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2 minutes to read Posted on Thursday November 1, 2018

Updated on Monday November 6, 2023

portrait of Nicole McNeilly

Nicole McNeilly

Impact Advisor , Europeana Foundation

10 reasons to open up your digital cultural heritage data

Today, we start a Pro News series focusing on Europeana's 10th anniversary, which we are marking throughout November. Here, we present 10 reasons to open up cultural heritage data for free reuse.

'Höst vid Vänern (Åmål)'
Höst vid Vänern (Åmål)
Olof Sager-Nelson

Ten years ago, the European Union was inspired by its Member States to make a bold statement  - that access to our cultural heritage online is too important to leave to market forces - and Europeana was born.

Today, the Europeana initiative provides a platform where everyone can freely access tens of millions of items from thousands of cultural heritage institutions online, for education, research, creativity and pleasure. But, over the past decade, it has also become more than a portal – it is a movement for change.

In this anniversary series, we look at what the Europeana initiative is doing, what it has achieved, and how it is looking to the future. At its very heart, of course, is cultural heritage and in this first post, we look at 10 reasons to open up cultural heritage data for free reuse

10 reasons to open up!

1. Fulfil your mission

Making your collections available for research, education and creativity is often part of an organisation’s mission, which an open approach can help fulfil. Research and education are perceived as the top motivations for digitisation, reflecting a desire that people do something with digital heritage content.

2. Get more people to notice you

An open approach can increase the public’s awareness of and engagement with an institution’s collections, both online and in person - because if it’s not open, people can’t use it, play with it or share it.

3. Get higher up on Google

Opening up helps bring the best of a collection to the top of Google search engine rankings and helps searchers find high-quality images first.

4. Make better use of social media

Heritage institutions (surveyed in 2017) expect significant growth in social media as a channel for their collections. When cultural heritage items are openly licensed, they can be shared, shared and shared again.

5. Work with other organisations and join high-profile campaigns

Partner with organisations like Wikipedia and Wikimedia, Flickr, Europeana and Google Art to engage with new audiences across the world and to find new uses for your content.

6. Build and capitalise on a stronger brand

Opening up can improve an organisation’s brand and reputation which can lead to new funding avenues (many of which require openly available outputs) and income streams.

7. Capture the knowledge and enthusiasm of the crowd

It has been said that ‘the organizations that prioritise openness and sharing...are reaping the most benefits’ from crowdsourcing. In one example, opening up allowed members of the public to help identify problems with an institution’s metadata.

8. Join the broader ‘open’ movement

As well as furthering campaigns like Open Culture and OpenGlam, you’ll be joining the broader and growing ‘open’ movement, including Open Education, Open Data and Open Government as well as contributing to the developing digital transformation of society through culture.

9. Make your organisation more efficient and effective

Removing barriers to access (where they are not required) can save time and money and help you focus on the most important objectives: ‘retaining more restrictive terms of use may cost organisations in funding, staff time, and reputation’.

10. Move beyond image licensing

A survey in 2017 showed that ‘sales and commercial licensing’ was the least important motivation for digitisation, confirming that 'Revenue [from exploiting digital collections] matters less than many institutions think it does'.

Take action

Find out more about how opening up your data can benefit your organisation in the Europeana Publishing Framework and by reading our impact case studies.

If you’d like to publish new or improved data with Europeana, see reasons to share your data on Europeana Collections and our resources for data providers.

Sources and recommended reading

  1. Enumerate survey 2017, DEN and Europeana

  2. The Impact of Open Access on Galleries, Libraries, Museums, & Archives, Effie Kapsalis (2016)

  3. Images of Works of Art in Museum Collections: The Experience of Open Access, Kristin Kelly (2013)

  4. Democratising the Rijksmuseum, Joris Pekel (2014)

  5. MKG Collection online: the potential of open museum collections, Antje Schmidt (2018)

  6. Making impact on a small budget, Joris Pekel (2015)

  7. Opening Access to collections: the making and using of open digitised cultural content, Melissa Terras (2015)