48. On Planetary in 2020: curatorial activism and open sourcing in service of digital preservation – Fresh and New

“Perhaps the most experimental aspect of Planetary’s acquisition was the fact that the museum released the source code online with an open license, allowing anyone to copy the code and modify it and adapt their copy to suit their interests. The intention of open-sourcing the code was to open the door to passionate fans of Planetary so they could aid in its long-term preservation and maintenance….

The longer term value of open sourcing the code, rather than inheriting the default closed source model (which is the case with almost all software acquisitions into museum collections) also lies in clarity that it provides for future generations….

During the acquisition process of Planetary, substantial work was done with Smithsonian’s General Counsel and the developers formerly Bloom LLC, to enable the open sourcing which has overall benefits for future preservation activities. The generosity of the developers and their efforts to prepare the source for release cannot be underestimated. By defaulting to open source at the time of acquisition means that future presertvation or presentation activities, emulation or other efforts cannot be stymied in the future by more conservative legal counsel, curators, or conservators at the museum….”

Podcast: How ‘open access’ helped SMK Denmark to increase reach & audience engagement

“Over the last decade, many museums around the world have adopted an open access policy. From the US to Europe, the opening up of museums has meant that anybody can use, reuse, remix collections without any copyright restrictions. At the core of open access is the commitment to make heritage accessible for people regardless of conduct social or geographical barriers. For museums, this move has contributed immensely to brand-building and added social value. But how?

The National Gallery of Denmark (the Statens Museum for Kunst, aka SMK) in Copenhagen is one of the premier art museums of the country and home to several European art treasures. In this podcast, I spoke with Jonas Heide Smith – Head of Digital at SMK about their approach, learnings and challenges. Give it a listen or read on for the key takeaways….”

Towards a National Collection | Collections United

“Funded by UKRI’s Arts and Humanities Research Council, Towards a National Collection is supporting research that breaks down the barriers that exist between the UK’s outstanding cultural heritage collections, with the aim of opening them up to new research opportunities and encouraging the public to explore them in new ways….

Collections United is a social media campaign connecting and highlighting the rich and diverse range of cultural heritage collections across the UK. The aim is to bring together material from more than one collection, telling the stories that connect them, and encouraging the public to do the same….”

Endangered Archives Programme |

“The Endangered Archives Programme (EAP) facilitates the digitisation of archives around the world that are in danger of destruction, neglect or physical deterioration. Thanks to generous funding from Arcadia, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin, we have provided grants to more than 400 projects in 90 countries worldwide, in over 100 languages and scripts.

Since 2004, the Programme has digitised over eight million images and 25,000 sound tracks. Archive types digitised so far include rare printed sources, manuscripts, visual materials, audio recordings. This continually expanding online collection is available freely through local archival partners, this website and it is discoverable via the British Library catalogue, for research, inspiration and enjoyment….”

NEMO report on digitisation and copyright – challenges of making museum collections accessible online: NEMO – Network of European Museum Organisations

“In order to identify challenges that museums in Europe encounter when digitising their collections and establishing online access to them, NEMO conducted a survey on digitisation and copyright. The findings and recommendations have been gathered in a report….”

The Increasingly Open World of Photography: A Conversation With Exposure’s Luke Beard

Over 300 million images are uploaded to Facebook a day. Yes, just Facebook. Once other social media and photo-sharing platforms like Flickr, Unsplash, Instagram, etc. are taken into account, that number quickly grows into the billions. 

A lot has changed since the dawn of photography in the 19th century—when Nicéphore Niépce (a.k.a. the “Father of Photography”) peered through his camera obscura from his upstairs window in France and created the oldest surviving photographic image in 1826. At that time, and for over a century, photography was restricted to (primarily white and Western) wealthy hobbyists and career professionals. However, photography has become more democratized, digitized, and open over time. This process began in the 1940s with Kodak’s “Brownie” camera, then quickened with the invention of the digital camera in the late 1980s, and finally culminated with the smartphone in the early 2000s. In 2019, the Pew Research Center estimated that 1/3rd of the world’s population has a smartphone. This means that billions of people have access to a camera! 

Niépce's View from the Window at Le Gras (1826 or 1827)Niépce’s “View from the Window at Le Gras” (1826 or 1827), the world’s oldest surviving photographic image, made using a camera obscura. Original plate (left) by Niépce; colorized reoriented enhancement (right) by Nguyen. Licensed CC BY-SA.

Along with the democratization and digitization of photography came the rise of open licensing (the CC License Suite was first released in 2002) and “free” photo-sharing and stock photography websites (Flickr was founded in 2004). Although these trends have many benefits, they’ve generally made professional photographers feel uneasy. As photographer and filmmaker Erin Jennings wrote in a 2019 essay, “Not only has accessible digital photography threatened the commercial photography industry, it has also thrown into question the very self-worth of many photographers whose identities were mired in the exclusivity of the analog process.” As a photographer, I understand this uneasiness as well as the apprehension that comes with publishing images under open licenses. I’ve certainly wondered: Is it OK that I’m willingly handing organizations and companies the ability to use my work for “free”? Will this lead to the expectation that photography should always be free? Does this devalue professional photography?

Along with the democratization and digitization of photography came the rise of open licensing and “free” photo-sharing and stock photography websites; although these trends have many benefits, they’ve also made professional photographers feel uneasy.

Luke BeardLuke Beard, Photographer and Designer; CEO and Founder of Exposure.

Over time, I’ve learned more about the purpose of open licenses and the rights photographers are guaranteed under them. For instance, the attribution requirement under CC licenses can actually help maintain the connection between photograph and photographer because the photographer’s name must be attributed if their work is reused. In the age of image theft and image overload, that’s significant. The range of licenses available also gives photographers more freedom to determine how their photography can be used beyond “all rights reserved,” and clarify that to potential users. For up-and-coming photographers, this can be especially useful for building a personal brand and an audience of potential clients.  Personally, I try to always openly license my work—something I recently learned was possible on Exposure, a storytelling platform for photographers and visual storytellers. After using the platform for years, it was a pleasant surprise to learn that the company had enabled CC BY-ND as a licensing option. It also made me curious: Why did a platform that serves as a creative outlet for professional photographers and storytellers decide to allow open licensing as an option?

To find out, I contacted Exposure Founder and CEO Luke Beard via email. A photographer himself, I also wanted to know his personal thoughts about open licensing and the democratization of photography. Our conversation below has been lightly edited for clarity and length. 


VH: The growing democratization of photography has led to a plethora of images online, primarily through free photo-sharing and stock photography websites. Has this trend impacted your identity as a professional photographer? Do you think it’s harming the industry? 

LB: I’d argue that Instagram has done more to change photography in the last decade than legacy and fledgling photo communities built around free sharing or stock [photography]. Instagram has a fairly large conversion rate. Its scale, reach, and impact on photography still feels unprecedented. It’s effectively one of the biggest stewards of the medium the world has ever seen.

The “professional photographer” part of my identity has a strong feeling around giving anything away for “free.” There are both potentially good and potentially negative outcomes, but it also depends on the context. You certainly learn a lot about what feels right or worth it by exploring free avenues. The communities that grow around services like Flickr can be incredible, and I’m sure many working photographers today got their start there. The proliferation of ways to discover photography though free, stock, or sharing [platforms] has certainly raised the bar both competition-wise and creativity-wise, and I’d say it has been a net positive.  

VH: There’s an ongoing debate within photography circles about open licensing and whether or not it harms professional photographers. What do you see as the benefits and drawbacks?

LB: The value of photography has simultaneously been raised and lowered as the internet economy has grown. As a visual medium—with amazing screens in the hands of ~3.5 billion people—photography has so much to offer for the foreseeable future.  

Exposure's HomepageExposure houses creative works from individual photographers, non-profit organizations, governments, and more.

Open licensing also has a lot to offer photographers who are looking for new and interesting ways to share their craft and earn work. On the one hand, you have platforms with a huge reach that take on the hard work of distributing and hosting your photos in exchange for an open license (e.g. Unsplash). The long-tail upside might be that someone thinks your style of photography is perfect and hires you for a shoot. The flip side is that free and openly licensed photos may lose all concept that there is a photographer behind the photo. This devalues both the photographer and the photo. I personally struggle with the idea of normalizing good photography as something that has no cost or doesn’t require credit—although, it’s important to point out that CC licenses do require attribution. A comparison would be this one: it’s hard to make good software, but free applications normalize the idea that software should cost nothing. 

There is still lots of work to be done to reap the benefits of open licensing, and the majority of this work falls to the stewards of the platforms and tools.

Without openly licensed photos, however, we wouldn’t have visually rich Wikipedia pages or great collections like NASA’s image gallery. For individual photographers, I think there still has to be a better way. Maybe the answer is a blockchain solution through micropayments or maybe just a better marketplace platform. There is still lots of work to be done to reap the benefits of open licensing, and the majority of this work falls to the stewards of the platforms and tools. I’m hopeful the benefits will greatly outweigh the negatives. 

VH: Can you explain why Exposure decided to offer an open licensing option and if there were any specific challenges when making and implementing that decision?

We have taken baby steps into offering an open license as a feature. For context, it’s a toggle you can switch “on” or “off” for specific stories. As the creator, you agree to a CC BY-ND license for your photography within that story. This idea initially came about because we wanted to give Exposure members the ability to allow their family, friends, or clients to download their photos. Since the launch, however, we have seen it used for academic and non-profit purposes too, so we plan on expanding it this year by adding more licenses and the ability to license entire stories (including written content) and not just the individual photos. Our non-profit customers have expressed how helpful this would be to share their cause.

VH: Does Exposure educate users on this open licensing option or advertise it in any way?

The photo downloads feature is advertised as a paid feature because there is an infrastructure cost associated with allowing photos to be downloaded. When the feature is enabled by the member, we give a full legal description of how the license works and also a “basic” description in simpler terms. When a visitor downloads any photo that is under the open license they also see a similar dialog and download agreement that indicates the requirements of the license, including attribution to the photographer/source. This way, they know how and where they can use the photo before they actually download it.

Exposure Screenshot of Download AgreementAn example of Exposure’s Download Agreement and use of CC BY-ND. Source: “The Space People” by Victoria Heath (CC BY-ND).

VH: Taking a step back from open licensing, can you share with us one or two of the most impactful stories that have been shared on your platform?

That’s a tough one, as there have been thousands over the years, but right now I’m extra proud to host and share stories on climate change, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, this story from Doctors without Borders (MSF) which shares the struggle to get the supplies needed to fight COVID-19 in Yemen; this piece by the United Nations Development Programme’s Climate Office telling the story of climate-resilient farming and food security in the outer islands of Kiribati; and this story of Black Lives Matter protests in Cobb County, Georgia by a local photographer.  

VH: The goal of the open movement is to build a more equitable, inclusive, and innovative world through sharing—do you believe sharing photography, and creative content more broadly, has a role in achieving that goal?

Openly sharing information has always happened within communities. I strongly believe the open movement has achieved great things since the first few days of ARPANET and the birth of the modern internet. Creative content still has room to mature to be a truly accessible, inclusive, and equitable medium as more people get access to the internet. But as a whole, visual content has had a huge impact by engaging most of the world—now more than any other time in history. There are things that worry me about our ability to achieve any sort of “open web” goal, these include the consolidated power of “Big Tech,” eroding net neutrality, and the disparity of access to reliable and affordable (if not free) internet connections—as recently seen with the impact of COVID-19 on students without a reliable internet connection at home.

VH: Photography as a profession has suffered from a lack of racial, ethnic, and gender diversity which has led to a mirrored lack of diversity in the images created (e.g. stock photos). What actions do you think individual photographers like yourself, and platforms like Exposure, can take to help increase diversity in the industry?

A quote mentioned in Ibram X. Kendi’s book, How to Be an Antiracist has recently been very impactful in my thinking about just this. The quote is credited to Harry A. Blackmun from the 1978 Supreme Court case, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke. Blackmun wrote, “…in order to treat some persons equally, we must treat them differently.”

There is no progress without change and the status quo of taking a neutral stance does not allow for oppressed voices to be heard.

When I think about how this could be implemented in photography and the platforms that support it, I see several paths to a more equitable community: actively raising, promoting, and empowering the work of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) and gender diverse photographers; giving resources to those same communities to enhance their ability to work, and; public platforms taking a zero-tolerance policy for hate speech and racism of any kind. There is no progress without change and the status quo of taking a neutral stance does not allow for oppressed voices to be heard. Exposure, as a platform, can do more on all these fronts, but the future looks bright for more giving and more empowering initiatives. Our Black Lives Matter support statement outlines what we are doing right now, and there is more to come in the future. 

VH: Luke, thank you for speaking with me! By the way, there are a growing number of openly licensed collections that are working to increase diversity in stock photography. These include Nappy, the Gender Spectrum Collection, Disabled and Here Collection, and Women in Tech. Check them out!

?: Featured image by Kollage Kid, titled “Lighthouse” and licensed CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

The post The Increasingly Open World of Photography: A Conversation With Exposure’s Luke Beard appeared first on Creative Commons.

The Increasingly Open World of Photography: A Conversation With Exposure’s Luke Beard

Over 300 million images are uploaded to Facebook a day. Yes, just Facebook. Once other social media and photo-sharing platforms like Flickr, Unsplash, Instagram, etc. are taken into account, that number quickly grows into the billions. 

A lot has changed since the dawn of photography in the 19th century—when Nicéphore Niépce (a.k.a. the “Father of Photography”) peered through his camera obscura from his upstairs window in France and created the oldest surviving photographic image in 1826. At that time, and for over a century, photography was restricted to (primarily white and Western) wealthy hobbyists and career professionals. However, photography has become more democratized, digitized, and open over time. This process began in the 1940s with Kodak’s “Brownie” camera, then quickened with the invention of the digital camera in the late 1980s, and finally culminated with the smartphone in the early 2000s. In 2019, the Pew Research Center estimated that 1/3rd of the world’s population has a smartphone. This means that billions of people have access to a camera! 

Niépce's View from the Window at Le Gras (1826 or 1827)Niépce’s “View from the Window at Le Gras” (1826 or 1827), the world’s oldest surviving photographic image, made using a camera obscura. Original plate (left) by Niépce; colorized reoriented enhancement (right) by Nguyen. Licensed CC BY-SA.

Along with the democratization and digitization of photography came the rise of open licensing (the CC License Suite was first released in 2002) and “free” photo-sharing and stock photography websites (Flickr was founded in 2004). Although these trends have many benefits, they’ve generally made professional photographers feel uneasy. As photographer and filmmaker Erin Jennings wrote in a 2019 essay, “Not only has accessible digital photography threatened the commercial photography industry, it has also thrown into question the very self-worth of many photographers whose identities were mired in the exclusivity of the analog process.” As a photographer, I understand this uneasiness as well as the apprehension that comes with publishing images under open licenses. I’ve certainly wondered: Is it OK that I’m willingly handing organizations and companies the ability to use my work for “free”? Will this lead to the expectation that photography should always be free? Does this devalue professional photography?

Along with the democratization and digitization of photography came the rise of open licensing and “free” photo-sharing and stock photography websites; although these trends have many benefits, they’ve also made professional photographers feel uneasy.

Luke BeardLuke Beard, Photographer and Designer; CEO and Founder of Exposure.

Over time, I’ve learned more about the purpose of open licenses and the rights photographers are guaranteed under them. For instance, the attribution requirement under CC licenses can actually help maintain the connection between photograph and photographer because the photographer’s name must be attributed if their work is reused. In the age of image theft and image overload, that’s significant. The range of licenses available also gives photographers more freedom to determine how their photography can be used beyond “all rights reserved,” and clarify that to potential users. For up-and-coming photographers, this can be especially useful for building a personal brand and an audience of potential clients.  Personally, I try to always openly license my work—something I recently learned was possible on Exposure, a storytelling platform for photographers and visual storytellers. After using the platform for years, it was a pleasant surprise to learn that the company had enabled CC BY-ND as a licensing option. It also made me curious: Why did a platform that serves as a creative outlet for professional photographers and storytellers decide to allow open licensing as an option?

To find out, I contacted Exposure Founder and CEO Luke Beard via email. A photographer himself, I also wanted to know his personal thoughts about open licensing and the democratization of photography. Our conversation below has been lightly edited for clarity and length. 


VH: The growing democratization of photography has led to a plethora of images online, primarily through free photo-sharing and stock photography websites. Has this trend impacted your identity as a professional photographer? Do you think it’s harming the industry? 

LB: I’d argue that Instagram has done more to change photography in the last decade than legacy and fledgling photo communities built around free sharing or stock [photography]. Instagram has a fairly large conversion rate. Its scale, reach, and impact on photography still feels unprecedented. It’s effectively one of the biggest stewards of the medium the world has ever seen.

The “professional photographer” part of my identity has a strong feeling around giving anything away for “free.” There are both potentially good and potentially negative outcomes, but it also depends on the context. You certainly learn a lot about what feels right or worth it by exploring free avenues. The communities that grow around services like Flickr can be incredible, and I’m sure many working photographers today got their start there. The proliferation of ways to discover photography though free, stock, or sharing [platforms] has certainly raised the bar both competition-wise and creativity-wise, and I’d say it has been a net positive.  

VH: There’s an ongoing debate within photography circles about open licensing and whether or not it harms professional photographers. What do you see as the benefits and drawbacks?

LB: The value of photography has simultaneously been raised and lowered as the internet economy has grown. As a visual medium—with amazing screens in the hands of ~3.5 billion people—photography has so much to offer for the foreseeable future.  

Exposure's HomepageExposure houses creative works from individual photographers, non-profit organizations, governments, and more.

Open licensing also has a lot to offer photographers who are looking for new and interesting ways to share their craft and earn work. On the one hand, you have platforms with a huge reach that take on the hard work of distributing and hosting your photos in exchange for an open license (e.g. Unsplash). The long-tail upside might be that someone thinks your style of photography is perfect and hires you for a shoot. The flip side is that free and openly licensed photos may lose all concept that there is a photographer behind the photo. This devalues both the photographer and the photo. I personally struggle with the idea of normalizing good photography as something that has no cost or doesn’t require credit—although, it’s important to point out that CC licenses do require attribution. A comparison would be this one: it’s hard to make good software, but free applications normalize the idea that software should cost nothing. 

There is still lots of work to be done to reap the benefits of open licensing, and the majority of this work falls to the stewards of the platforms and tools.

Without openly licensed photos, however, we wouldn’t have visually rich Wikipedia pages or great collections like NASA’s image gallery. For individual photographers, I think there still has to be a better way. Maybe the answer is a blockchain solution through micropayments or maybe just a better marketplace platform. There is still lots of work to be done to reap the benefits of open licensing, and the majority of this work falls to the stewards of the platforms and tools. I’m hopeful the benefits will greatly outweigh the negatives. 

VH: Can you explain why Exposure decided to offer an open licensing option and if there were any specific challenges when making and implementing that decision?

We have taken baby steps into offering an open license as a feature. For context, it’s a toggle you can switch “on” or “off” for specific stories. As the creator, you agree to a CC BY-ND license for your photography within that story. This idea initially came about because we wanted to give Exposure members the ability to allow their family, friends, or clients to download their photos. Since the launch, however, we have seen it used for academic and non-profit purposes too, so we plan on expanding it this year by adding more licenses and the ability to license entire stories (including written content) and not just the individual photos. Our non-profit customers have expressed how helpful this would be to share their cause.

VH: Does Exposure educate users on this open licensing option or advertise it in any way?

The photo downloads feature is advertised as a paid feature because there is an infrastructure cost associated with allowing photos to be downloaded. When the feature is enabled by the member, we give a full legal description of how the license works and also a “basic” description in simpler terms. When a visitor downloads any photo that is under the open license they also see a similar dialog and download agreement that indicates the requirements of the license, including attribution to the photographer/source. This way, they know how and where they can use the photo before they actually download it.

Exposure Screenshot of Download AgreementAn example of Exposure’s Download Agreement and use of CC BY-ND. Source: “The Space People” by Victoria Heath (CC BY-ND).

VH: Taking a step back from open licensing, can you share with us one or two of the most impactful stories that have been shared on your platform?

That’s a tough one, as there have been thousands over the years, but right now I’m extra proud to host and share stories on climate change, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, this story from Doctors without Borders (MSF) which shares the struggle to get the supplies needed to fight COVID-19 in Yemen; this piece by the United Nations Development Programme’s Climate Office telling the story of climate-resilient farming and food security in the outer islands of Kiribati; and this story of Black Lives Matter protests in Cobb County, Georgia by a local photographer.  

VH: The goal of the open movement is to build a more equitable, inclusive, and innovative world through sharing—do you believe sharing photography, and creative content more broadly, has a role in achieving that goal?

Openly sharing information has always happened within communities. I strongly believe the open movement has achieved great things since the first few days of ARPANET and the birth of the modern internet. Creative content still has room to mature to be a truly accessible, inclusive, and equitable medium as more people get access to the internet. But as a whole, visual content has had a huge impact by engaging most of the world—now more than any other time in history. There are things that worry me about our ability to achieve any sort of “open web” goal, these include the consolidated power of “Big Tech,” eroding net neutrality, and the disparity of access to reliable and affordable (if not free) internet connections—as recently seen with the impact of COVID-19 on students without a reliable internet connection at home.

VH: Photography as a profession has suffered from a lack of racial, ethnic, and gender diversity which has led to a mirrored lack of diversity in the images created (e.g. stock photos). What actions do you think individual photographers like yourself, and platforms like Exposure, can take to help increase diversity in the industry?

A quote mentioned in Ibram X. Kendi’s book, How to Be an Antiracist has recently been very impactful in my thinking about just this. The quote is credited to Harry A. Blackmun from the 1978 Supreme Court case, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke. Blackmun wrote, “…in order to treat some persons equally, we must treat them differently.”

There is no progress without change and the status quo of taking a neutral stance does not allow for oppressed voices to be heard.

When I think about how this could be implemented in photography and the platforms that support it, I see several paths to a more equitable community: actively raising, promoting, and empowering the work of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) and gender diverse photographers; giving resources to those same communities to enhance their ability to work, and; public platforms taking a zero-tolerance policy for hate speech and racism of any kind. There is no progress without change and the status quo of taking a neutral stance does not allow for oppressed voices to be heard. Exposure, as a platform, can do more on all these fronts, but the future looks bright for more giving and more empowering initiatives. Our Black Lives Matter support statement outlines what we are doing right now, and there is more to come in the future. 

VH: Luke, thank you for speaking with me! By the way, there are a growing number of openly licensed collections that are working to increase diversity in stock photography. These include Nappy, the Gender Spectrum Collection, Disabled and Here Collection, and Women in Tech. Check them out!

?: Featured image by Kollage Kid, titled “Lighthouse” and licensed CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

The post The Increasingly Open World of Photography: A Conversation With Exposure’s Luke Beard appeared first on Creative Commons.

London’s National Gallery was hit by the biggest art heist in history | WIRED UK

“London’s National Gallery owns some of the most famous (and expensive) artworks in the world: Van Gogh’s Sunflowers; one of da Vinci’s most famous altarpieces; 15 paintings by Botticelli. But on Sunday at midnight, the collection was the victim of an audacious heist, one that included all but two of its pieces.

Whisked from the confines of their Trafalgar Square home, the paintings began to pop up in museums almost instantly, via Russia, France, Japan and Australia. The Ambassadors, by Hans Holbein the Younger, ended up behind shimmering white guardrails, the room softly glowing with rainbow spotlights. Sunflowers appeared in several locations: in a gold frame on a blue brocaded wall, surrounded by bronze columns, for example, or in a tiled entrance lobby beneath a luxurious balcony. 

The smuggling, after all, was a digital one: the artworks now available for anyone with PC and a Steam account to hang in their private collections in the game Occupy White Walls (OWW). Photoshop (rather than a scalpel) was used to cut the pictures from their frames. And instead of smashed glass, balaclavas and a disarmed alarm system, all this heist took was Javascript, an open-source tool called “Dezoomify” and some manual data sorting.

“I like to think of it as liberation,” Yarden Yaroshevski, CEO of Stikipixels, who created the game, explains….”

Passenger Pigeon Manifesto – A call to GLAMs – Google Docs

“A call to public GLAM institutions to liberate our cultural heritage. Illustrated with the cautionary tales of extinct animals and our lack of access to what remains of them….

We are supposed to learn from history yet we don’t have access to it. Historical photographs of extinct animals are among the most important artefacts to teach and inform about human impact on nature. But where to look when one wants to see all that is left of these beings? Where can I access all the extant photos of the thylacine or the passenger pigeon?

Historical photos are kept by archives, libraries, museums. Preservation, which is the goal of cultural institutions, means ensuring not only the existence of but the access to historical material. It is the opposite of owning: it’s sustainable sharing. Similarly, conservation is not capturing and caging but providing the conditions and freedom to live.

In reality, most historical photos are not freely available to the public – despite being in public domain. We might be able to see thumbnails or medium size previews scattered in numerous online catalogs but most of the time we don’t get to see them in full quality and detail. In general, they are hidden, the memory of their existence slowly going extinct.

The knowledge and efforts of these institutions are crucial in tending our cultural landscape but they cannot become prisons to our history. Instead of claiming ownership, their task is to provide unrestricted access and free use.

In reality, most historical photos are not freely available to the public – despite being in public domain. We might be able to see thumbnails or medium size previews scattered in numerous online catalogs but most of the time we don’t get to see them in full quality and detail. In general, they are hidden, the memory of their existence slowly going extinct….”

Public Knowledge | The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

“Public Knowledge supports the creation and preservation of our cultural record—the vast and ever-growing historical archive that helps us explore and better understand our intertwined humanity. Our goal is to increase equitable access to deep knowledge—from scholarly texts to community collections—that helps  build an informed, culturally diverse, and civically engaged society.

We work with archives, presses, and a range of university, public, and other local, national, and global libraries that are foundational to knowledge production and distribution. We prioritize grantmaking that supports the innovative maintenance of technology, tools, and infrastructure for content related to our social justice orientation, expands digital inclusion, and focuses on the preservation of materials from historically underrepresented and underfunded cultures and populations.

In collaboration with our grantees and funding partners, we aspire to cultivate networked resources, services, and collections, and to ensure that more authentic, reflective, complex, and nuanced stories are revealed, preserved, and told.”