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Passenger Pigeon Manifesto

"A call to public galleries, libraries, archives, and museums to liberate our cultural heritage that has already been digitised. Illustrated with the cautionary tales of extinct species and our lack of access to what remains of them."

Dit manifest is een oproep aan erfgoedbeherende instellingen om cultureel erfgoed dat reeds gedigitaliseerd is vrij beschikbaar te maken.

Uit het Manifest:

Acknowledging the importance of access to information and cultural heritage, and the vital role of public institutions, we call on galleries, libraries, archives, museums, zoos and historical societies all over the world:

1.) Cultural institutions should reflect on and rethink their roles in relation to access. While the current policy landscape, lack of infrastructure and the serious budget cuts do not support openness, cultural institutions cannot lose sight of their essential role in building bridges to culture. Preservation must mean ensuring our cultural heritage is always easily accessible to anyone. Without free, public access, these items will only be objects to be forgotten and rediscovered again and again, known only by exclusive communities.

2.) Physical preservation is not enough. Digital preservation of copies and metadata is essential but due to the erosion of storage, files can get damaged easily. To ensure the longevity of digital items, the existence of the highest possible number of copies is required: this can be achieved by sharing through free access.

3.) Beyond preservation and providing access, institutions need to communicate the existence and content of their collections, our cultural heritage. Even with unlimited access, not knowing about the existence and context of historical materials is almost the same as if they didn’t exist. Approachability and good communication is crucial in reaching people who otherwise have less access to knowledge.

4.) Publicly funded institutions must not be transformed by the market logic of neoliberalism. The role of archives, museums and other cultural institutions, is more and more challenged by capitalism. They need to redefine themselves in ways that allow cultural commodities to be archived, described and shared in the frameworks of open access and open science. The remedy to budget-cuts and marketisation requires wide-scale, public dialogue and collaboration. Involving people from outside of academia has great potential: NGOs, volunteers, open-source enthusiasts, online and offline communities and passionate individuals are a vast resource and should be encouraged to participate. Akin to citizen scientists, there can be citizen archivists.

5.) Liberate and upload all digitised photographs and artworks that are in the public domain or whose copyrights are owned by public institutions. Remove all restrictions on access, quality and reuse while applying cultural and ethical considerations (“open by default, closed by exception”). Prioritize adapting principles and values recommended by the OpenGLAM initiative in the upcoming ‘Declaration on Open Access for Cultural Heritage’.

6.) All collections should be searchable and accessible in an international, digital photo repository. Instead of spending on developing various new platforms for each institution, the ideal candidate for an independent, central imagebase that provides the widest possible reach is Wikimedia Commons. Using Commons would provide an immediate opportunity to release cultural heritage while still allowing the long-term development of digital archives for institutional purposes. Operated by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation, Commons is a community managed, open and free multilanguage platform. It provides access to millions of people by sharing images under open licences. Wikipedias of all languages are using Commons to illustrate their articles, and the photos appear on news sites, blogs, and research articles all over the world. Wikimedia is open to collaboration with GLAMs and many institutions are already active on the site including the Digital Public Library of America and the Cultureel Erfgoed. By using Commons, institutions will also benefit: the platform runs on a free and flexible software where photos can be described and categorised using structured data. Utilising the participation of a large and diverse community in catalogising, tagging, publicising and even researching can save time and cut costs. At the same time, institutions will still retain the physical copies and will be able to use the digital photos on their own platforms as well. The images on Commons will also cite their original holding institutions, granting further visibility to their collections and efforts.

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