Open monuments” - using crowdsourcing for improving open cultural heritage data
“Open monuments” is engaging citizens in collecting and improving open heritage data and showing them how such data could be useful in everyday life. We engage citizens in using, re-using, correcting and collecting open data about cultural heritage objects in Poland.
We begun working with heritage data in parallel with other open data projects, related to areas traditionally defined in the open government community as key areas of interest: in particular, data on public finances or local municipal data. Heritage data is seen by many in the open government community as not addressing key challenges defined by the open government model. It might be seen as not serious enough - as being about culture, not democracy or civic issues. We think otherwise. Our project is biggest (beside Wikipedia) crowdsourcing initiative in Poland. It is the first project combining heritage and new technologies. We are also creating biggest repository of open, accessible and easy to use information about national heritage in Poland, combined with tools that are increasing citizens engagement.
Our project is built on a conceptual frame, in which public data becomes a basic “frame”, to which many other, varied activities are attached. The goal of these activities is to make this data more useful or to create means of engagement with this data. Our project until now included following steps: 1) organizing a crowdsourcing action using ready-to-use online tools in order to improve the public dataset; 2) on the level of code, building functionalities on top of the data in the form of widgets that can be used on any other, external website and communicate with our database via API; 3) organizing a range of cultural activities, ranging from workshops for the elderly to organized heritage sightseeing walks, as means of building engagement.
We have been running the project since spring 2012 and have received broad interest from media, NGO’s and individuals, who are sharing with us data, information and photos of cultural heritage. In the Summer 2012, over 7000 people took part over the period of a month in a national crowdsourcing action focused on checking, updating and providing basic information about historical objects from the registry. This was a first crowdsourcing action of such scale in Poland. In November 2012 we have shared new version of the “Open monuments” website, where each monument has its own profile. From that time users have added hundreds of pictures and descriptions of historical objects. They have also added many objects to the database, that in their opinion should be preserved. The project is particularly popular among local communities - libraries, local authorities (promotion and cultural departments) and schools.
1) data improvement and coding of new widgets / functionalities. We are planning to develop following widgets: - “Create your sightseeing route” (it would allow creating sightseeing route on certain topic, like “medieval castles of southern Poland”) - “Timeline” (it would show on map monuments that were built in certain period of time, belong to certain category etc. e.g.: catholic churches built in 18th century) - “Checklist” (allowing to evaluate technical condition of the monument) - “Adding pictures via mobile device” (allowing to add pictures directly from a mobile device to otwartezabytki.pl database). 2) civic engagement through a range of activities, mainly cultural in character. We think that it will be beneficial to conduct activities well defined as methods for working with open data - such as hackathons, design thinking workshops on a single set of data, in order to determine the usefulness of varied approaches. To these, we would like to add novel approaches, like heritage walks that combine sightseeing with a crowdsourcing workshop - with the goal of seeing, how such new methods build interest and engagement in the open government model. We have already tested such approaches during our crowdsourcing campaign in Summer 2012. We have organized sightseeing walks that ended in a cafe with common checking and correcting data from the register of monuments. This experience showed us, that it could be an effective way of engaging individuals that have never heard about open data and crowdsourcing. This is why we are planning to develop this concept and use it in a bigger scale. All developed widgets have (and will have) open code published on GitHub. And whole other content is available on CC BY-SA 3.0 license.
We believe that the significance of this type of data, close to the hearts of citizens, is that it can build engagement - as opposed to many open government projects, where such engagement is lacking. People are simply interested in cultural heritage. It is also easier for people to see how this data can be useful in their everyday life - which is a key reason for involvement. We therefore treat cultural activity as one of key spheres of civic engagement. Working with heritage data can become a gateway experience leading to a better understanding of the open government model, and later interest in other open data initiatives. Similarly, from our experience public cultural institutions are relatively inclined to work with open models, and can serve as example for other parts of the public administration.