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2 minutes to read Posted on Tuesday February 8, 2022

Updated on Monday November 6, 2023

portrait of Eleanor Kenny

Eleanor Kenny

Former Head of Communications and External relations , Europeana Foundation

portrait of Julia Fallon

Julia Fallon

Community and Partner Engagement Manager , Europeana Foundation

portrait of Milena Popova

Milena Popova

Programme & Business Development Manager , Europeana Foundation

portrait of Beth Daley

Beth Daley

Editorial Adviser , Europeana Foundation

Talking collaboration at the Europeana Foundation: driving change together

The Europeana Foundation’s Business Plan 2021, ‘Towards a digital public space for cultural heritage’, highlights five themes that run through all aspects of our work. We explore these themes with a series of interviews with Europeana Foundation staff. Here, Julia Fallon, Eleanor Kenny and Milena Popova from the Europeana Foundation, talk about collaboration.

School children in lace lessons
Oberscheibe. Staatliche Klöppelschule. Schulkinder bei Klöppelunterricht
Möbius, Walter (Herstellung) (Fotograf)
German Digital Library

Your roles all involve working with people or organisations outside of the Europeana Foundation - what specific elements of collaboration are you focused on?

Milena Popova (Programme & Business Development Manager): My role is about partnerships and projects, mainly focusing on projects. What is typical is that we work with a wide range of different types of partners, from non-profits  to corporate, and both big and small organisations to prepare proposals for EU-funded project calls. And if and when they’re funded, we work together to make them a success.

Eleanor Kenny (Head of Communications and External Relations): I promote and foster stakeholder relationships at an EU or pan-European level, for example with the European Parliament, at the European Heritage Alliance, or on the European Commission’s Cultural Heritage Expert Group. It’s important to share the successes and challenges of digital heritage, and to learn from others about what is important in their areas, to see where we can work together for shared goals.

Julia Fallon (Community and Partner Engagement Manager): My role is in bringing professionals together in the Europeana Network Association and across the sector. The focus is on the individuals not the organisations, so that people can share knowledge, learn from each other and create new opportunities together.

Why is your area of collaboration important to the digital cultural heritage sector?

Milena: Funded projects provide an excellent opportunity for organisations from the sector to progress with their digital transformation. Whether they’re short-term and practical (Generic Services projects) or more experimental and longer term (Horizon 2020/Horizon Europe), they bring together work on improving data quality, engaging with audiences, and implementing new innovative technology, to improve the sector both now and for the future. 

Eleanor: For me, it’s that Europeana has got such a great story to share about the role of digital cultural heritage in society. Most of the organisations that I deal with are very invested in cultural heritage but they may not be so aware of the digital aspects of it, or they are aware but they need more help to support or promote it effectively. 

Julia: It’s about achieving impact at scale, bringing professionals together to share knowledge. They can then share back what they’ve learnt with their own networks and that ripple can continue in ways that wouldn’t be possible without a knowledge-sharing network like the ENA. In cultural heritage, capacity building activities can be difficult to find or fund, but by getting together, we can look at where our common ground is and that can really bring the sector together.

What activities is Europeana undertaking in your area of collaboration? What are you excited by?

Milena: The Europeana Foundation collaborates with over 80 organisations in 12 Generic Services projects as well as the InDICEs Horizon 2020 project and we’re joint partners in five project proposals for the first round of Horizon Europe calls. The calls’ topics - green tech, new ways of participatory management and enhancing cultural heritage with advanced digital technologies - are really exciting and I hope that our applications will be successful. 

Eleanor: I’m excited about the potential for our sector and for digital cultural heritage to contribute to the European Commission’s New European Bauhaus initiative. It asks how do we live more sustainably together and how do we respond to that challenge together? What’s exciting is that the New European Bauhaus wants to put culture alongside technology to help solve those problems - together we can help it do that. 

Julia: We recently ran a New Professionals Task Force and one thing it identified was the need for the ENA to address topics relevant to newer professionals in our sector, whether that’s climate action or social responsibility, for example. We’re hoping that through our new Climate Action community, we can reach new professional audiences. Most ENA members are members of more than one of our specialist communities, so bringing someone into the Climate Action community means they’re likely to step into another community, and if they’re a new professional, you’re supporting that growth path. These are opportunities that people didn’t have 10 or 15 years ago. 

Who do you look to for best practice and inspiration in this area?

Milena: I find the project collaboration a true source of inspiration and learning. Partners bring different perspectives, share interesting ideas and we develop best practices together. All the projects are exciting but I really like J-Ark - European Jewish Community Archive. It’s the first project to connect the three digital service infrastructures - Europeana, eTranslation and eArchiving - so it can really support the sector. 

Eleanor: I get the most inspiration when we’re actually collaborating with other people, for instance, with Europa Nostra on the European Heritage Alliance manifesto. At a moment of crisis due to the pandemic, the sector came together and we worked with like-minded partners in the cultural heritage sector to make a strong case for the importance of the sector at that time. 

Julia: The pandemic has shown that there are some incredibly good ways to collaborate out there in the cultural heritage sector - museums chatting on social media, or engaging with audiences online. There’s been a proliferation of webinars on demand, and people getting together online to share experiences. Our sector is really creative and the pandemic has given the opportunity to make that more visible to even more audiences. We can learn from each other in many different ways. 

How can people get involved or develop their own collaboration practices?

Milena: I would be thrilled to hear from people who would like to explore new partnership opportunities. So please get in touch if you have an idea for a project proposal under the forthcoming EU funding calls. You can also check out our current activity on our Projects and Partnerships pages on Europeana Pro.

Eleanor: The European Commission has recently run important consultations to shape the future of digital cultural heritage. They covered programmes, projects and funding, as well as ideas and values. We promoted our responses to these consultations and the sector responded strongly, raising its voice to say what was important. So, participating in these consultations is one way that organisations and professionals can collectively make a difference to the wider conversation. 

Julia: You can join the Europeana Network Association! Follow us on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, GitHub), check out our communities, explore Europeana Pro - our website for cultural heritage professionals, look at the events we’ve got going on. And you can also help us to support you by accepting the cookie banner on Pro and then completing our survey!