By Chad Sansing
Tainacan is a team of researchers and museum experts working with the Brazilian Ministry of Culture and the Brazilian Institute of Museums on a public software called Tainacan, which helps individuals and institutions manage and publish digital collections in a easy way through WordPress.
I interviewed Open Leaders 6 participant Anna e só to learn more about Tainacan and how you can contribute to the work.
Q: What is Tainacan?
A: Tainacan is essentially a software solution that uses WordPress to manage, organize and publish digital collections. After extensive literature review on software solutions dedicated to preservation of collections and cultural databases, Brazilian researchers concluded the best way to address the needs of cultural institutions in Brazil regarding digitization of content as completely as possible was to build its own software. It was then included by the Brazilian Institute of Museums in the building of a network of cultural acquis in 2016.
Q: Why did you start your project?
A: As I joined the team working on Tainacan in April of this year and started to participate as a facilitator in training sessions about the software, I learned that one of the biggest challenges in cultural preservation, especially in efforts heavily based in digital initiatives, is building bridges between highly technical knowledge and professionals that work in cultural institutions. Working with what we call structured data, for instance, can be particularly difficult if you aren’t familiar with tools such as OpenRefine and the concepts behind it.
While bigger institutions may have specialized professionals to perform those tasks, or proper funding to hire specialized personal for such a project, and effectively open their collections, smaller ones face more challenges. Or maybe you are just an individual or a group of people that never had contact with this particular world and are looking for solutions to share collective knowledge or relevant content outside centralised, proprietary platforms.
I also noticed that we receive requests from all over the country to train, guide or mentor digitization projects, but the team behind Tainacan is small and both our human and financial resources are limited, which certainly puts a restraint on its adoption rate and popularity. Lastly, as a person that had recently become an Outreachy alumni after working with the Wikimedia community at the time and spend their internship observing and developing strategies to solve a deficiency of openness and documentation regarding specialized processes and knowledge in MediaWiki, it was clear to me that Tainacan shared some of the same weaknesses.
With my coordinator’s blessing, I started to reconcile my experiences within the Wikimedia community with my work on Tainacan. Then, I realized my experiences resulted in findings that, after published in a more structured way, could serve as a valuable resource to be recommended alongside Tainacan. That’s when I started to transform my work at the Laboratory of Participative Public Policies into a project itself.
Q: What was your MozFest experience like this year?
A: Attending the Mozilla Festival was special for a handful of reasons, as I wrote in my rather long report. Undoubtedly, MozFest offers an experience that differs a lot from the format of conferences and meetings that usually happen in Brazil — instead of focusing on presentations that emulate a traditional classroom environment using passive learning, the festival focuses on active learning and invites attendees to effectively experience the event rather than just attending it. It also offers a diversity of options which encourages you to shape it as you want, the way you want it, in the pace that is more appropriate to you.
I had the amazing opportunity to facilitate a session called Ephemeral, lost, forgotten: how to help to preserve human history in an ever-changing world, hosted at the Decentralisation space. We gathered an amazing amount of people interested in cultural preservation there, and the debate on how to preserve digital content led us to really interesting insights.
Q: What challenges have you faced working on this project?
A: As the project mainly focus on creation of content and resources, it was hard to find a presentation format on GitHub, especially as I worry folks involved with cultural preservation but not with tech and open source will find it difficult to understand revision control tools and the way the repository currently works.
I also struggled between choosing an appropriate Creative Commons license as I was afraid a CC0 license (No rights reserved) would keep people from contributing. Unlike other Creative Commons licenses such as CC-BY (Attribution) and CC-BY-SA (Attribution-ShareAlike), making a public work available under a CC0 license waives absolutely all rights related to that content, making it usable not only in open works but also in those who aren’t. That can be, rightfully so, a dealbreaker for some people as they may not wish to see their contributions used in commercial applications.
However, as I am part of a team of researchers at a public laboratory in a public university funded by the federal government and a big supporter of the open access movement, I want to make this project available as freely as possible. I want people not to worry about copyright implications but focus on using this project to achieve their goals. In conclusion, a CC0 license is the one that effectively checks all boxes.
Q: What kind of skills do I need to contribute to your project?
A: To contribute to the software itself, familiarity with WordPress is a must. To contribute content to the repository on public policies on cultural preservation, just being interested in that subject as a researcher, a person working in a cultural institution or someone that cherishes culture can offer us different perspectives to work on.
Q: How can others contribute your project?
A: We’re currently releasing a lot of features that need testing in different computers and use cases, so we welcome bug reports in the form of issues on GitHub. Remember to write them in English, and give us as much relevant information as possible (such as if you’re using our testing website, or a installation of your own). As of the CC0 policy, you can comment on existing issues to provide your insight on the matter, create new ones to suggest changes or subjects to address, and submit your own content as well!
Q: How has the Open Leaders program helped you with your project?
A: I think I never met as many people in my life as in the last three months! I had really insightful conversations with my mentor Drashti, and in cohort calls. I had the opportunity to get in contact with different perspectives, and reflect on my own preconceptions about cultural preservation. I’ve become a more plural and open professional and person.
Q: What meme or gif best represents your project?