Creating “Open GLAM now!”

Larissa Borck
Feb 24, 2020 · 8 min read

What I learned by organising an international webinar series on open access on digital cultural heritage

During autumn and winter 2019, I created the webinar series “Open GLAM now” for the Swedish National Heritage Board. The aim was to support a network of museums and other cultural heritage institutions in opening up their digital collections. I learnt some lessons in the process, which I would like to share with everyone interested.

Context: I work within the sector of open cultural heritage data and institutions, mostly on a national level in Sweden with links to international organisations such as Europeana and Wikimedia. I am a cultural anthropologist specialised in digital cultural heritage and open GLAM.

This article reflects my views and experiences as a private individual; it does not represent the Swedish National Heritage Board or its view in any sense. If I name products or organisations, I do not gain any benefits because of this.

Choosing the right medium

Rullande husvagn, 1955, Örebro Kuriren. Örebro läns museum, Public Domain Marked.

In summer 2019, I started working at the Swedish National Heritage Board on a project called Europeana Common Culture. Since then, my colleagues and I work among others on improving their data quality according to the Europeana Publishing Framework. This definition includes, for example, high-resolution images and open, standardised licenses.

Creating webinars was not a goal in itself. It emerged because of the ideas we had to achieve the project’s goals, its time frame (one year) and the available resources (staff and finances). To make the medium’s choice transparent, this is a list of some of the aspects I wanted the communication format to fulfill:

  • SOCH, the product we are working with, has a network of more than 70 partners all across Sweden. Among them are a whole range of large to very small institutions, volunteer-run and national museums, having digital collections of a few hundred to several 100.000 objects, new beginners in the digital realms and best practice examples. Hence, the format had to allow for institutions and staff to step in at different stages of the process of opening up their digital collections, according to their interests and needs.
Radioamatörer vid Teknis, 1955, Örebro Kuriren. Örebro läns museum, Public Domain Mark.

Finally, I decided in favour of a webinar series with live and recorded sessions and single presentations uploaded to Youtube under CC BY. The advantages were the comparatively low costs (actually only my working hours), the possibility to include as many of our partners and possible international speakers as possible, the flexible participation options and the comparable small ecological impact.

Finding the right tools

There have been a few technical hurdles on the way — and I did not find a lot of open resources about which solutions others used in similar projects. I needed an online meeting platform, where speakers could both share slides and talk to the audience and where people could ask questions live. Furthermore, I needed to record the sessions. So here’s a list what I used:

  • Smart Meeting. The advantages of Smart Meeting were that my institution has a license for it, our rooms are equipped accordingly, it allows sharing a link to join the meeting and the interface for users is comparatively easy if you are used to online meeting software. Two alternatives would have been Skype (Pro) or Google Hangouts.
Recording a video, 2019. Larissa Borck, CC BY.

Before starting the series of eight sessions, I recorded a video to share online (our website, social media) as marketing material. I used a camera, a microphone and two laptops (one as a teleprompter, one for the slides). This is what that looked like in my case.

Recommendations for preparing and organising

There are a few things I learned and I would like to share them — I started this without a lot of prior knowledge about producing webinars, so these will probably seem very basic to many others. But maybe others appreciate reading my learnings.

  • Don’t take the digital literacy of the audience or the speakers for granted. Try to describe every step of joining the meeting as clearly as possible to make it as easy to join as possible. After the series, I got the feedback that screenshots as instructions would have helped, and if I produced a similar format again, I would definitely include visual material.
Sveriges radio TV, 1967, Örebro Kuriren. Örebro läns museum, Public Domain Mark.
  • There are webinar series or MOOCs where participants get certificates who took part in all or a certain number of sessions. This can be valuable: It confirms that people are interested in the subject and could help to persuade employers to give them the time to take part. Furthermore, it can lead to a positive feeling of success. I decided not to do this, because I wanted participants to feel free to take part in as many (or few) sessions as they wanted to, according to their (or their institutions’) needs. Additionally, I would have had to track attendance, handle issues when people were not able to join the meeting because of technical reasons, and it would have created a hierarchy between participants in live sessions and those watching recorded sessions.
Centralhotellets radio, Oscar Zedrén, Carl Larssons Fotografiska Ateljé AB. Länsmuseet Gävleborg, CC BY-SA.

What happens next?

I am looking for feedback: Have you participated in webinars ? What do you think about them as a medium for learning and communicating? Or have you organised webinars? What have been your learnings? Please share your findings as comments here or get in touch via Twitter.

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