release and use of the charter collection.
  • It works like this: Simply click the link and you can save the beautiful large image file on your computer.
  • These are not analyzed data, but they point in the direction that was also put forward ysterday at the Building the Cultural Commons session, that even just a tiny fraction of a body of digitized resources made freely available has great impact and raises much attention. There is a real demand for free museum images.
  • In February 2012, I was at a dinner party with some friends. One of the guests is an art historian who works as a critic at a Danish newspaper, and teaches at different adult learning institutions. She told an anecdote that made me stop in my tracks: She was in the process of preparing a class at Folkeuniversitetet and she needed some high quality zoomable images by Lucas Cranach t.e. (1472-1553) for her presentation. She knew the artworks were in SMK’s collections and had searched the museum’s website for the images but realized that it would cost her 50 DKK for each image to use them in this educational context. I know that the fee for teaching a class at Folkeuniversitetet is a little below 2,000 DKK which means after tax there remains 1,000 DKK. If she wanted just 10 images from SMK she would have to spend half her fee on images! So she decided not to use the professional photographs available from the owner museum, and instead searched the web for free images in lower quality.
  • Lucas Cranach’s work has been in the Public Domain for 389 years. Is it the mission and purpose of the National Gallery of Denmark to inhibit the use and circulation of this common cultural heritage for educational and other uses? From this anecdote I positively knew that there would be a demand for Cranach’s images, and it proves a point to me that one of his paintings come in as third most downloaded.
  • Our objective for providing free download is - again inspired by the Rijksmuseum – to feed the internet with high quality images in order to push out the poor copies.
  • As Lizzy Jongma says in an email where she shared the story of the Rijksmuseum’s open API - and yes, she did allow me to quote from it – their primary mission as a research institution and national museum is to ”tell the truth”. That is why they made the principle decision to provide images in the best available resolution for detailed scrutiny.
  • One brilliant result being that their CC0 licensed high resolution images are harvested by Wikimedia where they push out the poor book scans that used to represent their beautiful artworks.
  • Thus making them available to be used in Wikipedia articles, blogs, publications, videos, apps etc.
  • This is exactly what we are hoping will happen with our collections. That they are findable, shareable and reusable. They become a ressource that does work in society, that help people do stuff, that they become tools for learning and creating. And now, after 4 months, it is starting to happen. Wikipedia Denmark is doing a project with the charter collection to describe them and the artists in Wikipedia articles.
  • One of our followers on Google Plus made this comment the other day that sums it up: The combination of SMK/CC/Wikipedia is a powerful cocktail! This is all good and well for SMK, but the point is that it is also an important message for the National Gallery to send out to the Danish museum community.
  • Back to the collaborative pilot project: The idea is to build a shared mobile platform that will put the principles of free image sharing into practice in a coordinated effort. We have established three principles that will shape the platform.
  • The three principles are realized through the Twitter API. Twitter has all the features we need, and users are already there and familiar with the functionalities and platform. In practice, using Twitter as our platform means that: All artworks will be equipped with individual hashtags Comments can be maximum 140 characters All senders are named and have profiles, creating a democratic environment for interaction and dialogue All languages are represented It is easy to create relations to online content (links, pictures, full text, videos…) which gives museums an opportunity to link to and activate all their rich content about their collections, and create relations between artworks in different collections The partner institutions will not carry the burden of maintaining the platform – minimum effort required both in terms of content production and technological support, in order to make the collaboration realistic
  • Our main objective:
  • Is to inspire users to look closer at the artworks.
  • So far, we have tested the concept in three of the partner museums:
  • SMK: J.F. Willumsens Museum: Ribe Kunstmuseum:
  • We used a very simple testing method to get users to respond to the concept alone without technological issues standing in the way. Our objective being to learn if the users would be urged to look closer and deeper by way of the Twitter-specific features of short comments opening up to related artworks and richer content.
  • It worked like this: A pile of short comments about a specific artwork was stuffed into a white envelope. The comments that were useful to the test user were stashed in a green envelope, the comments that were not useful went into the red envelope.
  • After testing like this in front of 4 artworks in the galleries, a short survey was filled out…
  • … followed by a focus group discussion.
  • Users responded that many of the short comments made them look closer and longer at the artworks. They felt encouraged and inspired to know more about the artwork as the comments worked as a lens/a pair of glasses they could look through. The concept seems to make users look up at the art instead of down at a screen – this must be proved when we test the prototype. The comments they especially liked were: Comments pointing to related works in other collections or in the same museum Facts about the artwork or artist Open-ended questions that aroused reflection and wonder Surprising comments
  • Thanks to the shortness of Twitter comments (140c) users felt more encouraged to participate. It was a key factor for the users because participating seemed to be a manageable task. They were especially keen on making two kinds of comments: Posting a question directly to art experts that would reply via Twitter Posting links to related artworks that came to the users’ mind while looking at a specific artwork
  • Users were generally surprised that the dialogue is ahierarchical and breaks with the authoritarian museum voice. They appreciate the open, democratic notion that everyone can comment, and while all users are named and have a profile, it is up to the individual user to choose which voices are interesting to listen to. This, however, is also perceived as a potential disadvantage. Test users expressed concern that the experience is like a fortune cookie – you don’t know if you’re going to like what you get. They want to be able to filter the content or else they will get overload with comments that are indifferent to them and will want to turn off the ”noise”.
  • Test users pointed out that the platform should be able to support a shared museum visit experience. They don’t want to shut their friends or family out by immersing themselves in the content. Suggestions to develop the concept into a game-like experience for instance where users can challenge each other on what they discover and know.
  • You can read more about the project in an article on the Swedish Exhibition Agency’s website – will be up in English too by early October.
  • Next step is to build a betaversion that will pool together hires images from the partner museums in a shared platform based on Twitter’s API. The museums will work together to create relations between our charter collections that will be free to share and reuse. In the pilot project, images will be manually delivered and uploaded by the partner museums, but once the platform is tested and ready to be implemented the plan is to use API’s to automatically draw images and data. We have no illusion that this project will magically solve all the challenges we address, but it is a way to get started working together towards shared solutions and a paradigm of openness. As the platform is going to be multilingual and art has no boundaries, everyone who has Public Domain images to share are welcome to join. If you have the content, we have the platform! Spread the word. Call me. Email me. Tweet me.
  • A final shout out - - the international GLAM seminar ”Sharing is Caring – Let’s Get Real” will take place on December 12, 2012 in Copenhagen. We hope you will join us! Thank you.
  • Common Challenges, Common Solutions #OKFest 20092012

    1. 1. Merete Sanderhoff Project researcher @MSanderhoffCommon Challenges, Common Solutions Working Together Towards Openness
    2. 2. My motto:
    3. 3. “The preservation, transmission, andadvancement of knowledge in thedigital age are promoted by theunencumbered use and reuse ofdigitized content for research,teaching, learning, and creativeactivities.” Memo on open access to digital representations of works in the public domain from museum, library, and archive collections at Yale University May 2011
    4. 4. ”…what does it mean that there aremillions of images on the web that weare not allowed to touch while at thesame time there are other millions ofimages that we can actually use?” Peter Leth, Creative Commons For All (in Danish only), 2011 @peterleth1
    5. 5. What are common challenges?• Rapid technological change• Silo culture – high maintenance• Charging for digitized images• Relevance to new generations of users
    6. 6. What could be common solutions?• Working together in networks/hubs• Using shared/existing platforms• Providing free and easy access to digitized images and data• Listening to and engaging users
    7. 7. "Like other museum institutions SMK is used tobeing seen as a gatekeeper of cultural heritage. Butour collections do not belong to us. They belong tothe public. Free access ensures that our collectionscontinue to be relevant to users now and in thefuture.Our motivation for sharing digitized images freely isto allow users to contribute their knowledge and co-create culture. In this way, SMK wishes to be acatalyst for the users creativity." Karsten Ohrt, Director, SMK
    8. 8.
    9. 9. Access is not = to sharing Michael Edson, Director of Web and New Media Smithsonian Institution @mpedson
    10. 10.
    11. 11.
    12. 12.
    13. 13.
    14. 14. Some data
    15. 15. Some dataApril 16 – September 13, 2012• The page about SMK’s free images have been viewed 12,269 times• In comparison has had 261,323 visitors in total• The Creative Commons Attribution page has been viewed 2,519 times• In comparison the ordinary copyright page has been viewed 602 times
    16. 16. Some data• The zip file in its entirety downloaded approx 320 times in April• Bandwidth shows that >2 TB were downloaded, that’s ~ 10.000 individual image downloads (average size 200 MB)• Since then, divided into three zip files (5 GB too big) which have been downloaded – Zip 1: 124 times – Zip 2: 50 times – Zip 3: 42 times
    17. 17. Some data• The individual images have been viewed 2,966 times (May 7-Sept 13)• Averagely, users view 2,2 images and spend 5½ minutes on the download pages• In total 6,521 pages have been viewed• 1,860 Danes have viewed the free images• 757 from other countries, mostly the US, Germany, and Russia
    18. 18. Most downloaded #1 Vilhelm Hammershøi,Interior in Strandgade, Sunlight on the Floor, 1901
    19. 19. Most downloaded #2 Peter Christian Skovgaard, A Beech Wood in May near Iselingen Manor, Zealand, 1857
    20. 20. Most downloaded #3 Lucas Cranach the Elder (c. 1472-1553), Melancholy, 1532
    21. 21. Mai Misfeldt• Art critic at Danish national newspaper• Educator
    22. 22. This artwork has been in the Public Domain for 389 years Lucas Cranach the Elder (c. 1472-1553), Melancholy, 1532
    23. 23.
    24. 24. ”Our primary missionis to ”tell the truth.” Lizzy Jongma, data manager Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam @LizzyJongma
    25. 25. Pushing out poor copies
    26. 26. Enriching public knowledge
    27. 27.
    28. 28. 3 principles1. All Public Domain content is freelyshareable and reusable under CreativeCommons2. We use an existing platform that users like instead of custom-building a new one3. Target users take part in developing theexperience and creating the content
    29. 29. • Artworks have individual #• Comments are <140c• All users are equal and have names and faces• It is multilingual• Comments lead to richer content• The platform is dynamically updated and improved
    30. 30. How will it work?• Stand in front of an artwork in a museum• Pull out your smartphone or tablet• Scan a QR code or the artwork• Scroll through a stream of brief comments and questions, open links to related images, texts, videos etc. (anyone can do this)• Post a comment, question, add a link, photo, video etc. (you need to be a Twitter user to do this)• Maybe you get a response – if you direct a question or comment to a museum tweep, you certainly will!
    31. 31. Objective
    32. 32. Inspire users to look closerat the artworks Objective
    33. 33. Testing the concept
    34. 34. Paper prototyping
    35. 35. Follow up survey
    36. 36. Focus group discussion
    37. 37.
    38. 38. Merete Sanderhoff Project researcher @MSanderhoffWanna join?
    39. 39. MoreAbout SMK’s free charter collection• CC GLAM wiki:,_The_National_Gallery_of_DenmarMade available on these platforms• Dansk Kulturarv:• Google Art Project:• Flickr• Pinterest• ARTstorUse cases of free charter collection• Lær IT:• Hack4dk – Danish cultural heritage hackathon:• Collaboration with the Cph Metro:!/om+metroen/metrobyggeriet/byens+hegn• Renaissance Art Pillows and Room Dividers: //• Ikono TV:• Arkitektens Forlag Blog:
    40. 40.