WW1 and the fall of the Iron Curtain, two events that shaped the Europe we know today will be commemorated at the European Parliament in unique style. A family history roadshow, digitising personal memorabilia of MEPs for these two seminal periods of European history, is taking place in the Parliament.

On 2 and 3 December, Shaping Europe will mark the centenary commemoration of WW1 and the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Iron Curtain. Members of the European Parliament and Parliament staff are invited to bring along their personal and family memorabilia to be digitised and to share the stories behind them through Europeana’s two major thematic websites Europeana1914-18.eu and Europeana1989.eu.

Monika Grütters, the German Minister of State for Culture said at the beginning of this year: ‘Europeana is a great bridge builder. In a wonderful way, it is founding connections between cultural institutions across Europe. It is making an important contribution to European cooperation and understanding across borders and tranches of history.'

For the past three years, Europeana 1914-18 and Europeana 1989 have worked with citizens and our cultural institutions across Europe to create online archives that provide a unique perspective on these two seminal events, which can be shared worldwide. The two collection days at the Parliament, add to 150 held across Europe over the last 4 years and directly connect citizens to their cultural heritage.

Jill Cousins, Executive Director of Europeana Foundation said: ‘Europeana 1914-1918 and Europeana 1989 connects our state history with our personal memories. They show the power of a Europe connected through its cultural institutions and our shared heritage’.

MEP and one of the initiators of the European Parliament's resolution on European Conscience and Totalitarianism (2009), Mr. Tunne-Väldo Kelam is one of those who have already shared their story through Europeana 1989 and the 89 voices project. He said, 'One of our main objectives at the European Parliament has been to develop a balanced understanding and approach to European history as a whole. Because we noticed that our colleagues and friends in Western and Southern Europe know very little about what happened in the East. We should establish a political balance to recognise these [totalitarian, Nazi and Communist] crimes and express solidarity with the victims.'

Senior representatives from the EU institutions, Member States and cultural organisations will gather at the commemoration, hosted by five members of the European Parliament and its committee of Culture and Education: Ms. Silvia Costa, Ms Sabine Verheyen, Ms. Petra Kammerevert, Mr Maura Barandarián and Ms. Helga Trϋpel. The event will mark the role of these two formative periods in shaping Europe.

On 3 December evening, a reception will be held to mark the importance of culture to the formation of the European Union and the role of the Member States in Europeana 1914-1918 and Europeana 1989. The reception will be attended by Commissioner Tibor Navracsics, Culture, Education, Youth and Sport and Mr Bodgan Andrzej Zdrojewski, MEP and former minister for Culture, Poland.

To follow developments on social media, please use #ShapingEurope.

By Julia Fallon, IPR & Policy Advisor

Introducing the Members’ Council...

We asked for your help to put the Network at the heart of Europeana.

We asked you to nominate candidates to stand for election to the Members’ Council. And then, we asked you to vote for those candidates in a week-long online election. Elections are now closed and hundreds of you voted to elect your representatives.

Today, we are really proud to introduce you to your elected representatives - the very first Europeana Members’ Council.

Europeana CC BY_SA

We would like to take this opportunity to thank you and your fellow Network members for your tremendous response to the #EuropeanaElects campaign. We would also like to welcome those of you who are new to the Network. Thanks to the 47 candidates and all of your support, we have witnessed a truly democratic election.

We will share more information about the Members’ Council and next steps in the coming week. In the meantime, you will find more about the #EuropeanaElects campaign and the next steps on the dedicated Governance section of Europeana Pro.

#AllezCulture!

We are always looking for interesting articles, case studies and news relating to digital cultural heritage. Do you have an idea? Then get in touch with Susan to discuss it and set a deadline for your submission. Once your idea is approved, please use the following guidelines to ensure your blog is Pro-ready.

Image: The Wellcome Library CC BY

Writing

  • We believe in brevity. So keep it succinct. We do not give you a word limit, but keep your article only as long as it needs to be.
  • If the previous point is too cryptic, a good way to determine the right length is to check if you have answered the who, what, why, when, where and how of your story.
  • Write for the layperson. Watch out for that jargon, because our readers come from a range of backgrounds and we want you to keep them in mind while writing. If your topic is about a technical development, then ensure that you have a layperson-friendly introduction explaining the relevance of your news to the cultural heritage sector.
  • Use examples to illustrate your points. Or anecdotes.
  • Look for a hook - something that will trap your reader’s attention. After all, if you take the trouble to write it, we want everyone to read it.
  • Leave out the self-promotion. Yes, you want everyone to know about your cool project. But let your work speak for itself.
  • If your blog post is about a development within a project, please ensure that you have cleared the content with all the relevant people.

Images

  • We’ll need at least one image to go with your article. If it is more than 500 words, then at least two. Sound clips and videos are also welcome.
  • Examples of such images are screenshots, project or organisation logos, event or group work photos etc. If you are unsure what image to use or cannot find an appropriate one, you could also use creative commons attributed image e.g. from Europeana or Wikimedia Commons. Please be aware that we can only publish images on our blog that are either out of copyright, or under at least a CC BY-SA licence.
  • Provide the appropriate attribution for the provided media files. For example: ‘Image: Vinos y Finos : Sanlucar de Barrameda, [1920-1925] Biblioteca Valenciana Digital (Public domain).’
  • If you are unsure about this please do not hesitate to ask.

Publishing

We want to get your article out there while it is still relevant. So please take the deadlines seriously. However, if you know that theres going to be a delay, please let us know as soon as possible. And likewise, we sometimes have to postpone the publication of articles due to external factors.

Dissemination

Once your blog post is published, we will disseminate it on Twitter and sometimes through our newsletters or the Allez Culture Facebook group if relevant. If you are on Twitter, please do retweet once the blog link is out there. And if your blog is part of a campaign, please share the Twitter handle/ hashtags with us.

A series of blogs by Wiebe de Jager, Marketing Manager at Europeana

#1: Links, texts, images & attribution

Think a moment about the main aim of using Facebook in your cultural heritage institution. You probably want to reach as many people as possible and tell them about your news, or showcase highlights and hidden gems from your collections.

If maximising your reach is indeed your main goal, it’s very important to keep in mind that the length and ‘interestingness’ of your updates greatly influences the reach of each message you post. In other words: short messages with a clear call to action, accompanied by an interesting image will be seen by more people than long, text-only posts.

Be to the point

Facebook uses an advanced newsfeed algorithm that determines what is shown in its users’ timelines. Posts that generate lots of engagement right after posting (ie. people liking or sharing the update) have a higher chance of being shown in someone’s newsfeed. Therefore it’s best to keep the text in your updates as short as possible. Make each post relevant to your audience by studying the results of earlier posts and adapt your messages accordingly. And write like a human being, not like an institution.

Some studies suggest that Facebook posts with just 40 characters (less than this sentence!) receive 86% more engagement than posts with a higher character count. Want to say more? Then write a more extensive post on your blog and link to it. Be to the point and supress the urge to provide too much context in your social media updates.

Another factor that greatly influences the reach of your updates is timeliness. Facebook has been changing its algorithm, boosting posts that are somehow related to trending topics.

Europeana CC BY-SA

This post on the fall of the Berlin Wall for example (with the hashtag #BerlinWall25 both in the text and in the image) got more than 259 likes and reached nearly 13,000 people. Compare that to an update about Rembrandt’s self-portraits, posted just a couple of days later: this update only reached about 2,000 people, and got 49 likes.

Call to action

Try to include not more than one ‘call to action’ in each update: people have to make decisions all day long, so adding more decisions can result in them not taking any action at all. Make the call to action short and clear, and make sure that you put the call to action in the beginning of your message.

Oh, and please don’t put #too #many #hashtags #in #your #Facebook #message; in a sense, they’re calls to actions too, diluting your main call to action. And it doesn’t increase the readability of your message either. One or two hashtags like #Onthisday or thematic hashtags such as #WW1 or #Picasso will do, ‘connecting’ your update to those from other people and institutions.

A typical status update by Europeana – one image, short explanation, one hashtag and a call to action. Europeana CC BY-SA

Say it with pictures

At Europeana, we often say that images are the currency of the web. It is estimated that a post with a picture gets 120% more engagement and 84% more link clicks than a post without. For us, surfacing interesting images from our partners’ collections via social media is one of the most important purposes of our social media activities, as our aim is to highlight the most interesting items in existing and new collections.

We identify images that have the most viral potential using the S.P.E.E.D criteria (more about this in the next blog post) and publish those on Facebook at regular intervals. We only use openly licensed images, ie. images that are in the public domain or have a creative commons licence. We attribute the creator, the image provider and we provide a link to the source of the image. We want the images we share to speak for themselves, so we don’t use low resolution or watermarked images.

Each update contains an image attribution and link to the source. Europeana CC BY-SA

We have evidence that by surfacing just one interesting image, traffic to a specific collection can increase by over 57,000 percent. We will tell you more about that in a forthcoming white paper about our collaboration with Retronaut.

Remember, on social media, your content is the star of the show, not you. Keep that in mind while composing updates. Always try to think from your target audience’s perspective, and make yourself stand out from the noise.

Vicky Garnett of Trinity College Dublin (a Europeana Cloud partner)  blogs about her recent experience at the British Library Labs Symposium in London, and the relevance for Europeana Cloud.

Europeana Cloud is currently investigating the way in which humanities and social science researchers use big datasets from cultural heritage institutions.

Together with my colleague at Trinity College Dublin, Dr Jennifer Edmond, we’ve been talking to institutions in the GLAM sector to find out what web services they offer (such as APIs). We’ve also spoken to researchers who are actively using the data contained in APIs. Our findings will be presented at a workshop in The Hague in December and included in an upcoming report.

One of the institutions featured in our work is the British Library. We were therefore pleased to be part of a one-day symposium on November 3rd, held to mark the end of the first phase of the BL Labs project and to present the winners of the BL Labs 2014 competition. Since there are many parallels between the work of BL Labs and that of Europeana Cloud, it made for an interesting day.

The winners of this year’s competition covered both the highly practical and the highly whimsical. TILT (Text to Image Linking Tool) from Desmond Schmidt and Anna Gerber at the University of Queensland, Australia, offers a practical solution to almost un-OCR-able handwritten manuscripts.

Bob Nicholson from Edge Hill University created a Victorian Meme Machine, which aims to use crowdsourcing, data-mining and social media to bring the Victorian sense of humour to the 21st Century.  Both used content contained within the British Library collections to bring their tools to life and the development of these tools was supported by the BL Labs team.


Humanities Scholars Should Remember their Skills 
The uses of digital content and the impact of these increasingly technological methodologies was the basis for keynote speaker Tim Hitchcock’s lecture, or rather as he put it ‘worrying in public’. He posited his talk through the lens of the ‘macroscope’, a term he used with much caution. Hitchcock worried that in the scramble to find the bigger picture through distant reading - and in the light of all this miraculous and impressive data gathering, and cross-disciplinary work - that Humanities researchers might forget the essence of what makes them ‘Humanities’ researchers.

Methodologies in Digital Humanities are almost moving towards the social sciences, looking at, for example, network analysis, GIS techniques and many other tools that require big data to find meaningful results. This is, Tim says, important and drives knowledge forward. But he urges Humanities researchers to remember the skills they have within their own fields: that of close reading and obtaining and ‘cleaning up’ small data for deeper analysis. The irony for Tim is that in the rush to use big data we miss 90% of what's actually there.

On the back of these thought-provoking words, the discussion was opened up to the floor, wherein future directions for Humanities were discussed. One commenter suggested that in the ever-increasing fight for funding, those in the Humanities were in a difficult position where they were almost compelled to turn to cross-disciplinary research in order to survive.

The afternoon brought a slightly more upbeat tone, with demonstrations and presentations from some of the ongoing projects between the British Library and the BL Labs project. Daniel Wolff and Adam Tovell from the Digital Music Lab at BL showcased their digital methods for musicologists, while Peter Balman (winner of the British Library’s Innovation Challenge) outlined his work to develop a tool that will analyse the use of British Library digital collections, who is using them, where they are using them and how they are using them.

Footbridges, not Suspension Bridges 
The next two talks spoke directly about the work of BL Labs, its impact and the lessons that have been learnt. BL Labs Manager Mahendra Mahay began by putting the work of the first two years of BL Labs into the context of the Library and its mission to address the needs of researchers wanting to access the vast wealth of items within both its concrete and virtual walls. Technical lead Ben O’Steen then presented his work to develop ‘footbridges not suspension bridges’ to provide the means for people to access and reuse the data. In other words, a footbridge fulfills the function of a bridge: it gets the user to the other side without getting their feet wet. A suspension bridge does exactly the same job except that there are more people using it and it looks a lot fancier! With so many projects being short-lived and often merely exploratory, O’Steen’s aim is to provide a solution that is functional to the task without over-complicating an otherwise simple requirement. Why build a suspension bridge if it’s only going to be used once and barely looked at?

Five Key Lessons
The final presentation from the British Library was from the Principal Investigator of the British Library Labs project, Adam Farquhar. He outlined the 5 key lessons that he and his team have learnt so far along the way:

1. More is more! The more digital content you have, the more opportunity you give people to reuse it.

2. Less is more (tools and services). It is not our job to pick winners but this can conflict with how we develop and deliver tools and services. The answer is not just to provide tools. It’s to provide tools that work for researchers and meet their needs.

3. Bring your own tools. Similarly to lesson no. 2, we can’t build everything. We need to let people pick and choose the tools they want to use with our content.

4. We have to let people be creative. Put in place the ability for people to create tools, projects or collections themselves.

5. Allow people to start small and finish big. Allow and encourage users to start with an obtainable goal but ensure that it can be scaled up if necessary. The scaleable part could be the collection, the methodology or the overall output.

The additional lesson I took from this was perhaps an unintended one.

Edison Phonograph in action. Photo Vicky Garnett / 2014.

After the main symposium, we were invited by composer Sarah Angliss to create our own voice recording on a wax cylinder. A few curious but cautious individuals gathered next to her Edison Standard Phonograph, unclear and unsure what we were about to do.

Her partner in crime then played us a wax cylinder of a woman singing from nearly 100 years ago. The sound quality was tinny, and the delivery of the woman’s voice coming out of this spinning black tube was almost a parody of Music Hall, yet as Sarah explained, these were artefacts of the technology and were not necessarily representing the way people truly sounded.

She further demonstrated this when she changed the phonograph head, replaced the recorded cylinder with a blank one (now made in Brighton) and asked us all to say something very clearly into the phonograph’s horn. We had to speak loudly and clearly, being sure to ‘en-un-ci-ate’ each syllable to ensure the recording head was sufficiently vibrated to capture the sound on the wax.

Dutifully, we all trotted out a line of ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ into the phonograph, with much giggling, and showboating. We played it back. We heard nothing. Our attempts at speaking clearly had not caused a big enough ripple. The equipment was all set up, we had shouted about Mary’s ‘snow-white fleeced’ lamb and yet still nothing.

At this point a few members of the group drifted away. This was a shame but served as a tidy metaphor for technology in general, echoing much of what had been discussed over the course of the day. Keep it simple. If it doesn’t work first time, people won’t come back for a second try.

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About

The Europeana Professional Blog is for people working in the field of digital cultural heritage. For more information or to contribute, contact susan.muthalaly@europeana.eu.

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