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….”

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….”

13 artworks by DAG Museums are now “Open Access” ! | GIF-IT-UP India #OpenGLAM

“The OpenGLAM world [galleries, libraries, archives, museums] just got richer by 13 historic artworks from India thanks to the folks at DAG Museums. Now that might sound like a small number, but for India, this is a huge step towards providing Open Access.

These high-resolution artworks have been released by DAG as part of India’s first ever GIF-IT-UP Challenge. These are now free for you to download and use as you wish, without any fear of breaking copyright laws. The CC by SA license allows you to use and alter an image even for commercial purposes, as long as you give credit and license your new work under the identical terms.”

The Royal BC Museum opens up thousands of digitized photos of Indigenous communities across BC to the public | Royal BC Museum and Archives | Victoria, BC, Canada

“The Royal BC Museum has opened up to the public 16,103 historical photographs depicting Indigenous communities from across BC that were taken between the late 1800s and the 1970s….

some scanned and digitized photos shall remain restricted, for legal and cultural reasons, and will not be publicly accessible. These reasons include copyright and/or licensing issues, the depiction of sacred events and/or sites, or requests that the text on the verso be kept private….”

Survey on the impact of the COVID-19 situation on museums in Europe

“The majority of museums in Europe and around the globe are closed. Closing doors to the public results in a drastic loss of income for many museums. While some museums have found their budget minimally impacted as of yet, some museums, especially the larger museums and the museums in touristic areas, have reported a loss of income of 75-80%, with weekly losses adding up to hundreds of thousands of Euros. 1…

In these times, digital cultural heritage is contributing to people’s enjoyment and creativity more than ever. NEMO wants museums and stakeholders to acknowledge that the digital museum is not a distant promise or a source of untapped potential, rather that digital cultural heritage and digital engagement has demonstrated its value in the past weeks by bringing people together, encouraging creativity, sharing experiences, and offering a virtual space to build ideas together. …

40% of the museums that responded to the survey have noticed increased online visits since they have been closed….”

Building capacity for digital transformation: how our workshops support the cultural heritage sector | Europeana Pro

“Europeana’s ‘Digital Transformation in the time of COVID-19’ workshops began this week, bringing together thought leaders in the cultural heritage sector for sense-making, scaling-up and capacity building. With the workshops underway, we share how they contribute to Europeana’s strategic priorities to build capacity for the sector and how you can follow and benefit from the work they undertake….”


“The OpenGLAM initiative is currently working on a modern set of principles and values on Open Access for Cultural Heritage. We expect to draft a Declaration that outlines the rationales behind open access policy adoptions, acknowledges different cultural backgrounds, and addresses ethical and privacy considerations to help promote the adoption of open policies by a broader set of organizations around the world.

By April 2020 we will release a green paper focusing on the legal foundations of open access for cultural heritage, and examining some of the broader questions around copyright and open licensing, traditional knowledge, ethical and privacy concerns, and technical standards for open access. Following a consultation period, we plan to publish a final version of that paper and make the official launch of the Declaration on Open Access for Cultural Heritage by 2020. If you would like to get involved, please write to us at info [at]….”

The case for open access | Apollo Magazine

“For a growing number of museums, providing open access to online collections is seen as crucial to engaging with the public and serving their wider missions. While select institutions began exploring open access a decade ago, the practice is now becoming mainstream. In February, the Smithsonian released 2.8 million images of its collections for unrestricted public reuse. This spectacular announcement followed recent initiatives by the Cleveland Museum of Art, Paris Musées, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and others. All are part of the Open GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) movement that advocates for liberal access to and reuse of public domain collections.

A key Open GLAM principle is that works in the public domain – meaning copyright has expired or never existed – should remain in the public domain once digitised. This may sound obvious but the reality is less straightforward. Copyright law in this area is complex and lacks international harmonisation….

The evidence from open access museums shows that foregone revenue from image licensing is generally outweighed by an increase in brand visibility and new opportunities for revenue generation. Adopting open access need not prevent museums from undertaking commercial partnerships….

Most museums lose more money than they make on image licensing….

In the UK, a small but growing number of institutions are responding to the call. The first to embrace open access was the National Library of Wales, which now employs a ‘National Wikimedian’ to develop collaborations and services that advance the representation of Wales and the Welsh language on Wikimedia projects. York Museums Trust releases the majority of its online images to the public domain. This year, Birmingham Museums sponsored an art remix contest with artist Coldwar Steve and the local creative community Black Hole Club, inviting the public to respond imaginatively using Birmingham’s open collections….

Open access can also be transformative inside heritage institutions. One year after the Cleveland Museum of Art’s open access launch, its chief digital information officer, Jane Alexander, noted the following impacts: increased updating of attribution, provenance and collections information; curators forging new connections with scholars; and resources being reallocated from responding to image requests to supporting digitisation. The vast majority of the museum’s online users who are looking for images now self-serve from its online collections, freeing up valuable staff time….”

ICOM’s Efforts to Advocate for Exceptions to Copyright for Museums

“ICOM applauds any effort to experiment and discuss issues surrounding exceptions to copyright for museums. It is within the context of experimentation, that ICOM wishes participants at today’s program well. While an American approach to copyright law and fair use may not be suitable in every copyright system and cultural environment, it is still to everyone’s benefit to examine, ponder and discuss the various legal systems and their benefits and limitations so as to better understand subject matter. Since 2014, ICOM has advocated before the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the United Nations Agency responsible for international treaties about copyright law and related policies and programs, for exceptions to copyright for museums. ICOM’s position is that exceptions to copyright for museums are necessary to allow museums to fulfill their missions, given how museums access and communicate materials in the twenty-first century. For this reason, ICOM and its partner organizations, the International Federation of Library Associations and the International Council of Archives, have advocated for an international treaty on subject. In 2014, ICOM was successful in lobbying member states of WIPO for support to commission a study about the current status internationally of museum exceptions to copyright. This study was the first of its kind. Previously, WIPO had only addressed copyright exceptions for libraries and archives. WIPO published the museums study in 2015….”