Report: open cultural data bootcamp
Just like in previous years, this summer we organised a bootcamp on open cultural data. Only this time the participants had to pitch virtual tents as they learned how to make data available online in accordance with the FAIR principles. The bootcamp consisted of a series of webinars and self-study with screencasts recorded in advance. What stayed the same? It was still ‘an absolute must for anyone working with data,’ according to one very satisfied participant.
What are the FAIR principles?
Digitisation and open data are crucial for ensuring heritage collections can be used and reused, although there’s more to it than that, of course. This is what the FAIR principles therefore aim to achieve. Together, they form an international guideline for making scientific data suitable for reuse, by both people and computers, under clearly described conditions. FAIR stands for:
What happens on this bootcamp?
Sixteen participants from the same number of different organisations put theory into practice with examples and possibilities from the heritage sector. The bootcamp lasted for five days, and focused on a different FAIR principle each day. We started by looking at the questions ‘why?’ and ‘who for?’ to come up with a clear data pitch, and defined our target audiences with machine and human readability in mind.
Also on the programme:
an overview of various heritage standards for metadata;
learning how to create a data profile for your own metadata;
data cleaning with OpenRefine;
the legal aspects of providing access to your data and images;
rights metadata and various rights statements and licences;
different options and data platforms for making your data available online, ensuring it is reusable, and learning how different data sets can enhance each other;
linked open data, persistent URIs, APIs, SEO, IIIF, etc.
I’d already seen presentations on most of the topics before, sometimes even by the same people, but it wasn’t always clear to me what context the subject fitted into or how you could implement it in practice,’ says one participant. ‘It was only at this bootcamp that I really realised how all the different aspects relate to each other, how they can be combined in a global plan, and how you can actually get started.’
Five inspirational guest speakers explained how they have used the FAIR principles to make open data a reality. This year, they were:
Carolina Droogendijk | Interoperability at the City of Bruges Cultural Cluster
Caecilia Thoen | Reusability at the Anne Frank Foundation
Wim Lowet | Findability at VAi (Flemish Architecture Institute)
Jolan Wuyts | Accessibility at Europeana
Dries Moreels | FAIR at Ghent University Library
What happened next? Homework and new projects
After the fifth day of learning, the participants were given a task to take home and do over the summer: draw up a FAIR action plan for their own data project. This gave each participant the chance to put the knowledge they had learned at bootcamp into practice in their own situation. In order to follow this up, over the course of August and September we held discussions with each participant to look at their homework and answer any specific questions.
Many of the action plans had been drawn up for ongoing or planned projects. The fact that lots of the participants are the project managers contributes to the quality of the results. This meant the plans could be put into practice straight away, giving participants the opportunity to organise everything properly and work out a step-by-step plan. We can now see that much of our study materials have been reflected in all sorts of new project proposals which we have received via our service desk or are supervising as part of the process for dealing with the backlog of digital collection registrations. So there’s a lot going on, and heritage data is in very good hands!