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portrait of Beth Daley

Beth Daley

Editorial Adviser , Europeana Foundation

EU Member States supporting aggregators and promoting standards for digital culture

In June, we highlighted a new European Commission report confirming continued Member State support for Europeana and for common efforts on digital preservation. Now, let’s look more closely at how Member States - through their ministries of culture - are working with aggregators to encourage the use of standards for digital culture and what that means for the data provided by your own institutions. 
 

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Developing and supporting aggregation

The Europeana ecosystem builds on a network of national, thematic and domain aggregators. Their primary aim is to support cultural institutions and provide access to authentic, trustworthy and robust data and content. Once available, that material can then be found and used by the general public, education, research and the creative industries.

Member States are developing the use of such aggregators in order to better support institutions in their countries. The aggregators’ services differ but for the report include ‘digitisation and technical expertise, copyright and legal expertise, online access, translations, workshops and helpdesk availability’ (see report p.50). 

FACT:  Nearly three-quarters of Member States (20) have national aggregators for Europeana (see report p.49).

Support for aggregators comes from both Member States and the Europeana initiative, via the Europeana Aggregators’ Forum (EAF). The size and scope of aggregators vary hugely and their needs cannot be met by a one-size-fits-all approach. Since the end of the period reported on, the EAF has set up an Aggregator Accreditation Scheme to acknowledge and recognise the role of the aggregator and to provide the benefit of peer-to-peer support through the EAF. 

Europe-wide standards for metadata and content

To make sure that cultural heritage institutions in the Member States provide metadata and content that works across borders, across languages and across systems, that material needs to adhere to universal standards. 

Both Europeana and the Member States support the use of a range of standards for rich and useful metadata and content. For example, Persistent Identifiers (PIDs) that link material back to its source no matter where you find it, Linked Open Data practices that link material to other relevant material, and IIIF, an interoperability standard for digital images.

FACT: 19 Member States use Persistent Identifiers (PIDs) to make sure their digitised content always links back to the source (see report p.54). 

Europeana provides a widely adopted metadata standard - the Europeana Data Model (EDM) - and a quality standard - the Europeana Publishing Framework (EPF). Europeana is also part of the collaboration behind rightsstatements.org and the development of 12 standardised rights statements for online cultural heritage. Together, these standards aim to ensure that all metadata and content provided to Europeana works effectively. That is, it serves the needs of both the providing institution and the target audiences, no matter who they are, what language they use or what they want to do with the material. The report shows that uptake of such standards is good and increasing. As such, the Member States are beginning to include quality targets for aggregators along with their quantity targets.

FACT: 13 Member States report implementing rights statements from rightsstatements.org and using the guidelines set out in the Europeana Publishing Framework (see report p. 54).

Endorsement of the Europeana Publishing Framework and Europeana Data Model by the Member States goes hand-in-hand with the work to promote these standards by the Europeana Network Association, the EuropeanaTech community and related Task Forces. A number of Member States have translated the Europeana Publishing Framework and several translation projects are underway for Rightsstatements.org rights statements.

This emphasis on aggregation and standards for metadata and content from the Member States is in line with the Europeana Foundation’s strategic plan and annual business plans. This report shows that, while challenges remain, Europeana, and the EU Member States are working to a shared strategy, which means that every effort we make, whether as individuals, institutions or nations, is valuable and towards a common goal. 

What will Member States do next?

The priorities set by the Member States have an effect on what work is supported at an institutional level. You can help to shape this for the future. Over the next few months, the European Commission will be consulting on an update to the policy recommendations that direct the Member States’ work. Look out for more details about the consultation and how you and your organisation can contribute later this month. 

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