ATHENA, Access to Cultural Heritage Networks Across Europe
The former PACKED vzw, which is now part of meemoo, represented Flanders in ATHENA from 2008 until 2011. This project aimed to provide new content to Europeana, the European portal site for cultural heritage, to highlight the multifaceted nature of European cultural heritage. We did this by linking content from under-represented cultural heritage organisations from all across Europe to Europeana.
Until recently, there was a need within Europe for standards around the digitisation of cultural heritage and a central location to store these digitised items. That’s why there have been a number of European projects to draw attention to the matter and support museums with the digitisation of objects from their collections over recent years.
ATHENA, which is derived from Access to Cultural Heritage Networks Across Europe, was created from two of these European projects: MINERVA and MICHAEL. Both of these projects were concerned with enriching European cultural heritage through digitisation, and building and expanding a European network of experts that work with digital cultural heritage. When Europeana was launched in 2008, it gave us a central European platform where digitised cultural heritage could be made available. This platform is constantly on the lookout for new content to add to its collections.
And this is what ATHENA aimed to help with. The project had the objective of gathering content from digital collections from European museums and other cultural heritage organisations, and providing it to Europeana to expand the collection further. We also wanted to provide the cultural heritage sector with specific tools for delivering this content, on the basis of commonly agreed standards.
ATHENA was funded by the European Commission and supervised by the Italian Ministry of Culture, and involved more than 100 museums and other cultural institutions from 20 EU Member States and Israel, Russia and Azerbaijan.
We worked on the project as a representative of the Flemish institutions that also took part, coordinating the delivery of content form Flemish and federal organisations.
We also supervised a work package on intellectual property rights (IPR) in collaboration with the University of Patras (Greece).
ATHENA ran from November 2008 until April 2011 and consisted of seven work packages. The main areas of attention were:
identifying digital content in collections from European museums;
encouraging participation in the project by museums and other institutions in the cultural heritage sector;
supporting internal digitisation activities at the museums and cultural heritage institutions;
developing a user-friendly technical infrastructure to simplify the addition of content to Europeana;
developing tools and guidelines around multilingualism, metadata, data structures and IPR;
adding digital content to Europeana.
A network of national representatives provided support to the museums and other cultural heritage institutions.
One of the work packages was specifically aimed at resolving possible IPR problems, and we managed this work package in collaboration with the University of Patras. During the work package we investigated if there were any copyright restrictions that could cause difficulties in sharing the digital content from European museum collections on Europeana, and carried out research into licensing and open access model standards to find solutions that could be applied quickly where this was the case. This included looking for input and outcomes from previous, relevant IPR projects to prevent any work being duplicated. The results from these projects were then adapted to the needs of the European museums, which enabled us to propose state-of-the-art technologies for IPR protection and management at the museums and cultural heritage organisations involved.
In total, thanks to the ATHENA project, we were able to make approximately 4 million items available on Europeana.
Italian Ministry of Culture (coordinator)
Universiteit van Patras (Greece)
20 EU Member States together with Israel, Russia and Azerbaijan
109 museums and other cultural heritage institutions
ModeMuseum Provincie Antwerpen (now MoMu - Fashion Museum of Antwerp)
Stadsarchief Antwerpen (Antwerp Municipal Archive, now FelixArchief)
Collectie Vlaamse Gemeenschap (Art Collection of the Flemish Community)