Our first integrated strategic plan was approved by the Flemish government in February 2020. You can read a summary of our objectives and services, together with a brief history, below.
A few months after the news about the merger of VIAA, PACKED and Lukas, we submitted our initial strategic plan in 2018. In 2019 we started a strategic exercise leading to an integrated long-term plan for meemoo – all based on our service provision and collaborative models, the importance of sound knowledge and expertise, and key concepts such as openness, accessibility and usability. This focus led to us drawing up ten strategic objectives which we can work towards together over the coming years. We outline what this means for our stakeholders, partners and platform users here.
Specifically, this means we’ll be digitising all the audio and video carriers and film reels that are at risk of becoming unreadable in our ongoing digitisation projects by 2023, and saving all this content in our meemoo archive system. We’re using the figures that we were aware of in October 2019 as our starting point. Any additional quantities will be considered depending on the available budget. The digitisation of vinyl records is being put back until the subsequent policy period, i.e. after 2023, and our content partners will have better tools for performing quality control on digitised content from 2021. Together with our partners, we’re ensuring that all film collections will be registered by 2023, while also developing a procedure for selection and prioritisation.
This service consists of three parts. Firstly, we offer a sustainable approach for the photographic registration of non-audiovisual items from collections from recognised museums and the Flemish Government’s List of Masterpieces – in high resolution and according to international standards. We act as a link between the content providers and professional users, ensuring that the image content is suitable for demanding and exacting applications. The focus in our approach to recognised museums is event-driven: we start from a specific need, such as high-quality digital images in the context of an exhibition. Partners can also rely on us for image management, sustainable storage and unlocking content to make it accessible.
Secondly, we’re continuing our research into the digitisation of photographic collections. Our focus here is on selection mechanisms, the size of the collections, and possible project approaches. There is no budget available for digitising photographic collections in the current long-term plan.
And thirdly, we’re also focusing on creating knowledge and good practices with regard to 3D digitisation using photogrammetry. Once we’ve defined a workflow for 3D digitisation and run a pilot project, we’ll happily share this knowledge further with the rest of the sector.
Meemoo will continue to sustainably preserve its content partners’ materials – both digitised and born-digital. And we’ll be focusing more on making inventories and reporting about different formats over the coming period. This will ensure we maintain a good overview of all the formats we’re storing in the meemoo archive system, and can monitor when a particular format is at risk of becoming unreadable.
The meemoo archive system will expand strongly from 2020 to 2023, and we’re migrating content from LTO 6 tapes to LTO 8 tapes to support this growth. This migration will also optimise our storage, so we’ll be able to preserve five times as much content in the same amount of space. In order to continue guaranteeing quality and reliability, we’ll be audited by an external body and will include their action points in our plans. There are no major changes in terms of infrastructure, but our archive system will be ten years old in 2024, and many components will then be ready for replacement. We are therefore drawing up a report about our infrastructure and investigating which technologies could be useful.
The influx of digital collections into the archive system is being scaled up further and expanded structurally with complex objects (objects comprised of multiple digital files, such as newspaper pages or digital videos in different resolutions). The results of the 3D digitisation pilot project will also need preserving, and we’re developing a best practice for this which we’ll share with the rest of the sector.
Finally, we know that data is still stored on all kinds of obscure and outdated digital carriers, such as computer diskettes and Jaz drives. We make our data migration knowledge and equipment available to a wide range of stakeholders, for example with an annual call for a Digital Repair Café. This helps archive creators and cultural heritage institutions manage their collections with support from meemoo as they migrate data from obsolete digital carriers.
Metadata is essential for re-using archived content, and we employ a four-pronged approach for this. The first is measurement: in 2020 we’re developing reporting on content metadata, which will give us a good insight into what metadata is available. This reporting also measures evolutions, so we’ll be able to monitor the impact of certain actions with regard to metadata creation in the future. Secondly, we’re modelling the metadata and setting up a big project to see how data is kept synchronous and look at how we deal with data (de)centralisation. We’re further developing the project we ran in 2016 around the creation of a common metadata model, but realise that needs have changed since then and other metadata (e.g. from artificial intelligence applications) need to be taken into account as well. We’re therefore holding workshops so that our content partners can have a say in how this common metadata model is updated. Thirdly, in 2022 we’ll be starting with the influx of existing metadata – a process similar to the influx of digital collections – and are setting up a pilot project with a minimum of eight partners for this. The fourth and final approach where we want to take our first steps is in metadata creation using AI such as face recognition.
The availability of reliable and complete metadata about rights and usage limitations for cultural content is also crucial for adding value to and re-using archive items. That’s why we’re committed to developing and distributing a common data model to document applicable rights, rights-holders and usage limitations.
We’re also collaborating on the Open Standards for Linked Organisations (OSLO) initiative launched by the Department of Culture which is being implemented by the Flemish Agency of Information (Informatie Vlaanderen). The aim is to work out an exchange standard for the cultural heritage sector. We’re publishing an ‘Objects Entry Book’ and a ‘Publications Entry Book’: online handbooks that help organisations document cultural heritage objects and publications in their collection management systems.
In 2020 we’re launching a renewed version of The Archive for Education. The biggest update is access for students. Teachers will soon be able to give students assignments to view and search for content or even create their own collections. Interactive types of work such as media literacy and search skills are central to this, but it’s the teacher who will determine what their students see. We’ll continue to focus on providing high-quality content, selected by and for teachers, with targeted communications and customised training. We want our efforts – in terms of the services, communications, training and network we provide – to result in an increase in the number of user accounts in compulsory education. The services we offer are constantly being updated, and we’re aiming to involve even more providers in the platform as we move forward – both content partners and other organisations. For example, we’re working together with Klasse, KlasCement, Smartschool, Mediawijs (Nieuws in de Klas) and Canon Cultuurcel (Cultuur in de Spiegel), among others.
Scientific researchers currently have limited access to the archived content that our partners store with us. Metadata from images and audio in the archive system can be searched at The Archives, and anyone can consult newspapers from the First World War at nieuwsvandegrooteoorlog.hetarchief.be. In 2022 we want to have a plan ready that incorporates scientific research requirements and information about how to satisfy these requirements in a structured way together with our content partners. How can we give them access to our partners’ content and what do they need for this?
One of the technologies we’ll be using is the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF). In 2020 we’re running a pilot project with this exchange standard on images from the News from the Great War. We’re also organising a first IIIF vision and practical day with various partners, which will be followed up with an IIIF user group. We want to make a basic version available in 2023 – to give researchers access to a subset of archive content via IIIF components – and are also aiming to make linked datasets available in the same year.
Meemoo wants to stimulate the re-use of archive contents as much as possible. One main way of doing this is to give partners tools so they can make their own images and audio available from the archive. This is possible thanks to the use of exports, APIs and – in the course of 2021 – via a reading room tool, which organisations will be able to use to consult their own content within the walls of their own organisation.
It’s already possible to look up metadata from images and audio which our content partners preserve in the meemoo archive system, at The Archives. Together with our content partners we’re also looking at what audiovisual content we can share, and how, at hetarchief.be – so that users will be able to view and listen to it from 2022. Comprehensive unlocking in not an option (because of copyright laws, for example), which is why we’re looking specifically for content that can be made available publicly.
Our aim is to make archive content as freely accessible as possible while taking into account our partners, copyright laws and personal data protection. We’ll be developing a use case from the images from Art in Flanders over the coming years, which will mean we can actively encourage their use by highlighting the possibility of downloading them for free. We’re also committed to making the content reusable on other platforms, publishing image content from Art in Flanders with CC0 status on WikiMedia and experimenting on social media – and looking at how we can work with the Flemish Art Collection and its Arthub platform better.
Meemoo’s content partners can already use Catalogus Pro to browse through audio and images stored in our archive. This also allows them to communicate with each other if they have any questions about reusing content in accordance with their archive and collection activities. This platform will be enriched further with more content added to the archive over the coming years. We also want to focus on greater accessibility to other types of content on the platform, such as photographs and newspapers, by the end of the current policy term.
We’re committed to carrying out an analysis and initial proof of concept for an exchange platform: can we as meemoo further facilitate the exchange of content across institutions? What legal issues do we need to resolve for this? What processes need to be designed? We’ll make sure we have answers to these questions and others by the end of 2023.
In the context of the Art in Flanders activities, we’re looking at the evolution of commercial image sales and continuing to support content partners. We’re also developing our model further so there’s a professional service available for specific or photography projects that fall outside the scope of regular digitisation.
We’ve identified several challenges for the cultural sector over recent years: from forming a vision to strategic and operational skills, and from basic technical infrastructure to more (open) customised content for users. We want to use our working knowledge to continue providing the cultural sector with tools and knowledge to aid its digital transformation. We do this partly by participating in groups such as the Cultural Heritage and Copyright user group and Digital Participation colleague group. Organisations and artists can come to us with their questions – for individual advice, practical tools, partner projects and training. We’re continuing to share our expertise and experience on the CEST and TRACKS knowledge platforms, which are being updated, and in the projects we initiate with partners. Together with Cultuurconnect and publiq, meemoo also wants to take a leading role in developing policy strategy for digital transformation in the cultural sector.
We provide structured training. Our content partners can follow courses to learn how to work with meemoo services and platforms. As well as offering training for a wide range of cultural bodies linked to our five areas of expertise – metadata, linked (open) data, rights and privacy, preservation of old and new formats, and digital strategy – we also organise sessions for the self-assessment tools we provide, i.e. Score Model for Digital Sustainability and Self-Evaluation Tool for Digital Maturity.
Our collaborations with organisations in the cultural, media and government sectors follow a network model which focuses on high-quality consultation and communications with all relevant partners and stakeholders. As an organisation, we’re transparent in our communications with our board of directors and employees, and we’re making sure meemoo is a place where people are happy to work and stay working.
We pay particular attention to this with regard to our content partners – with central points of contact per sub-sector (meemoo’s account managers) as well as specific partner updates and events, among other things. The updated meemoo website partner portal will continue to act as a central location for all information about our tools and services over the coming years. We’re also working on additional reporting and an updated agreement framework with our content partners, with a review of our collaborative agreements already on the agenda for 2020-2021, for example.