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Presentation for the Open Culture conference, in the session "The Digital Transformation" together with Beth Harris and Steven Zucker, SmartHistory, and chaired by Mia Ridge.
Organized by Collections Trust.
Kia Oval, London, July 2nd 2013.
Thanks for the invitation to speak at Open Culture. My slides are available on SlideShare under the CC BY license. I’m starting with this painting by Johan Thomas Lundbye because it can serve as illustration of my talk. Denmark is a notably small and flat country, for instance compared to our Scandinavian brother nations, Norway and Sweden. In his painting, Lundbye has scaled up the actual proportions of a Danish cliff, in order to make it seem larger and more impressive than it really is. Doing pioneer work to open up our digitized collections at Statens Museum for Kunst, the National Gallery of Denmark, we have similarly tried to amplify our babystep efforts in order to make them have greater impact in a Danish and international community of users and peer institutions.
Internationally, the OpenGLAM movement is setting a new agenda for museum missions and how to accomplish them in the digital age. Cultural heritage institutions such as the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the British Museum and V&A in London, Yale University Collections, Walters Art Museum and National Gallery of Art in the US, are breaking new ground with their open access policies, and their collections are gaining effective exposure on the internet as well as in global media. At the same time, the political pressure to focus on inclusion and universal accessibility to our common cultural heritage is growing from national and international side. SMK is the main museum for fine arts in Denmark, and subsidized by the Danish state. As such we are expected and obligated to take leadership in this exciting development.
In 2008, private funding from the Nordea Foundation enabled SMK to start exploring the potentials of digital for 21 Century museum practice. For 5 years, we have had the liberty to experiment, make mistakes, and learn valuable lessons, using a trial & error approach. Through the process, we have kept a strong focus on sharing knowledge and solutions with the Danish museum community – to be a breakwater for new mindsets, ways of working and sustainable integrations of digital in our institutions and practices.
In 2011, SMK was approached by the Google Art Project to contribute to the expanded version of the platform, due to launch in April 2012. This was an occasion for SMK to take an ethical stance to our digitized collections in the Public Domain. Signing the contract with GAP would be a Public-Private Partnership (PPP). Following the argumentation of of peers like Ken Hamma of the Mellon Foundation, Jeff Ubois and Peter Kaufmann of Intelligent Television, Michael Edson of the Smithsonian Institution and Lizzy Jongma of the Rijksmuseum, we discussed internally whether it would be right to confer use rights of our Public Domain images in high resolution to a private company when we charge everyone else? We decided that as a publicly funded cultural heritage institution, we should share the use rights with the public at large. As the first Danish art museum, we have provided free download of a charter collection of 160 hires images – collection highlights – under the Creative Commons Attribution or CC BY license. We use this license in order to stress the importance of paying credit to the artist and the source of the original digital copy. We don’t have the capacity, nor the incentive, though, to prosecute users who don’t. It’s a friendly request.
Advice from peers that if we wanted to reap the benefits of social media and Wikipedia amplifying our collections, we need to allow commercial reuse. So we said BY BY to NC. We opted for no login, in order to lower the barrier for accessibility and reuse. But the 160 highlights are just a tiny fragment of our collections in the Public Domain.
Even so, providing free download of just 160 high resolusion images from our current website posed a huge manual task, since we did not have the digital infrastructure and collection management in place to open up at scale. We could do nothing at the scale of our peers who inspired us to provide free download. – how could such a small contribution have an impact?
Michael Edson who is on our international advisory board gave us the good advice: Think Big, Start Small, Move Fast. Experiment with opening up in small manageable pilot projects. High resolution crucial for reuse. Make dedicated efforts encourage reuse. Showcase results internally at SMK. Share, spread and celebrate outcomes externally. I don’t have time to take you through the entire process today. But let me mention two specific efforts and highlight one of them.
Firstly, we have made an effort to spread the OpenGLAM mindset in the Danish museum community and actively encourage adoption of Creative Commons licenses on digitized collections. For instance, we have initiated a shared mobile museum platform that anyone can join and put into use for free, under the condition that they were willing to make their digitized artworks available for free dwonload in high resolution on the platform. The shared mobile platform is being launched over the summer – so far in Danish only – but you can read much more about it in a Europeana case study on the value of open data that I link to in this slide.
Secondly, we have made efforts to amplify our open images in the public and encourage creative reuse. In a partnership with the Copenhagen Metro Company that is currently expanding the metro system, we have invited the locals living around two metro construction sites to take part in decorating the fences surrounding the sites, using SMK’s open images as the raw material. In this way, we try to raise awareness of our open images, to expose them in the cityspaces, and to reap new practical knowledge about what users actually do and think when we let go of control over the usage, perception, and interpretation of art. In a sequence of creative workshops with the locals at Solbjerg Place and Frederik’s Church, a community of young volunteers connected to SMK, the ”Art Pilots” have developed two distinctive collaborative concepts to decorate the huge metro fences.
The metro fence at Solbjerg Place, in the suburb of Frederiksberg, has been decorated with a huge collage, made of fragments and snippets from printouts of our open images. Over a sunny weekend in June, we invited the public to join the collaborative work on the two giant collages of a tulip and an iris from the art book The Gottorfer Codex in SMK collection. Each user created their own honeycomb-shaped fragment. Assembled, they melt into a whole.
At Frederik’s Church in central Copenhagen, the art pilots have run a series of workshops with locals to create a digital mashup of SMK open images into an impressive sequence of printed Photoshop images, more than 70 meters long in total. Interestingly in the process, we learned that some of the locals of the older generation at first felt that it was a form of assault to the original artworks to mash them up in this way. Whereas to the young art pilots at SMK of the so-called ”digital native” generation, this felt like a completely natural thing to do. The discussions and negotiations stemming from these diverse points of view were a great learning experience to both parties, and they ended up finding the whole process very fruitful, though they might not share the same perception of art.
Growing awareness from Danish education, Wikipedia, publishers etc. Part of OpenGLAM collections list Invited into the Europeana Network Invited to join OpenGLAM advisory board
Wikimedia harvested SMK’s open images and they now enrich 544 Wikipedia articles in 27 languages Similar to Open Images at Beeld en Geluid in NL – 0.015% of collections open = great impact One example of reuse of SMK open image that we could not have foreseen
Reuse is key. It’s all about letting go of control over how art / culture is perceived and interpreted.
What has done the job? Funding, DIY – trial and error methods, Dedicated research Trusted external advisors, Peer best practices, Pilot projects showing fast results and downgrading fear of misuse etc. Amplifying pilot results internally and in international OpenGLAM community
Digital infrastructure braided into everything we do Internalized strategy (Tate – ”digital as a dimension of everything we do”) Mindset: Focus on outcomes rather than technology. Digital is a powerful tool to achieve our mission, not an end in itself. Seemlessly woven into our workflow. Which means: Sustainable datadriven infrastructure is key. Work smarter. Help Danish museum community integrate digital media, workflows and user perspectives in their practice.
SMK is changing its overall image licensing policy – not official yet but it’s a part of our organisational mindset, fundraising strategy and business model development. No way back, only forward But we need to invest in digital infrastructure and user interfaces. A struggle to prioritize, but open access to common cultural heritage is growing more and more important if we want to obtain public and private funding. And if we want to be relevant to new generations of audiences who are used to finding free digital building blocks across the Web.
The artworks shown are all available for free download in high resolution at smk.dk We thank you for crediting the source so others may be able to trace back to the origins.
Small Measures, Great Impact. Open Culture, London 2013
The experience of
opening up at SMK
Open Culture, London, July 2nd 2013
OpenGLAM gaining ground
Obligation to take leadership
Massive funding for digital
Trial & error
Breakwater for the Danish museum
SMK + Google Art Project = PPP
Free for ALL*
260,000 artworks in collections
Approx. 2/3 in the Public Domain
160 open images
Royal Armoury Skokloster 90,000
NGA Images 30,000
* Approximate numbers from
* Michael Edson, Director of Web and New Media Strategy, Smithsonian Institution
”All images in the Public Domain
must be freely reusable”
Partnerships with Danish school sector
Open Collections list
Europeana Network member
OpenGLAM Advisory Board
pages in 27
* Open Images http://www.openimages.eu/blog/2013/02/20/impact-metrics-increase-in-reach-and-reuse-of-open-images/
Changing perception of museums
More Danish museums using CC
Collaborating to change copyright
Providing more open images
for the public
Best practices of peers*
Trusted external advisors
Pilot project results
* Kristin Kelly, Mellon report 2013 http://www.clir.org/pubs/reports/pub157
What we need now
Digital infrastructure braided into everything we do*
Digital a powerful tool to achieve our mission, not
an end in itself
Locomotive for Danish museum community
* Tate digital strategy 2013-15
List of artworks
1. Johan Thomas Lundbye (1818-48), A Danish Coast. View from Kitnæs by the Roskilde Fjord,
2. Cornelius Norbertus Gijsbrechts (c. 1610-after 1675), Trompe l'oeil. The Reverse of a Framed
Painting, 1670. kms1989
3. Wilhelm Bendz (1804-28), A Young Artist (Ditlev Blunck) Examining a Sketch in a Mirror,
4. Andrea Mantegna (1430/31-1506), Christ as the Suffering Redeemer, 1495-1500. KMSsp69
5. Peder Severin Krøyer (1851-1909), Boys Bathing at Skagen. Summer Evening, 1899.
6. Pieter Aertsen (1507/1508-75), The Fat Kitchen. An Allegory. KMSsp339
7. Jens Juel (1745-1802), Running boy. Marcus Holst von Schmidten, 1802. KMS3635
8. Constantin Hansen, A Group of Danish Artists in Rome, 1837. kms3236
9. Peter Hansen (1868-1928), Playing Children, Enghave Square, 1907-08. kms2075
10. C.W. Eckersberg (1783-1853), A View through Three of the North-Western Arches of the
Third Storey of the Coliseum in Rome, 1815 or 1816. KMS3123
11. Hans Holbein the Elder (c. 1465-1524), Head of a Crossbowman, c. 1516. KKSgb2989
12. Johannes Simon Holtzbecker (1610/20-1670), Flower Garland, Gottorfer Codex, 1649-1659,
13. Theodor Philipsen (1840-1920), Long Shadows. Cattle on the Island of Saltholm, c. 1890.
14. Vilhelm Hammershøi (1864-1916), The Buildings of the Asiatic Company, seen from St. Annæ
Gade, 1902. KMS6657