Why are projects like Digital Manuscripts to Europeana important for Europeana’s future?

15 April 2015 Comment

Moving from a portal to a platform: this is one of Europeana’ s major objectives for 2015-2020 in order to allow “people to re-use and play with the material, to interact with others and participate in creating something new”. Europeana can’t achieve this vision on its own and it needs the support of its Network and other valuable related projects. The Digital Manuscripts to Europeana project (DM2E) is one of these projects.

Launched in February 2012 and ending last January, the DM2E project focused on the development of Linked Data based solutions and tools that enable libraries and archives to provide digital manuscripts to Europeana. Along the way, the project developed a new data model for manuscripts, and technical solutions to allow the description, the manipulation and enrichment of the data. The results were promoted within and validated by the Digital Humanities community.

So what makes the results of the DM2E project beneficial to Europeana?

Europeana’s broad vision is supported by activities running on three different levels:

  • A Core where we collect the data, content and technology.

  • An Access level where we standardise and enrich the core, define the rules of engagement and provide the interfaces for access.

  • And a Service level, where we develop tailored experiences for our three user groups: Professionals, End-Users and Creatives.

DM2E makes a positive contribution to all three of these levels.

From the Europeana Strategy 2015-2020.Visuals by Elco van Staveneren, www.denkschets.nl (CC-BY-SA)

Improving Europeana’s core

DM2E brings additional 20.08 million manuscripts pages from national libraries, archives and research institutions across Europe. These manuscripts come from important corpora for Digital Humanities researchers. Until this project, modern manuscripts were underrepresented in Europeana. Furthermore, this content enriches Europeana in multilingual data. Content and data cover a variety of languages: German, Latin, French, Italian, English, Czech but also Arabic and Turkish, less represented in Europeana.

The metadata couldn’t be integrated into Europeana without defining a proper interoperability framework. The DM2E model is developed using the Europeana Data Model (EDM) and specialises it to support the requirements of the project. The DM2E model allows the description of rich metadata for manuscripts, answering the needs of scholars without hindering the interoperability with Europeana as the DM2E model is built on top of the Europeana one.

Discussions during the project enabled the creation of mapping recommendations that have been useful to Europeana for improving its model. The model also demonstrates how EDM can be extended so as to support different grains of data. The discussions around the development of the DM2E model and EDM application profiles in general were also opened out to the wider community in a task group at the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative. The issues are currently being discussed with Europeana as well as other partners such as the German Digital Library or DPLA.

The DM2E model is only one building block within a larger interoperability infrastructure allowing:

  • The description of metadata transformation, provenance, versioning workflows.

  • The mapping of the original metadata (in various formats) to the DM2E model and then to the Europeana EDM.

  • The contextualisation of resources by the generation of links to external sources (performed with Silk)

  • The dissemination of RDF data via a Linked Data API

  • The access of the transformed EDM data via an OAI-PMH service

  • The OmNom engine independently integrates and orchestrates the tools supporting these different workflows.

All the DM2E tools are the outcome of a great deal of innovation work.

This flexibility of the aggregation services built by DM2E is what Europeana hopes to achieve for its own aggregation services but also for its network of providers and aggregators. This impressive infrastructure could benefit Europeana own services, but also other organisations within the Network who share the same needs.

Providing access to data, content and technology

Bringing new data to the Europeana core and improving the overall data quality is a great achievement, but becomes even more valuable if Europeana can provide access to it. The DM2E project has developed ways to allow the content, the data and technology to be re-used after the project ends.

The publication of the data under the Creative Commons CC0 licence enables the data to be openly accessed. The Linked Data API developed by DM2E facilitates the distribution of the data while the enrichments performed on the data enables a better access to resources by the Digital Humanities community. All these tools have been made available as open source software.

Offering new services

By encouraging humanists to work with Linked Data, the DM2E project has nurtured a thriving relationship with a community that was, until this point, not well-represented in the Europeana Network.

The analysis of the research processes in the humanities supported the development of a series of digital tools included in the Scholarly Research Platform. The created model defines new types of scholarly activities involving collaborative commenting, annotating, collecting, and the sharing data. The results of the DM2E project were tested and validated by scholars in experiments.

The Scholarly Research Platform is based on the open source tool Pundit which

  • allows users to create structured data while annotating pages and text on the Web.

  • supports the semantic linking of text and images to the DM2E data but also to controlled vocabularies and taxonomies.

This approach completes Europeana’s recent work around data enrichment and the development of its “semantic layer”.

dm2e_eu_files_Public_Final_Report_150331_pdf.jpg

Scholarly Research Platform “Pundit”: The software ecosystem overview

Europeana is now in the position to re-use the efforts made by the DM2E project to elaborate the new Europeana Research and the developments of the services it will offers. Projects such as DM2E indicate areas that Europeana should be exploring to deepen that relationship and provide more meaningful links between the GLAM sector and the digital humanities.

in addition, the DM2E project participated in bringing new communities into the Europeana Network around topics such as open data, and data trust. The Open Humanities Awards, for instance, demonstrate how the research community can foster innovation around cultural heritage data, while the OpenGLAM community initiated by Open Knowledge in the DM2E project works on promoting and furthering free and open access to digital cultural heritage.

All these results shows how R&D developments can support the Europeana platform and its future services. The work of the DM2E affects all the levels of the platform: it improves its core, provides new ways to access and re-use materials and brings promise of great services in the future.

All the DM2E outputs, publication and results can be found at http://dm2e.eu/outputs/