Posted on Tuesday February 9, 2021

Updated on Wednesday January 12, 2022

Open and reusable digital cultural heritage

Cultural heritage institutions can support use of their digital collections by making them available under open licenses and rights statements that allow other individuals to copy, redistribute and reuse another creator’s work. This page explains how and why Europeana encourages you to open up collections for reuse.

The benefits of open and reusable digital cultural heritage

Copyright restrictions often prevent audiences from using and sharing digital cultural heritage objects. However, when you use rights statements and licenses that permit reuse, you allow the public to share, copy and modify the content without needing to seek permission (as long as they follow the conditions of the license used). This not only allows people to create new things by remixing digital cultural heritage, but can bring benefits for your institution:

How Europeana encourages open and reusable digital cultural heritage  

We encourage data providers to allow the reuse of content as widely as possible through our policies and frameworks. 

  • Through the Europeana Public Domain Charter, we advocate for public domain content to remain in the public domain after digitisation. We believe that access to the public domain enables knowledge equity and encourages creativity. As a cultural heritage institution, you have the power to connect society to the wealth of content in the public domain by adhering to the principle that the digitisation of public domain content does not create new rights over it. 

  • In addition, the Europeana Publishing Framework introduces four tiers of criteria for measuring content quality by taking into account not just the quality of the digital resources, but also the rights statements and licenses applied to them. The fewer copyright restrictions you place on them, the higher the potential reuse of objects and their value to the end users are. 

Making the most of your digital collections 

When you share digital objects with rights statements and licenses that permit reuse with Europeana, we help you increase exposure, use and dissemination of your collections: 

  • We can find imaginative ways of showcasing your collections and encouraging their creative reuse through activities like our puzzles, annual GIF IT UP competition, and colouring books.

  • We can create learning scenarios that enable teachers to use openly licensed digital objects from Europeana in their classroom.

  • We can strengthen scientific research by incorporating digital objects for which reuse is permitted into research environments such as CLARIN’s Virtual Language Observatory.

  • We can help you achieve exposure beyond our platform. For instance, the Birdie memory app was built using a collection of bird songs from Europeana. We also work closely with Wikimedia Commons. Many digital resources from Europeana were uploaded to Commons and Wikipedians are encouraged to use them in articles.

  • When we create and promote editorial content (like blogs, galleries or exhibitions) we include as much openly licensed content as possible so that the items we highlight can be reused by anyone. 

Be inspired by the innovative ways that educators, researchers, culture lovers and creatives are enriching educational resources, opening up new areas of research, or creating new art, games and entertainments  on our reuse page.

How institutions have opened up their collections for reuse

Paris Musées embraces open access
Title: English language interface of the Paris Musées collections online
Creator: Paris Musées
Date: 2020
Institution: Paris Musées
Country: France

Paris Musées embraces open access

In a major step towards greater open access in France, Paris Musées is releasing its digital collections into the public domain with a CC0 waiver. Europeana's Douglas McCarthy spoke with Philippe Rivière, Head of Communication and Digital at Paris Musées, to find out more.

Open access arrives at the Cleveland Museum of Art
Title: Portrait of Dora Wheeler, 1882-1883
Creator: William Merritt Chase (American, 1849-1916)
Date: 1882-1883
Institution: The Cleveland Museum of Art, Gift of Mrs. Boudinot Keith in memory of Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Wade
Country: United States of America

Open access arrives at the Cleveland Museum of Art

The Cleveland Museum of Art announced a major new Open Access initiative, releasing images of its public-domain works for use without restriction. Jane Alexander, Chief Digital Information Officer at the CMA, gave Douglas McCarthy the inside story behind the announcement.

Open up! Open access at Birmingham Museums Trust
Title: The Travelling Companions (detail)
Creator: Augustus Leopold Egg
Date: 1862
Institution: Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery
Country: United Kingdom

Open up! Open access at Birmingham Museums Trust

Linda Spurdle, Digital Development Manager, tells Douglas McCarthy why the Trust is adopting open access policies and what it hopes to achieve.

Why the Metropolitan Museum of Art is embracing open access
Title: Magnolias and Irises
Creator: Louis Comfort Tiffany
Institution: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Why the Metropolitan Museum of Art is embracing open access

Neal Stimler, Program Manager for Content Partnerships, at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, tells us what is driving The Met's Open Access policy, introduced in February 2017

Strategy and open data at Wellcome Collection
Title: Rita Levi Montalcini, digital illustration
Creator: Daria Kirpach and Salzman International

Strategy and open data at Wellcome Collection

Tom Scott, Head of Digital Engagement at London’s Wellcome Collection, shares his thoughts on digital strategy and the contribution of open data to a knowledgable and creative society.