How can a culture-producing organisation start an archive? On 15 June, the Network Archives Design and Digital Culture (NADD) brought its partners LIMA, NDE and DEN together to answer this question by showing the steps to follow and introducing the available tools and guidelines. Here, we share the meeting’s most important tips and insights on how design and digital culture organisations can archive their created content in a sustainable, accessible way.
Sanneke Huisman leads the Wikipedia Media Art project at LIMA platform for digital art in Amsterdam. Together with her colleague Hanno Lans, she talked about using Wikidata to make an archive accessible. The project started in response to the online catalogue mediakunst.net, where the media collections of LIMA, the Van Abbe Museum, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, the Frans Hals Museum and the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE) are made accessible. When thinking about how and where to store the biographical data so that the information remains up to date, Huisman came up with the idea of Wikipedia. For the next three years, she will write artist biographies, together with the project group, and publish them on Wikipedia, and the information will be read and transferred to LIMA's website.
The initial goal of the project was to add artists to Wikipedia, but Huisman is now focusing more on how to use Wikidata as an active tool for archiving and accessing data. Lans explained how LIMA uses Wikidata to collect data from the artists. Each data profile - a Wikidata item - contains data about an artist, such as nationality, who represents them, where their works are located, copyright, and so on. Each institution that reads this Wikidata profile gives its own identifier code to this profile. This makes information about the artist in question easy to find in other collections and data systems. This information is automatically collected via scripts. This way, entire archive lists can be compiled with little effort and the organisation does not have to actively keep track of it all. Because LIMA does this using Wikidata, the information becomes accessible and useful for many people. “Linking this open data works exponentially,” says Huisman. “If organisations are going to make information available in this way and use it for their archives, the information can be linked from the start to what others are doing. That is very valuable.”
Tools for digital heritage developed in the network
For Wilbert Helmus, network manager at digital heritage network NDE, the LIMA case is an example of how such a large open data project can be complicated and slow at first, but can later serve a large audience. “Alone you can go faster, together you can go further,” is the credo of NDE. The network is aimed at increasing the findability and visibility of the archive and implements the National Strategy for Digital Heritage. Helmus shared a number of tools that NDE has developed for culture-producing institutions to better archive their digital heritage.
Firstly, the Heritage Kit (Erfgoedkit) is an online toolbox with more than 100 tools that can support the sustainability of digital heritage. Digital Heritage Coaches, linked to the provincial heritage organisations, can offer personal help. The Self-Scan consists of 25 multiple-choice questions that give organisations an idea of where they stand, coupled with a number of practical tips. The Spoorboekje is a planner with which the organisation can plan a route along the three central lines of ‘durability, usability and visibility’, which match the starting situation that applies to the archive of the organisation. The Learn to Preserve course provides heritage professionals with the necessary basic knowledge for the sustainable storage, management and accessibility of digital heritage in the archive. The Sustainability Policy Guide (Wegwijzer Duurzaamheidsbeleid) offers heritage institutions tools to build up their policy step by step in a way that suits their own organisation and the digital information under management. Finally, the Preferred Formats Guide (Wegwijzer Voorkeursformaten) provides insight into the question of which file formats are most suitable for the long-term archiving of information.
The rise of digital resources raises new questions for many cultural organisations and offers new opportunities for archiving their content. DEN, the Knowledge Institute for Culture & Digital Transformation, enables cultural institutions to utilise the opportunities and possibilities of digital transformation through an archive trajectory.
Marcus Cohen, senior consultant at DEN, started with the tip to develop an integral strategy for your archive to achieve digital transformation – what do you want to store as an organisation, and why? To illustrate what such a digital strategy should be about, DEN has developed the Focus Model, to identify the needs and wishes of culture-producing institutions based on the four values of ‘creation’, ‘experience’, ‘process’ and ‘value’ in regards to their archive. In addition, digital transformation is also about putting habits at the centre, creating value and experience, ensuring a diverse offering, networking, new business models, different ways of working and new digital skills.
“Today's culture is tomorrow's heritage,” says Cohen. “So how do I document my content as an organisation? How can an organisation set up their information structure and archive, both for their own use and later for a wider audience?” This requires new collaborations and models, such as the Wikidata model that LIMA uses. In addition, DEN has developed a number of projects and tools for culture-producing institutions and makers. Firstly, the Archive Trajectory helps the institutions with the work archive and a folder structure, which Cohen's colleague Guido Jansen discussed later. In addition, the Regieboek De Vijfde Wand, currently under development, describes the collaboration between sector-wide digital infrastructure of the performing arts. The file Archiving by Design focuses on supporting ICT in work practice. The I in Archive brings out hidden stories in the archive. In addition, the website offers the following instruments and tools: DEN Focus Model, thematic files (various themes), DEN Academy (courses, programmes), Digital Decisiveness knowledge sessions, studies on the future of archiving and a subsidy guide.
The Archive Trajectory
In the Archive Trajectory, DEN helps culture-producing institutions to get started with their archives and to gain practical knowledge. The trajectory has three verbs as its core, explains Guido Jansen, project leader archive trajectory at DEN: “First, we start by making an inventory of what is already available. In addition, we focus on organising so that it is easy to use. Finally, we are preparing to make the archive accessible.”
DEN’s archive process is based on the TRACKS archive screening process in Belgium. The three pillars of the archive process are independence, sustainability and working towards accessibility. The trajectory takes three months, during which a plan is developed to work towards the opening of the archive. Each participant is linked to a coach from the sector, who can act as a sparring partner and think along with you. The process is completed with an action plan, in which concrete follow-up steps for the short and long term are described.
In the autumn edition of the trajectory, two organisations from design and digital culture can participate. The trajectory starts around the end of August. If you are interested, please email email@example.com