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2 minutes to read Posted on Tuesday January 18, 2022

Updated on Monday November 6, 2023

portrait of Antonio Davide Madonna

Antonio Davide Madonna

Project Coordinator , CulturaItalia

portrait of Georgia Evans

Georgia Evans

Senior Editorial Officer , Europeana Foundation

Professionals in Focus: Antonio Davide Madonna

Europeana Network Association Members Councillors have diverse jobs and wide experience across the heritage sector, but are united by their passion for digital cultural heritage. In our ‘Professionals in Focus’ series, we speak to Councillors about their roles, working lives and plans for their time on the Members Council. This month, Antonio Davide Madonna tells us about his work at CulturaItalia, the Italian national aggregator for cultural heritage, and passion for open data. 

Antonio Davide Madonna
Antonio Davide Madonna
Antonio Davide Madonna

How did you enter your profession? 

In 2008, ‘a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away’, I started working at CulturaItalia, the Italian national aggregator. Aggregation was really at its beginning and I felt like a cowboy in front of an unexplored prairie!

I started as a metadata specialist. Thanks to my background (I am an art historian) I had knowledge of cataloguing rules which was really useful to transform the information provided by our partners into metadata. Over the years I became technical coordinator of the portal and I am now leading CulturaItalia as Project coordinator.

What are you currently working on? 

Despite the period we are living through, the activities seem to be ever increasing! So, my first commitment is to try to follow my agenda, even if, sometimes, I tend to be a bit messy…  Jokes aside, I split my working day in two parts. During the first half I am devoted to CulturaItalia, and during the second, I work on European projects in which my institute, the ICCU, is involved.

At CulturaItalia, in addition to ongoing administration (analysis and ingestion of new datasets, networking with thematic aggregators and content providers, coordination of activities), we are currently working hard to restyle our Portal. I believe that every two, or at least three, years it is necessary to rethink aggregation strategies to meet the needs of the public and the technological development of our sector. So at the moment we are focused on the release of a new graphic interface, in order to develop our role as national aggregator for cultural heritage in a more incisive way. 

We are also working on two other fundamental aspects: the enrichment of metadata through the use of controlled vocabularies and the development of an IIIF compliant viewer. Both of these implementations are a ‘must have’ for aggregators that want to provide a real added value for their users, considering that the core of our public is represented by researchers. 

At the moment I am working on several European projects as they are a pillar of ICCU’s strategies. We have built a strong connection with Europeana over the years; we participated in, among others, Athena, EuropeanaPhotography, Linked Heritage, PartagePlus, Athena+ and Common Culture. I am also involved in Europeana Sport; it is my first time as Project manager, and I must say that is an amazing experience, thanks to a wonderful consortium and the support of the ICCU staff. With their extraordinary effort, we are successfully achieving of the project's goals. 

What are some of the challenges in your role? What are some of your favourite elements?

We are at the beginning of the digital revolution, and this is reflected in the cultural heritage sector. Not everyone is always ready to face this transformation, and sometimes it is not easy to explain to other people the value of our activities, especially from an open data point of view.

However, I must say that in Italy we are making huge progress in this direction. The most important thematic aggregators have developed or are developing new strategies that strongly point towards open data.

So, my biggest challenge is also my favourite element: every time I am able to encourage a cultural institution to share the open vision, I can say ‘I am not alone in this fantastic (open) universe!’.

What was your motivation for joining the Members Council? 

As I said, I was involved in several projects under the umbrella of Europeana and I know all of the problems that we meet in our work every day, so I wanted to make my experience available to all the members of the Association. Moreover, I am a ‘Europeana believer’ - I find the whole ecosystem an inspirational place where you can get ideas and proposals to improve your work. After all, one of the mantras of Europeana is ‘the more you give, the more you get’!

And, last but not least, I believe it is a crucial moment for the development of new strategies and I want to play an active role from this point of view. 

What do you plan to do as a Members Councillor? 

If it is still not clear... open data! I want to use the opportunity to be a representative of a big community to communicate, inside and outside the Europeana Network Association, the added value of sharing content freely, at least for research and educational purposes.

Moreover, I recently ‘discovered’ the Impact Community which, in my opinion, deals with one of the most important aspects of our work. 

Every day we make available a huge amount of content to our public and only by understanding their needs and communicating correctly with them we can build an ever bigger and inclusive community.