DISKA: Open Cultural Heritage Data (DISKA)

Published on: 22/04/2014
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Digisam is the Swedish secretariat for the coordination of digitalisation, digital preservation and digital access to the cultural heritage, which was created in 2011 in order to “coordinate the continued development work on digitisation issues, and to coordinate the activities connected to the National Digital strategy within the timeframe of 2012-2015”.

The main task of Digisam, which is organized as a department at the National Archives of Sweden, is to “promote the achievement of the objectives of the national strategy for digitisation”, by supporting 24 national agencies with guidance and cooperation. More concretely, this implies preparing “general guidelines, proposals for division of responsibility and how an integrated digital information management and a coordinated and cost-effective preservation should be designed”.

Digisam will:

  • Monitor and evaluate the institution’s work within the task of the national strategy;
  • Work with issues of standards and systems for digital preservation;
  • Conducting business intelligence, and collect and disseminate current research in the field of digitisation and otherwise support authorities and institutions;
  • Establish and arrange contacts with relevant organisations and private actors;
  • Work with and inform the participating authorities and institutions on the relevant issues of intellectual property rights;
  • Participate in working groups within the EU dealing with issues of digitisation;  
  • Explore possibilities for EU funding;
  • Provide support with communication, seminar and training courses to participating agencies and institutions”.

The DISKA (Digital Semantic Cultural Heritage Authorities) project is one of the main projects undertaken by Digisam. The aim of the project is to make cultural heritage metadata sets freely available over the internet, to promulgate interest in and understanding of Sweden’s rich cultural past. DISKA will enable the reconstruction of the “context within which historical figures lived and so make it easier to establish the connections between them and their deeds”. This will be done by processing “a selection of authority files from the 24 national agencies and make them available on the web as linked/linkable open data (LOD).

DISKA will “create reference posts – such as biographical entries on prominent Swedes – available for further linking in the emerging global ecosystem of semantically contextualised data/information”. This will “make it a lot easier to connect records, images and objects together in a meaningful and reliable way, and thus facilitate deeper understanding of the past.”

Policy Context

DISKA is building on a strategic policy at European level – European Commission and Europeana – as well as national policy put forward by other Governmental initiatives in Sweden – such as Digitaliseringskommissionen, eDelegationen – and national agencies working in the same directions – such as Vinnova.

Description of target users and groups

Digisam’s mission is “focused on the state authorities and institutions, but the goal is that the results of the work will be beneficial and useful for anyone working with digitisation and the use of digital cultural heritage information”. Digisam has therefore collaborated with “representatives from the private sector and civil society with an interest and involvement in digitisation issues to participate in the work”.

Description of the way to implement the initiative

The approach that was adopted is to “collect the metadata by extracting them from old school files or digitised records of cultural heritage institutions, upgrade their digital format and make it easier to establish machine-readable links between items. Qualified personnel from the institutions will then be able to add further metadata and assign general reference attributes to them, thus ensuring their integrity. The data model for DISKA is derived from the World Wide Web Consortium Resource Description Framework (RDF), which will confer a high degree of certainty and efficiency to the exchange and use of distributed machine-readable metadata”.

A DISKA expert panel was created to bring “valuable perspectives for decision making and also help strengthen the credibility of project with the heritage sector”. Furthermore, the agency collaborated with KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm.

The DISKA project is organised into “three interlinked streams of work: establishment of an infrastructure for open semantic information resources; development of semantic technology and tools; and R&D of methodology, tools and processes for technology-enhanced learning”.

Technology solution

The vision for DISKA is for “the data to be freely available on the web, with an open licence; machine-readable, in a non-proprietary format; compliant with Resource Description Framework (RDF) standards; and linked”.

Technology choice: Mainly (or only) open standards

Main results, benefits and impacts

The DISKA project will support the understanding of and further development of semantic web technology within the cultural heritage sector in Sweden by a) transforming locked-up data to accessible resources b) providing full scale examples of useable reference data sets, and c) inspiring the institutions concerned to take part in the ongoing development of the “semantic web”.

Once Sweden’s cultural heritage is freely accessible in the public domain, the project team believes that “new uses and applications will emerge”, which will pave the way to renewed research, creativity, innovation and growth.

Return on Investment

The DISKA project is a way to take advantage of huge work already done over a long time. It is hard though to estimate the value as most of what is made possible by DISKA would otherwise not have been done at all. + it is of priceless value of course! 

Return on investment

Return on investment: Not applicable / Not available

Track record of sharing

The DISKA project has been written up by Research International and was also presented at a High Level Conference on E-government Issues in Vilnius, 14-15 November 2013 - see http://digisam.se/index.php/resurser

Lessons learnt

  • Technology is developing fast
  • Cultural Heritage sector is working according to its own speed
  • But once you get things going they can really take you far!
Scope: Cross-border, National