Open Access Week – How is the Smithsonian Doing? – Smithsonian Libraries / Unbound

“In celebration of this year’s annual Open Access Week, the Smithsonian Research Online team will be releasing a new dashboard on our statistics page that includes data about the openness of Smithsonian research publications. As the official record of scholarly publications for the Smithsonian Institution, Smithsonian Research Online is in a great position to analyze this data and help the Institution reflect, participate, and learn more about the scholarly output of the Smithsonian research community….”

Passenger Pigeon Manifesto

“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? History books use photos to help us relate to narratives and see a shared reality. But how can we look through our own communities’ photographic heritage, share it with each other and use it for research and education?

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

Even though most of our tangible cultural heritage has not been digitised yet, a process greatly hindered by the lack of resources for professionals, we could already have much to look at online. In reality, a significant portion of already digitised historical photos is not available freely to the public – despite being in the public domain. We might be able to see thumbnails or medium sized previews scattered throughout 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. Cultural heritage should not be accessible only for those who can afford paying for it….”

Research Fellow, Born-Digital | V&A

“Preserving and sharing born-digital and hybrid objects from and across the National Collection is a foundational collaborative project funded through the AHRC’s programme: Towards a National Collection: opening UK heritage to the world. Led by the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), in collaboration with the British Film Institute (BFI) and Birkbeck, University of London, the project addresses the challenges of collecting, preserving, linking and sharing born-digital and hybrid collections with the public. It will involve participants from across the national collection and museum sector, as well as partners and stakeholders outside the UK, focusing on three key areas of digital collecting: collections management, digital conservation, and access, experience and meaning….”

Creative Commons: Das Städel Museum stellt mehr als 22.000 Kunstwerke zur freien Verfügung | Städel Museum

From Google’s English:  “The Städel Museum makes more than 22,000 works of art freely available in its digital collection with the Creative Commons license CC BY-SA 4.0. This enables a broad public interested in art to reproduce and share the public domain images of the works, naming the Städel Museum, and to use and edit them for any purpose. Popular works of art by the Städel, such as Sandro Botticelli’s Ideal Feminine Portrait (Portrait of Simonetta Vespucci as a Nymph) (approx. 1480), Franz Marc’s Lying Dog in the Snow (approx. 1911), Paula Modersohn-Becker’s Lying Man under a Blooming Tree (1903), Rembrandts Self-portrait leaning against a stone wall (1639) or Johannes Vermeer’s The Geographer(1669) are thus made available for free download via the digital collection. The aim is – in line with the founding idea – to make the Städel collection accessible to the public and, furthermore, to strengthen participation in the collective cultural property.”

Teaching with Cultural Heritage Online During the Pandemic | Ithaka S+R

“Today we are excited to announce a new project funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that will explore how teaching and learning with cultural heritage collections and materials is evolving in response to the pandemic. Instructors who seek to use cultural heritage objects from museums, archives, and special collections face unique challenges when adapting to remote teaching. What is needed is deeper understanding of, and better support for these instructors in this current moment. …”

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….”

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….”

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….”