The widespread digitization of heritage content and the increasing use of social media have triggered many heritage institutions (museums, libraries, archives) to increasingly open up collections and work processes for participation from the outside, as exemplified by open data/open content, social media use, collaborative content creation, and linked data. In order to measure the degree of openness of heritage institutions in various countries, a benchmark survey was developed and administered among heritage institutions in several countries between 2014 and 2016. It has been carried out in a collaborative effort of national chapters of the Open Knowledge Foundation, by Wikimedia chapters, NGOs, heritage institutions, and research institutions, under the lead of the Bern University of Applied Sciences.
Over the past couple of months we presented some of the results of the survey at two international conferences: At the IRSPM 2016 Conference in Hong Kong (IRSPM is the International Research Society for Public Management) in April, and at the International Symposium on the Measurement of Digital Cultural Products, organized by the UNESCO Statistical Office in Montreal, in May.
The Hong Kong paper focuses on the links and mutual influences between various Internet-related practices as well as their dependency on context factors (GDP, E-Participation Index, and the effectiveness of skills acquisition among heritage institutions of a given country). We also show what it means for the institutions to open up their data/content, to use social media to reach their audiences, or to pursue crowdsourcing approaches, by analyzing their goals and motivations, by examining the way they picture their relationship with their publics, and by analyzing the changes in their perceptions as they actually implement these practices on a wider scale.
In the Montreal paper we present some of the key findings of the survey and discuss the strengths and weaknesses, as well as the challenges and opportunities related to the approach chosen to measure ‘open data’, ‘open content’, and related practices within the heritage sector. In order to give an account of the particularities of our approach we compare it to the one used for the ENUMERATE survey, an international study aimed at the measurement of digitization among heritage institutions, and to the one employed for the Open Data Barometer and the Global Open Data Census, two international efforts to survey the advancement of open government data in a large number of countries.
There is a series of insights that can be drawn from the study that are relevant for GLAM outreach work; here the ones I found particularly striking:
The adoption of OpenGLAM-related practices by heritage institutions of a given country don't appear to be dependent on a country's GDP or on the quality of its IT infrastructure, but much more so on a country's online participation culture.
The practices of opening up data and content as well as crowdsourcing are here to stay; if the dissemination of ‘open data’ and ‘open content’ continue at the rates suggested by our survey data, we can expect that all the institutions which have centrally managed metadata (i.e. 70% of institutions) will have adopted ‘open data’ in about 10 years and ‘open content’ in about 15 years from now; in the case of crowdsourcing, the data suggest that widespread adoption would take a bit longer.
Institutions appear to remain skeptical towards the principles of 'open content', even after adopting 'open content. It seems that the change of attitudes follows a change in practice, and not the other way round.
The structure of the heritage sector in the different countries varies a lot; this should be kept in mind when transferring best practices in outreach from one country to another.