2 minutes to read Posted on Tuesday April 18, 2017

Updated on Friday July 13, 2018

portrait of Sanja Halling

Sanja Halling

Senior Research officer , Swedish Research Council

Meet the Members Council: Sanja Halling

When I was young, I loved walking through exhibitions and guided tours that made History come alive. Every time, it felt like entering a time-machine that could bring me to wherever I wanted in time and space. Growing up in the 80's meant growing up with computers and video games, which, at that time, was a completely different world. Stories from the past told by museum curators in front of hundreds and thousands years old artefacts were not intended to be part of video games. There was no way to connect the playability and the colourful graphics with the cultural heritage. I am glad this picture has changed.

Archaeological Museum, Mexico City, Cornell University Library, No known copyright restrictions. Remix by Susanne Danelius.

Digital cultural heritage - electric dreams coming true!

As a museum curator, I wanted to make stories come to life in exhibitions. When I started working at the archives, I saw the incredible potential of connecting all different kinds of related cultural heritage information, which were mostly described with traditional methods created over a long time. Objects and documents that were part of the same collection or held in a single institution could be fragmented across several types of organisations. At the time, creating connections meant a lot of research work for manually making those links. Slowly but surely, the cultural institutions entered a whole new digital era.

I started working with digitisation issues and got involved in several European projects about digital cultural heritage such as DC-NET, Linked Heritage, DCH-RP, Athena Plus. For the last five years, I worked at Digisam, a secretariat responsible for the Swedish national coordination of digitisation, digital preservation and digital access to cultural heritage.

Since January, I am the project leader at Swedish National Archives to promote the state authorities efforts in creating access to digital information and open data. Part of our work is to inspire, motivate and support authorities to increase the usefulness of the information and to publish information on data availability and access. It implies collecting and publishing lists of available Public Sector Information (PSI) from government authorities, encouraging state authorities to publish open data according to common guidelines, managing and developing the national open data portal oppnadata.se, connected to European Data Portal, and also managing guidelines about open data, published in a web tutorial.

Cultural heritage information and open data

So, why should we publish Cultural heritage information as open data? Open data creates new opportunities for cost-effective management and increased access to information that various stakeholders can use in education, products and innovative services. To create a better understanding of the collections and help people to engage in different ways, by searching, using, re-using or developing products, the access to more open data is a first requirement. Here, Europeana has done a fantastic work pushing forward CC0-licences for metadata, making it possible for developers and users to freely create applications based on the material from Europeana.

Picture by Susanne Danelius, CC-BY

Open data, semantic web, and big data technology are also opening up new possibilities for linking information across sector boundaries, which gives a deeper meaning and significance, adds value, engages users, and creates wider re-use of digital cultural heritage information. Nowadays, we can reach a wider audience, create digital stories and engage users. You can make virtual tours through museums from home, and interact with cultural institutions through social media. Games and apps about museum collections are a reality, and facilitate significance of the museums in a digital era.

Perhaps the main point about open data is that cultural heritage is a part of the massive amount of societal information. Linking together different kinds of digital information creates new stories, and a whole new way of enriching our understanding of cultural heritage and its impact in society.