Meet the members Council: Fred Truyen

30 May 2017 Comment

Being an academic, I teach Information Science, Online Publishing and European Cultural Policy at the Faculty of Arts KU Leuven. Originally trained as a philosopher, I have a professional background in ICT. My main interest is ICT solutions for cultural heritage.

Broad perspectives for education

My interest for Europeana, however, comes primarily as an end-user. Me and many of my colleagues at the university use Europeana with our students, for classes on a range of subjects, and often to replace very expensive commercial databases. The end-use of Europeana is so much more than casual searches: The collections allow for education with a broad, transnational perspective using true, untampered sources. We should never underestimate the power of the image and the damage done by faked or framed representations. I also teach about Europeana to students of the MA Cultural Studies and the MA European Studies in Leuven, in the context of a course on European Cultural Policy. To answer a question asked by my students: yes, I consider Europeana to be not only the outcome of European cultural policies, but also a key instrument for them!

Klementina Tiškevičienė (1856–1921) | S. Rumbleris; S. Rumbler, Kretingos Muziejus, public domain

Telling Europe’s history through images

Photoconsortium, the organisation of which I am the current president, acts like an expert hub for photography in Europeana. It is an association that brings people from photo archives, museums and agencies together with specialists in photography. The goal is to promote photographic heritage, currently with a focus on early photography, but not limited to that. In fact it continues the work we did on EuropeanaPhotography – written as one word! – the EC-funded CIP (Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme) project that allowed us to ingest over 450,000 top images of early photography (1839-1939) into Europeana. Some of the members hold archives from world-famous photographers, but more importantly we digitised unpublished images from a host of lesser-known collections from many corners of Europe.

Yes, photography is an art, and you can now discover breathtaking photos by Europe’s best photographers in the Europeana Photography (now written as two words) thematic collection.
But it also represents shared memories: these frozen images of the past, covered by a thin layer of the dust of time, give us the opportunity to share each other’s experiences. Memory is essentially social, as it allows us to transcend our personal viewpoint and grasp an image of the world that is collectively imprinted. To me, this expresses what Europeana is for. The photo collections in Europeana are the ideal material for building stories about Europe’s many histories.

Advising on best practices

Through Photoconsortium, we want to share not just our experience of curating stories using photography, but also our expertise, both on photographic heritage and on its preservation. We also give advice to archives on digitisation best practices. By taking responsibility for curating Europeana’s photographic collections, we hope we can grow Europeana’s impact – I am also a member of the Impact Assessment Task Force, in particular in the world of education. But by improving metadata quality, expanding on our multilingual thesaurus (currently holding 16 languages), we also aim to serve the professional GLAM sector and members of Europeana and make photography data more accessible. In fact, more work still has to be done to add metadata that really pertain to photographic qualities (such as composition, viewpoint, lighting, background/foreground), as current metadata work focuses mainly on the content of what has been photographed.

I hope it is clear that we are passionate about photography! We would like to broaden the Europeana movement to local archives who want to contribute to this common heritage! To get involved, contact Photoconsortium at: info@photoconsortium.net.