Today and tomorrow I participate in a Europeana/EDLnet conference in Den Haag. Europeana is a large EU-funded project to create a “European Digital Library”. Frankly speaking I cannot give a simple definition of Europeana because in the first instance it is just a buzzword. You can ask whether library portals have a future at all, and Europeana has many ingredients that may help to make it fail: a large ambitious plan, a tight schedule, and many different participants with different languages, cultures and needs. The current Europeana Outline Function Specification partly reads like a magic wishlist. Instead of following one simple, good idea from bottom-up, it looks like the attempt to follow many ideas in a bottom-up way.
But if you see Europeana less as a monolithical project but as a network of participants (libraries, museums, and archives) that try to agree on standards to improve interoperability, the attempt seems more promising. In his introductionary speech Jill Cousins (director of Europeana) stressed the importance of APIs and ways to export information from Europeana so other institutions can build their websites and mashups with services and content from Europeana. I hope that open content respositories like Wikimedia Commons and Wikisource can act as both as source and as target of exchange with the European Digital Library. What I also found interesting is that Google and Wikipedia are seen as the default role models or at least important examples of portals to compare with. The talks I have seen so far give me the impression that the view on possibilities and roles for libraries, museums, and archives are more realistic than I thought. One of their strength is that they hold the content and are responsible for it – in contrast to user generated collections like YoutTube, Slideshare, and (partly) Wikipedia. But in general cultural institutions are only one player among others on the web – so they also need to develop further and “let the data flow”. If the Europeana project helps in this development, it is a good project, no matter if you call it a “European Digital Library” or not.
The next short talks were about CIDOC-CRM and about OAI-ORE – both complex techniques that you cannot easily describe in short time (unless you are a really good Wikipedia author , but at the least my imagination of them has been improved.
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