This post comes from Pavel Kats, head of the Work Package responsible for developing Europeana Cloud's technical infrastructure.

It has been a while since we updated you on the latest news about the technical infrastructure developed by the Europeana Cloud project. This post shares our recent process and introduces some of our plans for next year.

In 2014, team members from Poznań (Poland), The Hague (Netherlands), Pisa (Italy) and Milton Keynes (United Kingdom) worked together to build the new infrastructure following the design proposed one year ago.

We are now almost ready for the alpha release of our infrastructure, which will serve as the basis of our first experiments with real metadata and content.

As proposed in the original design, the system consists of a distributed database for storing technical metadata, a distributed file system for storing metadata records as well as digital objects and several distributed frontend and backend services. The word distributed appears three times in the last phrase for a reason. It reflects our choice of distributed components, in other words components which can run in parallel on several machines. This will help us to build a scalable and reliable infrastructure.

Frontend Services are made available via a standard API. Using this API, data holders, such as aggregators and data partners, will be able to easily upload content to Europeana Cloud, download it from there and apply standard processing tasks.

The Unique Identifiers Service ensures that for every metadata or content record, Europeana Cloud both allocates its own unique identifier and stores the original (local) identifier used by the client who uploaded it. This will allow clients to refer to records using their local identifiers (rather than storing Europeana Cloud identifiers).

The Metadata and Content Service is the de-facto uploading and downloading mechanism. It is coupled with the Data Lookup Service, which allows the searching of records by a set of criteria, commonly referred to as Europeana Cloud’s administrative metadata.

At the heart of all these services is a simple but powerful data model. Its objective is to allow the building of standard aggregation workflows, so that individual workflows used by current and future partners can be easily mapped to this model and implemented using it.

Aggregation workflows will use the Data Processing Service, consisting of two parts. The first one is a standard component Apache Storm. This system (also used by Twitter) can parallelize processing tasks by distributing and managing them over multiple computational resources.

The second one is an API that allows interaction with the first system. The actual aggregation workflows will be implemented separately. The transformation between XML records (XSLT transformation) is already working as a sample workflow and soon we will ensure that more workflows are supported out-of-the-box by the system.

The Notification Service will inform clients about any changes made to records such as new versions created.

In addition to the core storage components Apache Cassandra and OpenStack, chosen during the design phase, we have added two more: Apache Kafka for communication between the services and Apache Zookeeper to manage groups of services and ensure high availability.

The system implements standard authentication and authorisation mechanisms following common security practices. Permissions on records are stored together with the rest of administrative metadata.

All in all, the emerging system is quite complex but by using standard and open-source components we hope to make it more extendable and configurable in the future.

On the operation front, the Poznań Supercomputing and Networking Center has set up the first instance of a pre-production system which will be used for experimenting with real content as of 2015. Next year we will also start looking at how the new system can be integrated into our existing aggregation flows and fulfill parts of their storage and computation requirements. We will continue to refine the system and make it fit for the big purpose of being the infrastructure of the entire Europeana´s aggregation ecosystem.

The Europeana Cloud technical infrastructure is still young but very gifted and dreams of a big purpose. While it is dreaming, we wish you a very Happy New Year!

At the EUscreenXLconference in Rome, between inspiring talks and innovative projects, people also participated in a workshop on Contextualization, which focused specifically on the question how AV contextualization practices can benefit best from the affordances of online publication. AV contextualization practices are a key part of the EUscreenXL project, reflected, amongst others, in an open access multi-media journal VIEW: Journal of European Television History and Culture and the EUscreen virtual exhibitions. Although several tools are currently being developed to explore and analyse digital audio-visual sources (AV), this workshop mainly focused on the next step: how to contextualize and re-use audio-visual materials online.

This activity is part of EUscreen endeavours to build a ‘contextualization community’, in the sense of a community of content providers, creators, archivists, scholars, researchers, students and the general audience, who would work and explore the audio-visual material offered on euscreen.eu. Their Core Collection will consist of ca. 60.000 historical items gathered from the audio-visual cultural heritage of 22 European countries. The purposes of the ‘contextualization community’ are to enrich and curate such content, as well as to experiment with other creative forms of online multimedia publication.

To learn more about the outcomes of this conference and the outcomes of this workshop you can read the EUscreen Blog. 

What is EUscreenXL?

EUscreenXL is a project and best practice network which aims at improving and developing the EUscreen portal. It is a consortiuminvolving European audiovisual and broadcasting archives. EUscreenXL aligns audiovisual collections held throughout Europe and connects them within the audiovisual domain of Europeana, an online collection of millions of digitised items from European museums, libraries and archives.

On the Europeana Pro blog, we want to highlight the good work being done by the Europeana Network. This time, Viktorija Jonkutė, who works at the Lithuanian Art Museum, talks to us about their work.

Hi Viktorija, how are you?

Very good! Thank you.

Can you tell us a bit about the your institution and its goals?

The Lithuanian Art Museum is a public institution and was granted the national museum status by the government of Lithuania in 1997. Originally founded in 1933, the museum is one of the oldest and leading institutions of its kind in the country. The museum aims to collect, preserve, study, research and promote art valuables that are at its disposal. We also organise exhibitions and cultural events and conduct various educational programmes. We are also an approved administrator and a recognised national training centre for implementing and managing Lithuania’s museums digitisation projects. This is organised and coordinated by a department of the Lithuanian Museums’ Centre for Information, Digitisation and LIMIS (LM CID LIMIS). 

 

Portretas buvusioje Markučių dvaro sodyboje. Unknown author. 1905. From the Literatūrinis A. Puškino muziejus (Public Domain)

Why are you working with Europeana?

Europeana is one of Europe's biggest digital cultural heritage libraries. And for us as a memory institution, it is important to be part of European culture heritage and be open and visible. We also want to work together with other countries on the preservation and dissemination of culture heritage. Especially since we are a small country, Europeana gives us the possibility to carry out all these activities. Besides that, we are a public body, so our activities of cultural heritage digitisation, preservation and dissemination are partly determined by the Government of the Republic of Lithuania and overall state strategy of these activities, which is formed in regard to the European cultural heritage policy.

Your material is very well accessible via the direct links in the metadata. Was this a deliberate choice, and if so, why?

Yes, we provide links to digitised images and the source of the original object, available via the LIMIS information system. Of course we do it consciously, in order to provide more opportunities for people searching for necessary information. There is only a part of the information available in Europeana. We provide an image size good enough for a modern computer screen. At the primary source, there is more information and people can get a really high quality image. Providing direct links facilitates and improves the search process and the distribution of information.

 

Išmestas į krantą garlaivis "Roja" Melnragės paplūdimyje. Unknown author. 1932 from the Mažosios Lietuvos istorijos muziejus  (Public Domain)

A lot of material is marked with the Public Domain mark and therefore free to use by anyone. Do you see benefit in this? Is this material for example more accessed?

Yes, we have marked a big part of our digital content with the Public Domain mark. This choice is largely determined by our governmental policy of digitisation and cultural heritage. Under the current legislation, digital content created with the financial support from the State or the EU Structural Funds, is open and can be used without restrictions, which is the case for our organisation. It should however be mentioned that we refer to reasonable quality digital images and objects of relevant chronology. We offer the really high quality as an added service. Generally speaking, the Public Domain mark makes digital content visible and more easily accessed. This results in us (the institution, the holders of images and the country) getting more attention and engaged users.

What does the future of your institution look like? What are your plans?

We will continue the long-term activities such as the restoration and renovation of artworks and the museum building. We will strengthen an inter-institutional cooperation, particularly in the field of tourism and education and organise and participate in national and international projects, especially in the regional one. We seek better public and cultural awareness and work on a better infrastructure for social services and a pleasing atmosphere for cultural experiences. We are also working on system improvements, so we can share Lithuanian digital content more effectively with a wider audience.

Thanks Viktorija!

Viktorija Jonkutė is EuropeanaPhotography coordinator at the Lithuanian Art Museum. She answered together with Danuté Mukieneé who is the head of LM CID LIMIS

For more great images from Lithuania click here.

Europeana Facebook tip 2/5: A series by Wiebe de Jager, Marketing Manager at Europeana

Deciding what to share on social media can be a daunting task. Especially if you’re holding very diverse collections and cater to a diverse audience. But even if you’re in a niche market, it still can be difficult to select the right images to surface via your Facebook page. In this blog post, we’ll give you some examples of images that got lots of traction on social media and briefly explain the mechanisms of the attention economy.

Economy of attention

Every day, we see and are exposed to hundreds or even thousands of images and advertisements, both on and offline. On social media, everyone, it seems, is asking for our attention by sharing images: not only friends, family and acquaintances, but also companies and cultural heritage institutions like your own. As a result, our brain starts to automatically filter the images that are thrown at us. We simply can’t notice, absorb, or even judge the personal merit of all these daily visual attacks.

Therefore, don’t assume that people will notice each image that you post. Only the most beautiful, engaging, provoking or emotional images will stand out from the noise. From our experience, images that provoke an immediate emotion work best in terms of reach and engagement. From working with Retronaut we learned that images that meet the S.P.E.E.D criteria work best:

 

 

Let’s not go into the details here; our upcoming paper on the S.P.E.E.D. model will elaborate on the criteria and explain each factor in detail. For now, let’s focus on the ‘disruption’ element, as we believe that this is the most important factor behind engagement and reach.

Disruptive images are the exceptions, the anomalies, the weird finds. A picture that does not fit with our mental map of history or the world around us will bring us briefly to a halt. By surfacing a disruptive image, we can set ourselves briefly apart from the noise, and in turn be rewarded by the attention from our audience.

Example 1: 1930s nose jobs

One example of such a disruptive image is ‘1930s nosejobs’. Not many people know that already in the 1930s, plastic surgery was thriving, as a direct result of the First World War. Many soldiers got face injuries as a result of the trench war. Surgeons gained lots of experience with facial reconstruction and began to apply their knowledge in cosmetic surgery. The image below was selected for its disruptive content and surfaced via Europeana’s blog:

 J. Sheehan, Plastic Surgery of the Nose. CC-BY The Wellcome Library

After this image was highlighted via social media, it was shared and liked by thousands of people. Eventually, the mainstream media picked it up and the image was featured on dívány, one of Hungary’s premier news sites:

 

Credit: Divany

As a result of sharing this one image, for weeks ‘plastic surgery’ was the most entered search query on Europeana.eu. Interest in the Wellcome Library collection increased by 17,000%, generating 57,000 views of individual records.

Example 2: the ‘pig rider’

Credit: Animaux apprivoisés de Mr Wingfield à Ampthill. National Library of France, Public Domain marked.

The ‘Pig rider’ image is probably Europeana’s most shared image ever: after surfacing it  via Retronaut, the image got 1,900 likes and 1,500 re-shares on Facebook, resulting in 250,000 impressions, reaching over 100,000 unique users. Just one image did that! The image now even appears in Google’s top image results if you search for ‘pig rider’.

Of course, you might not have pictures of 1930s nose jobs or kid pig riders in your collections. But in every collection, you’ll have remarkable items. Or remarkable details; zooming in can sometimes help you with identifying the peculiar details in otherwise ordinary objects.

Images or photos?

Then there is the question of what kind of material to share. In August 2014, Socialbakers reported that 87% of the most engaging posts on Facebook were photos. Their data shows that only 4% of the most engaging content on Facebook is generated by links, another 3% by videos, and 2% by text-only status updates.

It’s perhaps not a complete surprise that photos work best on a social medium. Human beings are attracted most to what they recognise and relate to. But that doesn’t mean that all photos are fit for sharing via social media. So, what not to post?

  • images of your institute’s building (unless it’s a work of art itself)
  • thumbnail images, or photos of poor quality
  • photos with watermarks on it
  • photos of people in a meeting or conference

Timing

Besides the content itself, timing of your posts is an essential element of a successful Facebook publishing strategy. This is the subject of the next blogpost in the series.

What is European food and drink cultural heritage all about? When we think about food and drink, we imagine traditional regional delicacies, inimitable wines and beers, secret ingredients, intricate production methods and the climatic impact on flavours and aromas. Combined with dining etiquette, eating rituals, emblematic traditions, nostalgic locations and historically meaningful events and occasions, food and drink form the foundation of our culture. From very personal experiences to community specific habits and national traditions, food and drink simply define who we are in all sorts of ways. For centuries, local and national museums, libraries, archives, galleries and other heritage institutions have been collecting artefacts, images, paintings, books, manuscripts, audio videos and other objects to capture the traditions and to document the development of European food and drink culture.

Europeana Food and Drink, a sister project of Europeana Creative, promotes the wider re-use of the digital cultural resources and supporting cultural heritage organisations but on the very specific theme of Food & Drink. Digital contents such as long forgotten recipes and cookbooks, images and drawings showing traditional foods and their preparation or remarkable food locations will be provided in the course of the project by our project partners. Furthermore images of vintage tools and artefacts from the food and drink industry as well as sound recordings with traditional songs accompanying hunting and food celebrations and many other digital items harbouring unique stories are waiting to be revealed and revived.

In order to support this creative process, Europeana Food and Drink has also initiated its first Open Innovation Challenge “Reusing and promoting Europeana Food and Drink heritage contents”. The desired solutions should help GLAMs (galleries, libraries, archives and museums), touristic agencies and the food and drink industry to improve their business and support the promotion of the European food and drink cultural heritage in the modern digital age.

The great thing is you can submit the same idea, concept, or products to both the Europeana Creative and Europeana Food & Drink Challenge - maximising your opportunuity to win one of our tailor made incubation support packages or cash prize! You only have until the 20th of December 2014 to submit your idea to the Europeana Food & Drink Challenge. Requirements, guidelines and the access to the challenge platform can be found under: http://foodanddrinkeurope.eu/challengeone/

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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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