Digital: opportunity or necessity?


Text by Barbara Dierickx (PACKED Belgium)

On May 7 2015, PACKED vzw, Openbaar Kunstbezit Vlaanderen, the Royal Museums of Art and History and the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage organised a conference on the deployment of cultural heritage in an ever increasing digital environment. The conference was supported by the Department of Culture, Youth, Sport and Media of the Flemish Government.

These Belgian partners in the European project AthenaPlus joined forces to offer a varied programme in which the concept of ‘digital’ was the central focus point. Does it give rise to opportunities? Or is it actually a necessity that can’t be ignored?

Before noon two keynote speakers presented a reflective story, in which they stressed both strategy as well as daily museum operations. Dr. Mirjam Wenzel described the different steps that lead to the development of a digital strategy for the Jewish Museum in Berlin. A SWOT-analysis, personas, networks, an analysis of the technical and human capabilities within the museum, an online strategy for the web platform and its implementation are thereby the building blocks.

kringlaKarin Nilsson presented the case of the Open Image Archive with which the Swedish Royal Armoury, Skokloster Castle & Hallwyl museum has profiled itself internationally.* It is the aim of the museum to reach every interested audience member with their digital exhibitions and online collection presentation. Images are offered for free (as in gratis) re-use, information about the works is published as Linked Open Data and the reproductions are used as illustration in articles on Wikipedia through contribution to Wikimedia Commons.

Subsequently, a number of current digital heritage subjects were touched upon in three parallel discussion tracks. The track on applications focused on choices and constant considerations. Is the (financial) investment well balanced with the number of downloads and/or users? Can we make our own adjustments to the app’s content, or do we have to get back to the developer in order to make changes? And what about the lifespan of the app? The return on investment of an app for a particular temporary exhibition is different from an app that covers a rather long term collection presentation.

accuratorNext to the interactive nature of apps, there are also other possibilities to stimulate interaction. The session on user generated content highlighted examples of technologies in which a participant actively enriches information. This appears not to be such smooth process in every case; a crowdsourcing project in the Dutch Rijksmuseum failed for example because of inappropriate tags being applied. The Antwerp Fashion Museum organised a couple of successful edit-a-thons: meetings in which interested audience members edit pages on Wikipedia. The institution can consequently then get to work with this newly added or updated information. Also the Accurator was presented – this is a tool for nichesourcing with which an institution can look for people with a specific (expert) knowledge who can deliver missing information about e.g. a heritage object.

Both the cultural and the educational sector are still searching on how to best adapt to the digital society, e.g. by experimenting with new digital teaching materials or new class methods. Next to that, there is still the question how both sectors can get to know each other sufficiently well. From the cultural sector there is a request for cooperation, but also vice versa. Flemish Testbeeld and Cultuurkuur were two initiatives that illustrated the bridge function between these two sectors.

The cases that were presented during the day, each formulated an answer to the question: ‘Digital: opportunity or necessity?’. On the one hand it is necessary to embrace the digital realm, but this should then go beyond mere technical solutions. In the Dutch Rijksmuseum, the staff is convinced that digitisation is a true necessity: they share the vision that the museum is obliged to open its collection to the public. It is however imperative that cultural heritage organisations think about this strategically, so that the planned effects of going digital are sustainable in nature.

The presentations of this conference are available through the website of AthenaPlus partner PACKED vzw: (in Dutch)

* Article: “Making a big impact on a small budget. How the Livrustkammaren och Skoklosters slott med Stiftelsen Hallwylska museet (LSH) shared their collection with the world” by Joris Pekel

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Recent Europeana Publications | Content Reuse & Metadata Quality


We would like to draw our readers’ attention to three recent Europeana publications dealing with metadata quality and content reuse, two aspects that are also highly relevant for the work of the AthenaPlus project.

  • Europeana Creative | D3.3–Documentation of the Extension of the Europeana Licensing Framework
    This document contains a description of the Europeana Content Re-use Framework that has been developed as part of the Europeana Creative project. The Content Re-use Framework outlines four scenarios for making cultural heritage objects available via Europeana and is intended to provide guidance for cultural heritage institutions contributing to Europeana.
    Please click HERE to download the document.
  • Europeana | Partner and Data Development Plan
    This document deals with Europeana’s data (content+metadata) and partners (aggregators and data providers). It evaluates the accomplishment of earlier goals, provides an overview of the current situation, and defines aims for the coming years. You can download the entire report HERE.
  • Europeana | Metadata Quality Task Force Report
    This report looks at the factors that affect overall metadata quality, and makes recommendations for its improvement. Metadata quality is controlled by a set of processes which ensures that cultural heritage objects can be identified, discovered and seen in context by audiences, in a manner appropriate to the context in which the data provider created them. Metadata must include information on the potential re-use of cultural heritage objects. The document analyses how data partners’ motivation, the technical requirements and the content of the metadata affect overall metadata quality. The report on metadata quality is available HERE.
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Out now: Newsletter Judaica Europeana | Jewish collections online

Judaica_3The latest Judaica Europeana newsletter features highlights of digital collections, including the Centre of Judeo-Moroccan Culture in Brussels, the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, the JDC Archives, the YIVO Institute and the Leo Baeck Institute in New York. Moreover, readers are provided with reports about developments at Europeana and Judaica Europeana. Open-source tools for the creation of virtual exhibitions (MOVIO), interactive maps (eCultureMap) and thesauri (TMP) – all developed within the frame of the AthenaPlus project – are also presented. These are all exceptional resources for historians, curators, genealogists and anyone interested in European Jewish culture.

Content | Newsletter Number 7, 2015

    • Bringing Jewish heritage collections together
    • Moroccan Jewry heritage collection
    • Early books and community records from the Jewish Historical Institute
    • First World War era records from the JDC Archives
    • Jewish urban life in the YIVO Institute’s collections
    • Books, periodicals and a wealth of records from the Leo Baeck Institute
    • Digital innovation―interactive maps, exhibitions and thesauri from AthenaPlus

Judaica_4Judaica Europeana is a network of heritage institutions in Europe, Israel and the US which have been working together very successfully to provide integrated access to their digital collections. Inspired by the vision of Europeana―the digital platform for Europe’s libraries, museums and archives, we rely on Europeana’s infrastructure for this ongoing undertaking. For Judaica Europeana AthenaPlus presents a platform for extending access to Jewish collections. The Judaica Europeana partners, who are uploading their catalogues to Europeana through AthenaPlus, include the Ben Uri Museum in London, the Jewish Museum in Prague, the Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary, Medem Library in Paris, the Steinheim Institute, Essen, Bibliotecca Rosenthaliana in Amsterdam and others. The network’s metadata will contribute toward reaching the AthenaPlus target of 3.6 million records in Europeana.

Please click on the following link to get directly to the Judaica Europeana newsletter:

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AthenaPlus national conference: “Digitisation and Dissemination of Lithuanian Cultural Heritage”

On the 23rd of April 2015, the AthenaPlus national conference “Digitisation and Dissemination of Lithuanian Cultural Heritage: Innovative Initiatives, Experience, and Possibilities of Society and Memory Institutions” was held by the Siauliai “Ausros” museum (Siauliai, Lithuania).

Almost 100 specialists from Lithuanian museums, libraries, archives and science institutions, the representatives of tourism, creative industries, media sectors as well as other persons interested in the possibilities of digitisation and dissemination of digitised cultural heritage took part in the conference organized at the Photography Museum.

At the conference considerable attention was paid to the international project “AthenaPlus” – access to cultural heritage networks for “Europeana”. Project’s coordinator Jovita Vilimaitienė introduced the conference participants to the aims and objectives of the project, presented its results and achievements, and  reported on the experiences the Siauliai “Ausros” museum gathered participating in the project. During the presentation, the creative tools – “MOVIO”, “CityQuest”, “School trip” – developed in the frame of the “AthenaPlus” project – were presented in detail. The digital exhibition “The modernist architecture of Siauliai in 1930’s” was showcased as well in order to introduce the functionalities of the MOVIO tool. In general, conference participants were enthusiastic about the innovative tools for the dissemination of digitised cultural heritage content as well as the possibilities of communication provided by these services.

At the conference further national and international digitisation and dissemination projects were discussed. Moreover, innovative initiatives contrived by science and memory institutions as well as private initiatives for the reuse of digitised cultural heritage content were introduced. To top off the event brand new technological innovations from the sector of cultural heritage communication were presented and demonstrated.

Further information about the event can by found on the website of the Siauliai “Ausros” museum (in Lithuanian only). The national conference was also mentioned in a TV broadcast (see from 11:48).

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New version of 2_0 AthenaPlus GISPilot | eCultureMap


The AthenaPlus GISPilot | eCultureMap has some new functionalities which will be introduced in the frame of this blog post.

  • The eCultureMap is now connected with Google street view to enable users to explore cultural heritage content from around the world through 3D, panoramic, and street-level imagery with links to Europeana descriptions and national portals. Click HERE for an example.
  • Powerful refine search among items on a certain location. By clicking on the eCultureMap users can evoke refining attribute data in a certain location. Users can also filter data and limit results by time span.
  • Use case of AthenaPlus GISPilot eCultureMap: Van Wittel vedutes.(prepared in cooperation with the Italian partner BNCR on the basis of the virtual exhibition Gaspar van Wittel’s drawings for Vedute). The objective of this use case is to demonstrate the power of eCultureMap when reusing it in virtual exhibitions. We have geocoded vedutes on those locations that had served the painter Van Wittel as a motive back in the 17th century. The user can browse the vedutes mapped to places in central Rome through a map interface, retrieve an image of a veduta and open the Google maps street view of a certain place in today´s Rome, exactly in the same location from which the painting was drawn. eCultureMap of Gaspar van Wittel´s drawings for Vedutes, Rome.
  • Use case of AthenaPlus GISPilot eCultureMap: Geocoding historical photographs. (prepared in cooperation with the project partner from Girona, Ajuntament de Girona, in progress). The objective of this use case is to demonstrate the use of AthenaPlus GISPilot eCultureMap when geoparsing place names and finding the »exact coordinates« of historical photos. Geocoding procedures in the AthenaPlus GIS pilot are updated to facilitate the process and enabling the exact determination of the geocodes with the image of the object in geocoding process displayed on a map.
  • Use case of AthenaPlus GISPilot eCultureMap: Architectural heritage. (prepared in cooperation with AthenaPlus project partner ICIMSS, Torun) Over 25.000 photographs were included into eCultureMap. The exact location of the position of the camera when taking a picture of an architectural heritage site was geocoded and made visible on a map as camera icon.
  • eCultureMapAR: Development of the augmented reality mobile. application eCultureMapAR uses the content from eCultureMap. Users can browse more than 2 million cultural content objects on mobile devices. Application is free and can be downloaded HERE (only for androids).
  • AthenaPlus GISPilot APIs. Two additional APIs are available for web developers of cultural heritage related portals. API enables the reuse of eCultureMap data and can be embedded into any web page and/or mobile application.

Enjoy browsing the new eCultureMap!

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AthenaPlus creative tools – “MOVIO” and “Plan Your own school trip” – were presented to teachers and educators in Lithuania

During the seminar (photo by Tekle Tomkute-Vaiciuliene)

On the 31st of March 2015, some of the creative tools that have been developed in the framework of the Athena Plus project were presented to teachers and educators in the Photography Museum, Lithuania. The presentation was held by one of the Athena Plus project partners – the Siauliai Ausros Museum (Lithuania).

Twenty teachers from different schools in Siauliai city have participated in a free seminar. All of them were interested in how to adapt the „MOVIO“ and „Plan Your own school trip“ tools to their educational needs and processes.

The functionalities of the MOVIO tool were presented by the help of a digital sample exhibition The modernist architecture of Siauliai in 1930’s“. The digital exhibition arranged by Siauliai “Ausros” museum introduces the modernist architecture objects built during the interwar period in Siauliai and tells the stories of their architects and owners. The teachers very much appreciated the opportunities the MOVIO tool offers: presenting educational material in a more attractive, user-friendly and up-to-date way.

The main features of the „Plan Your own school trip“-tool were shown and explained to seminar participants afterwards . Teachers from three different schools expressed the desire to test the tool with their students during a school trip.

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Case study: “Making a big impact on a small budget”


The AthenaPlus project partner the Livrustkammaren och Skoklosters slott med Stiftelsen Hallwylska museet (LSH museums) in Sweden recently teamed up with a Europeana research group that investigated how museums working on small budgets can succeed in making their collections visible to a large group of users from all over the world. Resulting from that case study is a publication “Making a big impact on a small budget. How the Livrustkammaren och Skoklosters slott med Stiftelsen Hallwylska museet (LSH) shared their collection with the world” by Joris Pekel. The paper investigates how the LSH museums have worked with their digital collection using limited resources.

The Livrustkammaren och Skoklosters slott med Stiftelsen Hallwylska museet is a state administrative authority consisting of three museums. Altogether, the institutions have about 50 people on their staff and a limited amount of resources for digitisation, marketing and copyright clearance at their disposal. Round about 300.000 people visit the museums per year. However, their digital collection is shared all over the world and receives millions of views. This was achieved when the museums, in 2013, started the Open Image Archive project aiming at cleaning up their database, improving the metadata, and publishing their digital content with as few restrictions as possible. Everybody is now able to see, download, share, edit and remix the out of copyright and openly licensed images.

Screenshot of the LSH website (CC BY-SA)

Screenshot of the LSH website (CC BY-SA)

With this publication – exploring not only the preparation process, decisions taken in the course of the project, as well as results and outcomes, but also taking a closer look at some of the copyright issues – Europeana hopes to provide a useful example for smaller and mid-size cultural heritage institutions wishing to open up their collections.

Click here to download the paper: “Making a big impact on a small budget” and visit also the Europeana Professional Blog to learn more about the case study.

Texts and images from europeana pro (CC BY-SA).

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MOVIO pilot exhibitions | Part II

During the AthenaPlus plenary meeting in Riga in February 2015 a set of new MOVIO pilot exhibitions was presented to the audience. These sample exhibitions primarily aim at testing the specific modules the MOVIO tool offers. As a side effect however, interesting narratives unfold, highlighting amongst other things cultural heritage treasures from the institutions involved in the testing phase. Readers of the AthenaPlus blog are invited to catch a first glimpse of these sample exhibitions!

Gaspar van Wittel’s drawings for Vedute

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The Central National Library of Rome holds a collection of 53 drawings of the Dutch artist, preliminary for his well-known Vedute, that started the Vedutismo in European art. In 2013 the Library realized an exhibition of all the drawings; a section of it, the views of Rome, has been selected for a virtual exhibition in the MOVIO framework.

Created by: BNCR – Central National Library of Rome

Modules: CMS, storytelling, timeline, ontology builder

(TOUR)ismo in Sabina: Cottanello, Fara in Sabina, Toffia

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This digital exhibition features cultural and natural highlights of the region Sabina in Italy.

Created by: ICCU (Istituto Centrale per il Catalogo Unico)

Modules: CMS MOVIO 2.0 | Ontology builder, Storyteller, Google Maps, Hotspot, Thesauri, Tourist operators

The Cold War through Christian Democrat posters in Italy (1947 – 1991)

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A visual journey in to the contemporary history. The Institute realized a specific virtual exhibition about the documentation held in its archives and referring to the Cold War period, following these thematics: politic posters, archives of party and personalities, photographic and video archives.

Created by: ILS – Istituto Luigi Sturzo (Luigi Sturzo Institute)

Modules: CMS, slides, storytelling, timeline

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TMP² Newsletter

No1 | February 2015 |

The first newsletter of the Thesaurus Management Platform (TMP) is out now. It introduces readers to the services of the TMP and gives an insight into its approaches.

cache-cache_194d8721736f745d388d69d112de08bc_748b2d4bf1cb552c635519df73cc86f1.jpgThe TMP was developed in the framework of two European projects dedicated to cultural heritage. The first version (TMP) was developed in the Linked Heritage project which ended in September 2013:
The second version (TMP2) is currently developed in the AthenaPlus project which started in March 2013 and ends in August 2015. The consortium is composed of 40 partners from 21 countries:
The objectives consist of aggregation of more than 3.6 million metadata for Europeana and the management of multilingual thesauri.

TMP2 or Thesaurus Management Platform, is a web portal for thesaurus management. The TMP offers:

  • creation and editing of thesauri, favouring a conceptual approach;
  • specification all types of hierarchical relations (generic, instantial, partitive);
  • extensive concept information (notes, images etc.);
  • management of multilingualism;
  • integration of ISO standards 25964-1 and ISO 25964-2 on Thesauri;
  • import and export in SKOS, JSON and RDF;
  • thesaurus mapping.

The TMP² is freely accessible (read only) to anyone. User accounts are created for project members and associated organisations.

Thesaurus, Terminology, Ontology: three approaches based on the notion of term and concept, not to be confused. Ontologies, in the sense of knowledge engineering, constitute one of the most promising ways for representing thesauri and multilingual terminologies [1]. This is why the development of the TMP2 [2] relies on the principle of ontoterminology (a terminology whose notional system is a formal ontology) and the OTe engine (OntoTerminology engine), developed by the Condillac Research Group of the University of Savoie.

[1] “Multilingual terminology: the ontological approach”, C. Roche, L. Damas, J. Roche. CIDOC (International Committee for Documentation), Dresden, Germany, 6-11 September 2014
[2] “The Terminology Management Platform: A Tool for Creating Linked Open Data”, E. Coudyzer. CIDOC (International Committee for Documentation), Dresden, Germany, 6-11 September 2014

The International ISO-standards on Terminology and Thesauri:

ISO 704. (2009). Terminology work – Principles and methods.
ISO 1087-1. (2000). Terminology work – Vocabulary – Part 1: Theory and application.
ISO 25964-1. (2011). Information and documentation – Thesauri and interoperability with other vocabularies – Part 1: Thesauri for information retrieval.
ISO 25964-2. (2013). Information and documentation – Thesauri and interoperability with other vocabularies – Part 2: Interoperability with other vocabularies.

You can download the newsletter in French and English here: (Newsletter 1 – Fevrier 2015)


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International Workshop | Linked Open Data & the Jewish Cultural Heritage




Today, thanks to the new Semantic Web related technologies, people and
institutions working on a specific subject can cooperate in a decentralized
and synergic way, interconnecting their resources which would otherwise
remain “isolated” on the web.
Institutions such as archives, libraries and museums have quickly perceived
the strength and potentialities inherent to, and stemming from, these technologies.
The number of projects aimed at the opening and the sharing of information
in the cultural field are the clearest demonstration of the enrichment of
knowledge’s opportunities coming from the Semantic web.

The workshop “Linked Open Data & the Jewish Cultural Heritage” aims at
discussing, starting from some key-concepts of the Semantic Web, how
the opportunities offered by the new technologies can enrich our
knowledge on the Jewish history and expand the resources available on
the web on this matter. Some recent case-studies of successful applications
will be presented, such as the Judaica Europeana project and the one, and the recent “Names of the Victims of the Shoah in Italy”
– which inspired the workshop itself.
The organizers wish that this event will be also the occasion to discuss
together about questions and critical issues coming from a linked data
approach to the publication of resources; to explore new fields and areas
of cooperation, in order to create innovative bases of exchange and
interaction, and new synergistic models for the enhancement and the
use of the Jewish Cultural Heritage.

Fondazione CDEC
Istituto di Informaticae Telematica – CNR

With the support of
Camera dei Deputati
W3C Italia
Fondazione Museo della Shoah di Roma

Camera dei Deputati
W3C Italia
Unione delle Comunità Ebraiche Italiane

Please click here to download the conference programme.

International Workshop
Linked Open Data & the Jewish Cultural Heritage
January 20th, 2015 9:00 a.m.
Camera dei Deputati – Auletta dei Gruppi
Via di Campo Marzio 74

Registration required here:

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