UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

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An Alternative to Europeana?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 19 Dec 2008

A tweet from Owen Stephens alerted me to a blog post from Lorcan Dempsey entitled “Das Bundesarchiv and Wikimedia Commons“.

Lorcan’s blog post described the announcement from Das Bundesarchiv (German National Archive) and Wikimedia Commons:

Starting on Thursday Dec 4, 2008, Wikimedia Commons will witness a massive upload of new images. We are anticipating about 100,000 files from a donation from the German Federal Archive. These images are mostly related to the history of Germany (including the German Democratic Republic) and are part of a cooperation between Wikimedia Germany and the Federal Archive. [Commons:Bundesarchiv – Wikimedia Commons]

Lorcan went on to add that “This is another interesting example of a major cultural organization putting materials in an important web destination. Presumably there is some background context which explains why they are going here rather than in the Flickr Commons which has been providing a venue for image collections from several cultural institutions (most recently The National Library of New Zealand and the Imperial War Museum).

Indeed. Where should we provide access to such valuable cultural resources – Flickr Commons, Wikimedia Commons or elsewhere?

In his tweet Owen concluded with the question “An alternative to Europeana?“.  Could services such  Flickr Commons and Wikimedia Commons provide alternative access points to cultural resources?  Or could depositing such resources in these services as well as in centrally-funded services maximise the impact and use of such resources – whilst also sharing the bandwidth demands which caused Europeana to crash on the day of its launch (a topic, incidentally, which was addressed in some depth my my colleague Paul Walk)?

What do you think?  Is the future centralised and managed by public institutions, open to the commercial providers or a hybrid of the above? And if the hybrid approach appears to provide a safe compromise how do we establish where the boundaries should be?

One Response to “An Alternative to Europeana?”

  1. Hi Brian. Europeana is the hybrid approach: each contributor (at present, anyway) must host the resources on their own site, but the catalogue is also held centrally in Europeana – but it always points users back to the source site, where the biggest bandwidth hit will be in terms of dishing up media (so I am guessing that the issue for Europeana is more about processing power than bandwidth). There’s no reason AFAIK why Flickr Commons or Wikimedia should not be the repository holding the media that Europeana links to – they are complementary services, as the purpose of Europeana is not to be a repository of media, but a repository of data directing people to the original source, and doing what only a central metadata repository can (at present) accomplish. APIs back and forth to both open up E’s search power and hook it into other services is what I’m hoping and expecting to see (though not all in the prototype!), and that would indeed make it just the sort of hybrid I think you mean.
    Cheers, and happy Christmas, Jeremy

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