Why museums use Open Data

Why museums use Open Data

When we talk about open data, we often forget about the data related to the heritage from museums. However, these are becoming increasingly important in the world of open data. Why are they so important? What is our current situation and what projects are being developed?

Artistic and heritage data, although sometimes they are not considered as important as they should be, they represent a key element of the information that any society must take into account in order to make progress and develop.

This is why museums have launched initiatives to make data available from their collections, meaning that they are no longer considered “closed” entities where the only contact with the public is via direct visits by citizens.

In this article, we will discuss what is being done by museums to make the data of their works publicly available, as well as the initiatives and measures implemented.

What is the situation of open data of museums in Spain?

If we focus on Spain, the Government’s open data web portal, datos.gob.es, 2292 datasets out of 26,469 are based on culture and leisure, representing 8.7%. This type of open information ranks sixth among the all available topics.

From a regulatory point of view, after several years heritage entities were incorporated into Ley de reutilización de información del sector público (RISP) through transposition of Directiva europea 2013/37/UE. Also, it’s worth mentioning that the heritage data must support Norma Técnica de Interoperabilidad de reutilización de recursos de la información.

Advantages of the use of open data by museums

Regardless of location, time or day, or whether the person consulting is a heritage professional, an art lover or anyone who’s interested in this type of content, open data on museums currently covers a broad spectrum.

It thus fosters professional research as well as both artistic and cultural dissemination throughout society, making valuable information available with a few clicks. One example is the possibility of gathering educational content for students based on museum collections.

The use of open data by museums also allows to close gaps or discontinuities in their own collections. In other words, it’s very common for different collections belonging to a same set or historical circumstance to be spread into museums from several countries or cities. By making information available on their collections, it is easier to understand their value.

Open data in museums

In the case of historical heritage, especially when dealing with documents, although no type of collection is excluded it is often necessary to have access to these for consultation for various research works.

We are talking about sensitive collections, some of them hundreds or thousands of years old and in a very fragile state of conservation. For this reason, many are stored or exposed under strict environmental conditions and minimize any unnecessary manipulation .

Thanks to both digitization and making collections publicly available museums are able to make progress on their researches without putting their valuable heritage at risk.

Regarding image, making the data of the works publicly available transmits to the whole society a sensation of modernity and social commitment, what may be a determining factor in attracting visitors to the museum.

We must also bear in mind that re-use of heritage content can be applied to aspects that go beyond research, such as tourism or educational video games.

Initiatives to promote open data in museums

We can start by talking about Hispana, a website for consulting Spanish bibliographic heritage that is already digitized. Since 2006, Hispana has been making document-related content publicly available in museums, libraries, archives and various public institutions.

Today, Hispana contains around 300 repositories and a total of approximately 9 million digitized and published collections and objects. Hispana is the Spanish content aggregator of Europeana, the European open access digital library.

Europeana has around 60 million collections, which are categorized as follows:

  • Archaeology
  • Art
  • Fashion
  • Manuscripts
  • Maps and Geography
  • Migration
  • Music
  • Natural History
  • Newspapers
  • Photography
  • Sport

Going back to the Spanish national scope, it is worth mentioning ”Red Digital de Colecciones de Museos de España” and its catalogue called CER.es. This has about 293,000 works and 519,000 images from 110 museums, public and private, located all over Spain. These figures are expected to increase in the near future.

Obviously, in order to make museum collections available to the public, they must first be digitized. The European project CD-ETA (Collaborative Digitization of Natural and Cultural Heritage) was created to promote this digitization process. with CD-ETA, the aim is to unify policies and digitization criteria of works between 2016 and 2021.

Last but not least, we will talk about the OpenGLAM project (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums), through which makes heritage data available to the whole world.

After reading this article we hope to have shed some light on what open data offers to the cultural sphere, as well as the efforts carried out to continue gaining ground and relevance within the Open Data sector.

The OGoov Open Data Module is a powerful tool for the use of both open heritage and museum data. In our demo you can see, as an example, the catalogue of Cultural Heritage of the Province of León.

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