Open Culture 2011 – Google Art Project

Laura Scott – Head of External Relations from Google UK

Art Project ( – v ambitious for Google – making art and information relating to art more accessible to people everywhere in the world. Google new to ‘arts’ – but have committment.

Google 20% time – if you have a great an idea, you can spend up to 20% time on that – e.g. Google Mail big success – but failure also embraced. Failure does cost – Google may well be able to take financial risk, but when things fail media will pick up on this…

Encourage experimentation – small things as many previous speakers have mentioned.

Partnerships are crucial for Google – Art project had partnerships with 9(?) galleries across the world.

Google not a curator – doesn’t want to be – wanted to make art immediately accessible – possible to ‘jump right in’ – but no sense in which mean to replace physical visit – and evidence so far this is not the case at all. Each museum chose one image to do in v v high resolution – can zoom in to very high levels – example of ‘The Harvesters’ from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Example of ‘No Woman, No Cry’ from Tate Britain – again v high levels of zoom – but also ‘view in darkness’ option – to reveal message about Stephen Lawrence – a key part of artwork.

Also ability to integrate other media – e.g. films of people commenting on works

This is the first version – Google very aware not perfect, and things to improve. Want to increase geographical spread of museums included. Have had over 10million visitors and 90k people create ‘my collections’ – importance of making things social and being able to share – and realised need to develop that feature further.

Art Project took 18 months to get up and running – felt like a long time – but takes time, and long term project for Google – next phase over next couple of years.

Open Culture 2011 – Funding Digital

Marco de Niet, Digitaal Erfgoed Nederland

All looking for new business models for digital – culture sector and commercial sector. Sometimes we are good a ‘doing’ but not so good at ‘sustaining’. – survey showed there is more budget available for digitisation than there is planning what to digitise and why?

‘Business Model Innovation Cultural Heritage’ – booklet about new value propositions. Look at different levels:

analog ‘in house’
digital ‘in house’
digital in controlled network
‘out there’ on the web (this is the ‘new world’ of social media; open data; linked open data; semantic web)

How can we think about our role in this move towards digital. Business Model Canvass (Alex Osterwalder) – has following components:

  1. Value propositions
  2. Customer segments
  3. Channels
  4. Customer relationships
  5. Revenue stream
  6. Key activities
  7. Key resources
  8. Key partnerships
  9. Cost structure

1-5 are outward facing things, 6-9 are ‘back office’ tasks

Major obstacles for cultural heritage to achieve business model innovation…

  1. Organisations in transition
    • Didn’t realise that as we embraced technology, so did our audience
  2. Open ICT infrastructure
    • IT moving to generic solutions in collaboration; tendency for orgs traditionally to do custom; in-house
  3. Clearing copyright – four ways to dealing with it
    • Opt out – put it online and take it down if people complain. Can get away with it if you are a small player
    • Clearing by the institution – costly; time-consuming
    • Clearing through an outside organisation – outsource risk
    • Changing legislation
  4. Creating revenue – how can we make money with digitisation – 5 ways
    • Put stuff online, hope people come to the institution
    • Become a broker of digital collection – e.g. put low res images online and sell high-res
    • Digital curator – provide context not just objects
    • Digital branding – create and build the brand – e.g. Powerhouse Museum – become world renowned
    • Product bundle: trans-media combination of various sources of income

Fiona Talbott, Heritage Lottery FunPolicy Changes:
Traditional HLF only supported projects that had real objects at core (although there could be some digital component). Now possibility of allowing digital only projects – needs approval though.

Use of digital technology – should this be compulsory in all projects – but this was seen as over prescriptive

Digital policy issues – want to see sustainability as key. Project Management will have to go beyond just the ‘launch’.

Projects have to be about Audiences first and foremost. Resulting content must be publicly accessible – not paywalled – think Guardian not Times…

Make use of resources – your staff are you most valuable resource …
Fiona see’s possibility of HLF funding hackdays
Don’t re-invent the wheel with technology – use stuff that is already there – off-the-shelf; open source projects

Exploit social media – already lots doing this, but needs to go across the heritage sector…

Emma Wakelin, AHRC

Weren’t cut as badly as some … but much tighter guidelines and more strings attached.
Realised big need to fund academic to work with others – not about consultancy but about knowledge exchange and creation. £20 million pounds available

New call coming out for a centre to look at copyright and business models – covering creative industries, including cultural heritage – this is cross funder initiative – £5 million available.

Invite people to think about the impact of digital technologies on the way we do arts and humanities research – a theme which will be active of the next four years…

Also fund the ‘Digging into Data’ challenge – largescale data analysis; European Net Heritage project (

AHRC won’t fund projects where sole aim is ‘to get stuff digitised’ – but can fund projects with digitisation components if greater aim in line with AHRC remit.

Jon Pratty, Arts Council England

Five main goals – and these are used when looking at funding applications:

  1. Talent and artistic excellence are thriving and celebrated
  2. More people experience and are inspired by the arts
  3. The arts are sustainable, resilient and innovative
  4. The arts leadership and workforce are diverse and highly skilled
  5. Every child and young person has the opportunity to experience the richness of the arts

Won’t necessarily have to meet everyone of these criteria – e.g. a digital project might meet 2, 3 and 4Arts Council going to be working with NESTA and AHRC…
NESTA R&D fund [£500k] – but this is to get moving in the direction of the ACE Digital Innovation and Development Fund [£15-20m]

Also announced with BBC ‘Building digital capacity in the Arts’ scheme (

The funding schemes broadly sector-agnostic – so not limited to specific areas or types of organisation.

Themes emerging from pilot period:

  1. User generated content and social media – harnessing the power of the Internet and social media to reach audiences and to give them a platform for discussion, participation and creativity
  2. Distribution – how digital can enable this
  3. Mobile, location and games – developing a new generation of mobile and location-based experience and service, including games
  4. Data and archive – making archives, collections and other data more widely available to other arts and cultural organisation and the general public
  5. Resources – using digital tech to improve way in which arts/culturla orgs are run – business efficiency and income generation and collaborations
  6. Education and learning – creating education resources/experiences for children, teachers, young people, adult learning etc.

Remember – existing ACE funding routes such as ‘Grants for the Arts’ are open to museums and libraries – Arts related collaborations or explorations – examples:

  • RAMM – artists working within collection
  • Fitzwilliam – China project
  • Hove – blacksmith artist ‘let loose’ in the collection

Will also be some millions as a ‘strategic digital’ fund – to fill gaps

Open Culture 2011 – Sustainable Collections management

This session by Kostas Ntanos, Head of Conservation Research and Development, National Archive.

Interesting example from the National Archive – use database of material locations mashed up with metadata of material type (not as easy as it sounds, as material type metadata had a huge amount of variation in it) to produce map of where different material types are concentrated in the physical space. Now planning to combine this with information about the building environment, so materials can be put in most appropriate parts of the building…

Visualisations of how areas of the environment are suitable/unsuitable for material over time – easy to see that some areas become very unsuitable over the summer months – with peak in September where temperatures relatively high and humidity on the rise.

Also helped identify issues with monitoring – some monitors regularly registering higher temp than surrounding ones.

Using this evidence able to build environment modelling – computer simulation – then tried out different scenarios of changing various parameters – could look at both outcomes for environment and energy consumption. Sustainability targets also influence decisions.

National Archives asks itself ‘how long is long? 5 years, 100 years? Forever?’ – think in terms of percentage loss over period of time. Question of ‘what will we value in the items we keep’; who is it for, and what do they value?

Standards & Guidelines for environmental conditions – lots to choose from!

Next steps – (the difficult bit?) Implementation!

Open Culture 2011 – Hacking Arts and Culture

This is a panel session. Phill Purdy starts by summarising what a Hack Day is – getting people together for a day, computer programmers, solve problems, think about creative ways of using the collection. Now three presenters talking about different hack days:

Linda Ellis from Wolverhampton Arts + Heritage

Completely new experience. Hack day came out of a much bigger project – about getting Black Country collections online – but the result was a website with an API…

Data is fed into culture grid – so actually 2 APIs available (although on day, everyone chose to use the Black Country website API)

Why a hack day?

  • To meet local developers
  • To find out developers view on our data and our project – and form relationships
  • Generate new ideas
  • To start to create new uses of our data – get out of the curatorial mindset

Main thing – it had to be fun – asking people to give up their time (a Saturday) to this. First of all got all participants to make badges – engaged them! Brought along objects for them to look at, and also provided small value Amazon vouchers for best hack (voted for by participants)

For the hackers – it was hard work! Started at 10, went through to 4(?) when it came to a natural conclusion – got as far as they could in a day.

5 hacks created on the day:

  • Go Fish – type in a keyword ? 9 random images, user challegned to create a story round the images
  • Pairs gam – 20 images, user has to find the pairs
  • Around here – mobile app displays images based on users location and location data – but Linda notes location data not given high priority when describing the collection
  • Connections – 16 images user has to find connections
  • Black Country fashion – user selects items of clothing from pictures in the collection to put together complete outfit

Would like to see Black Country fashion app developed further – e.g. enable posting to facebook once you have chosen your outfit.

Lessons learnt:

  • Crucial elements
    • Good wifi
    • Venue
    • Lunch
  • Keep it informal
  • Doesn’t have to be a whole w/e
  • Great for generating ideas – engaged museum staff who were amazed at what the developers could achieve in a short amount of time
  • Technical support
  • It’s fun!!!

Would like to take a couple of the hacks forward – but lack of resources is a real issue – not just finding money for more development (sometimes developers will do for free) – but once the hack completed need resource to host etc.
Day cost £500 – not much, but still £500 they didn’t have in the budget

Follow @wagwebteam

Rachel Coldicutt – showing video CultureHack day – see Culture orgs provided data – could be a spreadsheet, could be an API. Rachel mentions that the breadth of organisations and individuals involved:

  • 69 developers
  • 8 speakers
  • 12 cultural orgs
  • 1 software company
  • 3 media orgs
  • 2 funding bodies
  • 80 ppl who attended talks

Very casual environment – but lots of work done
Hackday inspired by observation – other people were ‘doing this better’ than arts organisations (e.g. “Showing not telling” – don’t write a business case, make a proof of concept; work like a creative business not a paper-bound bureaucracy; Iterate something quickly to get it right.

Hackday concentrated expertise and effort – 2,484 hours of developer time! Talent attracts talent; opportunity to make new relationships with people who are interested.

Sum up as “Inspiration”; “Creativity”; “Excitement”

The ‘open data’ debate – start to talk about ways in which we could collaboratively get to a point where open data is a more recognised concept in the sector – we may find that the cultural heritage is missing from the internet because we worry about it too much.

Working on Culture Hack Wales (October 2011?) and Culture Hack North

Looking at other kinds of hacking:

  • Ideas Hacks (you don’t have to be a coder/programmer to hack ideas)
  • Hardware Hacks
  • Games Hacks

Follow @rachelcoldicutt
John Coburn – Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums

Culture Grid Hackday – testing the water with the Culture Grid API. Wanted to investigate the public value in the Culture grid. Also about forming relationships

60 signed up – 40 attended; 28 coders – 12 ‘non-coders’
Resulted in 5 working prototypes and 2 concepts developed over 8 hours – and funding was awarded to 2 projects to take further

  • Data visualisations
  • Object paletter generator
  • Map search tools
  • Mapping virtual world to physical world
  • Simple QR Code generator for exhibitions – was awarded some funding
  • Distribute content to Facebook networks

Hackday started new conversations (most ideas weren’t developed). 2 usable (inexpensive) ideas – good will shown to cultural orgs publishing data. New relationships – ongoing support and guidance.
Things to think about:

  • Difficult to balance ideas/time/people
  • On the day collaborations between coders and non-coders didn’t flourish as they had hoped… not enough time perhaps
  • Wonder if competition compromises collaboration – the potential funding aspect
  • Keep it social! People attend because it is a social thing

Take a look at Broadening Hack Days
Comment from a blogger after the even “If the data isn’t in a format that someone can easily access then it’s going to lie fallow, underused”

Hunt down and embrace your local ‘open data geeks’! – in this case it was @alistair_uk

Hackdays should not be about prescribed outcomes … although themes can help ensure relevance – ‘dinosaur hack’; ‘history hack’.

Now challenge to build on the new relationships – considering smaller events on a more regular basis (e.g. monthly basis)

Follow @j0hncoburn

Open Culture 2011 – Collections and Human Rights

First after coffee – David Fleming – Directory National Museums Liverpool

Museum’s no longer look solely to collections for inspiration – but to people and stories as well
Museum’s have become more emotive and emotional – no longer feel the need to appear ‘neutral’. David describes the concept of ‘neutral’ as the stupidest idea you can have in your brain as a museum (person)
Museum’s engaging with cultural diversity

But there is resistance – still people believe in neutrality (even believe it is possible) – people who think of musuems solely as collections of objects and not as places where ideas can be explored.

Museums are (“or they bloody well ought to be”) reflections of our society. Museums through their educational role should put diversity centre stage. Museums should consider:

  • Representation
  • Education
  • Action – e.g. International Slavery Museum – it is a ‘campaigning museum’ – campaigning on human rights – doesn’t just look at historic slavery (transatlantic slave trade), but current slavery and related human rights abuses such as child trafficking

Intention is that International Slavery Museum has significant social outcomes – wants people to leave in the mood for action.

David argues that museums cannot and SHOULD NOT be neutral – if they are to have public trust.

Torreon Declaration: – Intercom Declaration of Museum Responsibility to Promote Human Rights “INTERCOM believes that it is a fundamental responsibility of museums, whereever possible, to be active in promoting diversity and human rights, respect and equality for people of all origins, beliefs and backgrounds”

District Six Museum in Cape Town – portrays history of apartheid through history of peoples stories – no reference to collections – about memories, experience and stories (established 1994, same year that South Africa became a democracy).

District Six Museum – potent symbol, and to show that even after their downfall, repressive regimes can be held to account . They use emotion to put messages across and engage people.

David mentions Tuol Seng Genocide museum and recommends looking at photographs Also Cambodian Landmine Museum – specifically has a mission for ‘reconciliation’ with past (I think I got that right) “a place of healing for bodies, hearts and minds”

David talks about Museum of Genocide Victims in Lithuania – he says “Hugely impactful”

Open Culture 2011 – A Killer App for Culture?

Now up Bill Thompson (@billt)…
‘Culture’ has some many meanings … and meaning is important – ‘a computer’ used to be a person who did calculations.

This world is not ‘digital’ – the ‘real world’ does not go away. However, the world is no longer ‘analogue’ – in terms of the way we process and use data – digital data is everywhere. Even those things that a digital representations of analogue materials have been ‘shifted’ by transformation through digital.

We can now ‘reasonably be online all of the time’ – the digital culture is already here – Bill says “I’m beyond the point where I can imagine living my life without taking advantage of those things digital offers” – networks, email, mobile phones – this is starting to shift the way we think about the world.

Bill does not believe there is a single ‘consciousness’ but multiple competing systems – and your consciousness shifts between these systems from moment to moment. Bill says that some of his systems are now online… twitter etc. and when he isn’t online these systems work sub-optimally.

Bill says – this stuff is NOT A FAD! – Most important thing to have happened to human culture in about 5000 years 🙂

Revolutions on this scale happen rarely – Bill compares it to the invention of writing and moveable type.

New possibilities are afforded by digital culture – to contextualise and exploit curation of culture. Lots of attempts at the moment to find new ways of engaging people – e.g. Google Art Project – it’s nice, but it doesn’t really ‘do’ very much. The website is just the start.

Bill reflecting on the 100 Objects website – the original site didn’t work because it employed a metaphor which people didn’t relate to.

Bill mentions Papa Sangre – “a video game with no video. It’s a first-person thriller, done entirely in audio by an award-winning team of game designers, musicians, sound designers and developers.” – totally new way to navigate an information space.

You probably no longer know how computers you own – so integrated into all the things we own.

Bill talks about Kuhn’s term ‘paradigm shift’ – Bill believes that the move to digital brings a paradigm shift … notes that Kuhn says these only complete when adherents to the previous models die… The scale of change is so great that we cannot ‘assimilate’ the information/change, but rather have to ‘accommodate’ (terms from Piaget).

Bill believes that this will change the way our brains work. “Proust and the Squid” – talks about how we read – required change to the way our brain was wired – this is why ‘literacy’ is ‘the big one’ and printed word is significant but not of the same order [I’d ask if these can be so easily separated – mass literacy would not have happened without printing press?]

We need to think about how digital culture impacts – education; art; curation; collaboration

Lots of examples of Arts organisations trying to engage – many of them based around the fact that technology enables full interaction from the audience. Gallery and Museum practice starting to change. When it comes to big questions of ‘how do manage collections?”; “how do you provide access?” ; “how do you curate?”

It may feel to the organisations at the moment that the audience is taking them in directions they wouldn’t have chosen. But sensible integration between online and other activities is becoming easier – partly because tech gets cheaper, but also better understanding of implications of digital culture.

So – back to the initial question – what would be the ‘killer app’? Visicalc was the first ‘killer app’ – people bought the Apple II because of Visicalc. What are people going to come to museums for in terms of digital? It might be for … wait for it … Linked Data.

Bill believes that Linked Data offers opportunities – it may have the transformable effect that visicalc…

British Museum doing stuff in this area as is the British Library, Desert Island Discs is an example from the BBC.

The innovators dilemma – is now the time ‘to move?’ You could be an ‘ace dataset with quite a nice museum attached’ 🙂

Open Culture 2011 – A History of the World

Today I’m at ‘Open Culture 2011’ conference – follow on Twitter via #oc2011

Opening keynote this morning is from Andrew Caspari (@caspari – BBC Head of Speeach Radio and Classical Music, Interactive) and Matthew Cock (@matthewcock – Head of Web at the British Museum) – talking about the ‘History of the World in 100 objects’ project.

Started as traditional Radio 4 series … but grew into a set of materials and programmes across local and national radio and a huge web presence.

Web site attracted 2.5 million visits to the site and almost 30million page impressions. Half a million referrals to the site from outside the BBC.

Notable that there was still healthy traffic to the site even when the series was not being broadcast.

‘Net Promoter’ score of 65 – puts its in the Top 8 BBC sites (and most of the others in the top 8 are foreign language learning sites). The ‘appreciation’ score was 85%. Score went up significantly after a redesign of the front page – moving away from complex flash front page.

There was a mobile site, but it was underplayed, and they feel that if they were to do it again they put make mobile experience at the heart of what they were doing (as well as desktop).

Podcasts are available permanently – and continue to be popular downloads – clear that permanence of that archive is really important.

Most popular object was – Mike Hailwood bike – over 92k views. The most popular ‘personal object’ was Edith Bowman’s grandfathers(?) flat cap.

Challenge for the British Museum was to allow digital objects to be starting points for the thousands of other projects. Key aims for digital was to be “Innovative and unusual and on time!” – and Matthew says nothing like a broadcast deadline to keep you to time.

Matthew notes the web is a visual and participative medium. This project true partnership – BBC about programmes, Museum about objects…

551 UK Museums worked with the project, 1400 objects – and post-launch more and more museums wanted to get involved – 50% of the 1400 objects added after launch. Examples of how regional involvement happened – got people bringing down objects – e.g. given of estate agents bringing house deeds. For regional example see this report from Suffolk

What did the BBC learn about museums? Andrew says – great enthusiasm; demand for involvement outstripped ability to respond at times. BBC (in London) over estimated the digital capacity of both museums and regional BBC centres – needed to give people more time.

What did the BM learn about the BBC? Different culture – BBC better at talking than writing things down; They leave things quite late!; They listen to partners and respond; Partnership within the BBC is harder than you think – not just one big org to interact with, but actually lots of smaller orgs in many ways; World Service is a hard nut to crack!

Big debate about contributors uploading objects – quality vs quantity. Initial worry that there would be lots of not that interesting, not that historical objects – that was not an issue – lots of high quality and huge variety of objects.

For BBC a genuine 360 degree project – user content created output. The ability to comment and debate is very important – once they supported comments on the objects site the quality of commentary was high.

‘Upload’ was a big ask – and hard to do – many started but didn’t finish… – reward was elusive – was presence in digital museum enough?

It only works with a big on air call to action – it needs sustained effort for the broadcaster.

Project lead to developments they never expected – e.g. ‘History of the World in 100 Sheds

Learning about social:

  • Underexploited Twitter until the end – it is not marketing
  • BM activity more extensive and successful than the BBC – they already had engagement in this area – learnt – don’t reinvent what is already there

The key social engagement happened when they asked for the ‘100th object’ contender – able to get ‘celebrity’ involvement as well – easy ask ‘what would your 100th object be’ etc.

Has the BBC changed as a result? – an new view on partnerships – defined by mutual benefit. Principles around shared content and benefit. Realised how much time needed to be spent planning this type of project. Challenging to balance partnership with editorial control.

Andrew asks – could this work in a commercial environment? He believes being able to start from public service ethos is important.

Has the BM changed? – understanding more about ‘participation’ – close the gap between public engagement and collection research… Developing new Skills, tools and infrastructure.