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2 minutes to read Posted on Monday October 9, 2017

Updated on Monday November 6, 2023

portrait of Aleksandra Strzelichowska

Aleksandra Strzelichowska

Senior Adviser Online Marketing & Events , Europeana Foundation

GIF IT UP is back: throughout October, turn cultural heritage into GIFs!

GIF IT UP 2017 is on and we’ve already received first entries. Learn more about the fourth edition of the international GIF competition, and get inspired!

GIF - the language of the web

GIF (Graphics Interchange Format ) is the second most popular image format used on the Internet after JPEG. While GIFs have been around for about 30 years, the trend became very popular in 2010s, together with the rise of social media - especially Tumblr. Oxford Dictionary even named the GIF the Word of the Year in 2012.

As they’re easy to use and universally supported, GIFs are everywhere. They are used to compliment conversations, convey reactions, show important moments from pop-culture and illustrate things in a quick and simple way (at Europeana, for example, we used GIFs to explain tagging on Europeana Radio). But they’re becoming an artform as well.  And no need to be a master: creating a GIF is quick and simple- there are are plenty of online tools and apps making it possible to create a GIF in a few clicks.

Using GIFs special power to spread all over social media to populate the Internet with cultural heritage, openly licensed content and creativity seemed like a great idea. And we’re so happy that DPLA and DigitalNZ came up with it in 2014. Since then, GIF IT UP has been a yearly highlight for all GIF-­makers, creatives, history nuts, animators, and lovers of the internet. Our partnership with GIPHY, the biggest online database and search engine helps spread the word: GIF IT UP has its own GIPHY Channel that exposes the participants’ creations to millions. It’s also very easy to share them on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Slack and many more social networks and pages.


GIFted participants

While the main idea remains the same:  making the best GIFs from openly licensed cultural heritage material - every year we like to try new things. In 2016, we asked participants to create GIFs from artworks submitted by EU Member States for the Europeana 280 campaign. This year, we focus on first-time GIF-makers. We created a special prize for them. In this category, the jury will focus on content selection and originality of the idea rather than technical execution. To help the first-timers create their first entries, we’ll publish a series of tutorials presenting basic GIF-making techniques. The first one, showing how to make a GIF from vintage newsreels from Dutch Institute for Sound & Vision, is already available.

But we’re always happy to see the returning participants, some of them professional animators and mixed media artists and their little masterpieces. No matter the skill level, we’re always impressed by the enthusiasm and creativity.

We love to read about the participants’ content choices - some of them decide to animate their favourite artworks:

“The potato eaters has always been my favorite artwork.[...] It was my pleasure to create my first GIF with this artwork… ( A hot potato has been included to add some fun)”

María Rocío Moreiras Plaza

Others just browse until they find an image that speaks to them:

“Having at your disposal all of these free to use images is a Max Ernst’s dream come true. I just browsed the collections at random, and worked on whatever gave me the right feeling.”

Gualtiero Bertoldi

A feast for openly licensed content

To participate in GIF IT UP, people have to use an openly licensed piece of content from Europeana Collections, DPLA, Trove or DigitalNZ. This is a perfect opportunity for our organizations to showcase the materials we give access to and feature our partner institutions and their collections. We’ve created a list of resources and we promote specific collections on social media. It’s been great to see that artworks from our newest partner institution,  the Mauritshuis, were used in two GIFs in the days following the kickoff.


While we plan to feature partner museums, libraries and archives through the month, we loved the initiative of the Wellcome Library (one of the favourite sources of content in the previous editions) recommending their GIF-ready content available on Europeana, that’s the spirit!

So, would  pieces from your institution’s collection available on Europeana, DPLA, DigitalNZ and Trove make great GIF-materials? Let us know, and we'll feature it on social media!