This course will become read-only in the near future. Tell us at if that is a problem.


What's open culture data all about?

Open Data is an increasingly popular form of publishing information on the internet. Open data is data that can be distributed and modified by everyone, even for commercial purposes, without the need of asking permission from the rights holder of the data. A lot of governments and semi-government organizations are already publishing part of the data they produce as open data. The majority of cultural institutions have yet to move on to this new form of transparency and open communication. This course will provide a hands on approach on opening up your instution's data, so you too can contribute to an open information society.

What is open?

According to the

“A piece of content or data is open if anyone is free to use, reuse, and redistribute it — subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and/or share-alike.”

This means that something is useable by all without the need to ask permission by the (rights) owner of a work. Open Culture or Open GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums) is a movement that tries to help cultural institution to open up their collections: to make them available to all for reuse without the need of asking permission.

What's in it for me?

If you've made it here, you've probably already wondered "what's in it for me?" Of course this shouldn't be your fist concern but there's certainly lots to be gained for your institution by opening up your data. For example:

  • You maximize your outreach. 
  • Help to fulfill your public mission
  • You have to address issues on copyright and dataformats that will lead to a more coherent data policy and a more efficient data-infrastructure, as well as understanding the possibilites of your online collection.
  • Reuse by third parties can enrich your data

Apart from the internal benefits for your institution you make a major contribution to the information society as a whole. Opening up your data will allow others to make use of and/or find use for your collection. This can lead to all sorts of wonderful applications for research, games, tools, web based or mobile apps, etc. Furthermore, there's a good chance that a large part of your collection consists of Public Domain works*. These are works that are no longer copyright protected and make up the vast collection of knowledge and art that's been gathered thoughout history and hold the memory and identity of our respective cultures. Why not share them with the world so everyone can use and enjoy them? 

If you're still in doubt, read this article.


This course deals almost exclusively with the copyright issues of opening your collection. We focus on content as well as metadata.  The course does not go into technical details of opening cultural datasets online.


Before we continue and actually take a look at the data in your institution, ask yourself the question why open data can be important for your institution and what you hope to achieve with it. Write down the main reasons why you want to adopt an open data policy for your institution and make a list of actions you would like to see as a result of such a policy. (e.g.  someone making an app with your data, better data-infrastructure in you institution, etc.) List your answers in the comments. 

Throughout this course we will ask you to write down your progress or to answer some questions in the comments. If you're really serious about an open data policy, you might want to consider documenting your progress in a blog on your institution's website. This way you can make it clear to your public that you are putting in the effort to maximize openness and transparency, I'm sure they'll appreciate it! If you decide on blogging on your own web-page, please provide us with a link in the comments, that way we can keep track of our best students! 

Want to know more about Public Domain works? Go ahead and take a look at the next task. It's all explained there!

Task Discussion

  • LaurenB said:

    Open data will make our institution and its assets visible, increasing exposure. It's a chance for our institution to be on the forefront of this movement on the US, establishing us as a forward thinking, collaborative, and innovative museum. It will allow us to create connections with similar collections in Europe.

    I'd like to see:

    • More entries with assets and data from our institution on Wikipedia/Media/Commons
    • Apps developed from our materials
    • LOD conections made with collections and datasets from around the world
    • Clean up of our metadata beyond the capabilities of our staff
    • Engagement and leadership for open data in the local community


    on March 26, 2013, 12:18 p.m.
  • Liz said:

    Benefits of opening our collections:

    • Increased visibility of our holdings
    • Create opportunities to contribute & particiate in cultural/ethnic discussion and projects
    • Become a welcoming resource for researchers and media
    • Focus changes from generating revenue to better serving users 
    on March 22, 2013, 9:57 a.m.

    Maarten Zeinstra said:

    Hi Liz,

    Very sensible replies. 

    You could also consider sharing your data with platforms like Europeana or Wikimedia Commons and crowdsource or gather high quality feedback on your holdings.


    Maarten Zeinstra

    on March 25, 2013, 5:17 a.m. in reply to Liz