Hello world! The Finnish National Gallery opens up its collections
Collections Management Director Riitta Ojanperä tells Douglas McCarthy what’s driving the Finnish National Gallery's new open access policy
The Finnish National Gallery recently applied an open licence (CC0) to its digital reproductions of out-of-copyright works, joining leading institutions in the OpenGLAM movement to promote free and open access to digital cultural heritage. Riitta Ojanperä, PhD, Director of Collections Management, tells us all about the Gallery’s new policy.
Riitta, why has the Gallery adopted an open licence for its out-of-copyright works?
The FNG aspires to be among the very best museums in northern Europe, taking into consideration our audience needs and expectations. Opening up our collections data is one way of leading our customers towards even richer museum experiences, and of course the requirements of national and EU cultural policies very strongly pointed the way to a tenacious open-data policy.
What led to the policy change and who was involved?
The initial drive came from some Finnish OpenGLAM activists around 2012 and our first actual operations came quickly afterwards, focussing on images from our archival collections.
What advice would you give to other museums considering a similar policy?
It seems to be a widely shared view, both here in Finland as well as in other countries, that generous open data policies increase museums’ popularity and generate more visitors and more engaged audiences. Talking about a museum’s business policies, it’s worth considering thoroughly the transaction costs involved in licensing and distributing images, compared, for example, with selling products based on images of artworks and objects in the collections. I don’t recall hearing regrets from any museum that decided to execute a open data policy.
How does the Gallery’s open policy compare with other Finnish institutions?
I must admit that the FNG has been rather slow in taking the pivotal step towards the large-scale publication of CC0-licensed images. Whilst advancing with baby steps, we have seen museums like the Helsinki City Museum be recognised internationally by opening their data as part of an innovative renewal programme.
Which audiences are you trying to reach?
Our target groups are many: the educational sector, that is teachers and school children all over Finland; researchers internationally; active users of digital imagery available on the web. One of the main aims of our new collections website is increasing the re-use of FNG data. We’re trying to reach anybody who is willing to connect with the cultural and human values that a museum’s collections can transfer to individuals and communities.
What does the FNG hope to achieve by partnering with Europeana?
The Finnish National Gallery works with cultural institutions and professionals all over the world. Europeana offers us a good platform for international collaboration and for presenting our collections in a European context. This focus coincides perfectly with the aims of Europeana. Before Hanna-Leena Paloposki’s residency at Europeana, one of the FNG curators had already joined the Europeana Art advisory board, and some of us are members of the Europeana Network Association. After Hanna-Leena’s residency and her beautiful online exhibition, we look forward to further collaboration in the future.
What does the Gallery have planned for 2018?
We’re currently replacing our collections management software. From spring 2018, we’ll be using one system to manage all of our collections, instead of having a separate one for each collection.
We’ll also be launching a new online collections website next autumn, the concept of which is under construction just now. After the implementation of the new system and the launch of the new website, we will be able to make some of our archive collections available in Europeana. Very exciting!