JUDAICA Europeana

Published on: 17/06/2011

JUDAICA Europeana: Jewish Urban Digital European Integrated Cultural Archive

Judaica Europeana is a project and a growing network of heritage institutions, which will bring Jewish collections to Europeana - a portal of Europe's museums, archives and libraries. Judaica Europeana's main challenge is to facilitate access to a critical quantity of European Jewish cultural heritage at the level of the individual object. The project will aggregate other digital collections to reach a comprehensive coverage of Jewish life in European cities. It will reach out to university teachers and students, schools, heritage professionals, tourists and the general public - anyone interested in the history of European cities or Jewish culture.

Judaica Europeana works to identify content documenting the Jewish presence and heritage in the cities of Europe. It will digitise 10,500 photos, 1,500 postcards and 7,150 recordings as well as several million pages from books, newspapers, archives and press clippings. More content will be brought from the collections of associated partners. The digitised content will be available at Europeana.eu.

Judaica Europeana is one of a series of initiatives supported by the European Commission's eContentplus programme that harvest and aggregate content for EUROPEANA, Europe's museums, libraries and archives online. A prototype which features 20 million items online can also be searched from Judaica Europeana's website using the 'Search Europeana Collections' link on the menu.

Policy Context

Judaica Europeana is one of a series of initiatives supported by the European Commission to establish EUROPEANA, the European digital library. Europeana draws on rich content from libraries, archives and museums and has been launched in summer 2010. A prototype is now available at www.europeana.eu  
Judaica Europeana is co-funded by the European Commission under the eContentplus programme, as part of the i2010 policy.

The presence of Jews in urban culture has been so high as to render them the symbolic equivalent of the city itself.  Occupational specialisation has led to the identification of Jews with specific streets, neighbourhoods and other urban phenomena.  London's East End and the Belleville quarter of Paris were once thriving Jewish areas with Jewish shops, cafés, schools, libraries and prayer houses.  In the early 20th Cetury in Saloniki, all economic activity stopped on the Day of Atonment. One-third of Warsaw's population was Jewish in the 1930s. Jews were instrumental in the development of commerce. They were often owners of small stores as well as pioneers in the development of department stores. They played a major role in the Social Democratic factions at the end of the 19th century in Eastern Europe and were exponents of the main liberal political parties. Jewish workers, doctors, writers and artists made major contributions to European cities. As owners of newspapers and publishing houses they often acted as opinion formers.(1) This pre-World War II Jewish world was to a large extent destroyed in the Holocaust, but today there is a vibrant Jewish life in many European cities and a renewed interest in Jewish culture has been taking place across Europe over the last few decades.

Jewish urban expressions may be outlined graphically from a community core to individual expressions. Jewish communities managed their internal affairs through religious institutions, mutual support, education, politics, theatre, music and publishing. They provided Jewish expressions in the urban landscape, their occupations and enterprises were seen by their neighbours as characteristic of Jews. The lives and work of prominent Jewish personalities provide ample documentation on individual Jewish expression.

These abundant cultural expressions are documented through thousands of documents, photos, films, pictures, books, manuscripts, works of art, monuments and buildings, archaeological excavations and cemeteries. However there are still many obstacles to overcome to provide wide access to these collections.

Description of target users and groups

The audiences for Judaica Europeana are university teachers and students, schools, heritage professionals, family history researchers, tourists and the wider public - anyone interested in the history of European cities or Jewish culture.

Judaica Europeana will reach out to universities and schools to stimulate research and teaching. The partner institutions will showcase their collections in virtual exhibitions. Working closely with Europeana, Judaica Europeana will achieve an essential aim of an integrated digital environment: to enable users to search and retrieve Jewish content via a single access point.

Description of the way to implement the initiative

Judaica Europeana Work Groups Objectives and Processes

The work on Judaica Europeana is organized in 5 work packages. Access to produced public deliverables such as virtual exhibitions and newsletters is provided on the Judaica Europeana website. The objectives of each work package can be outlined as follows:

Work Package 1: Project management
Leader: European Association for Jewish Culture, London
To effectively manage the project to deliver the solutions developed in the Work Packages on time, to maintain cost and quality in accordance with the requirements of the grant agreement between the Commission and the project consortium

Work Package 2: Content selection, metadata alignment, knowledge management
Leader: Judaica Collection, Goethe University Library, Frankfurt / Main
To provide EUROPEANA with a critical mass of content:

Work Package 3: Digitisation, metadata entry, API and web
Leader: Alliance Israélite Universelle, Paris
To put in place the technical tools required for Judaica Europeana tasks and provide support for Partners and Associated Partners.

Work Package 4: Awareness and dissemination
Leader: European Association for Jewish Culture, London
To raise awareness of the project and promote its results

Work Package 5: Assessment and evaluation
Leader: Amitié, Bologna
To carry out a comprehensive evaluation showing how the addition of the thematic domain content by Judaica leads to an improved practice in the discovery, delivery, integration of cultural heritage resources for multilingual, multicultural use by the target populations: scholars, cultural heritage professionals, education users, cultural tourists and the general public.
To carry out in collaboration with other work packages a process-oriented project evaluation and report on the findings.

Main results, benefits and impacts

Judaica Europeana will identify and digitize Jewish content for Europeana with a projected contribution of several million pages and thousands of other items.

The project's main goals are:

  • Documentation of Jewish expression in Europe: Encourage and support content holders in identifying Jewish content in their collections that reflect the activities, creativity and self-expression of Jews in European cities; to be integrated in Europeana under the theme of Cities.
  • Digitisation and aggregation of this content into a coherent thematic collection to be incorporated into Europeana. Coordination of standards across institutions in order to synchronise the metadata with the interoperability requirements of Europeana.
  • Deployment of knowledge management tools to enable communities of practice to adapt, and apply controlled vocabularies, thesauri and ontologies for the indexing, retrieval and re-use of the aggregated content pertinent to their own areas of interest.
  • Support the use of the digitised content in scholarship and academic research; university-based teaching; online teaching and learning; museum curatorship and virtual exhibitions; events and initiatives of cultural institutions in European cities; cultural tourism; visual arts and multimedia development; formal and informal education.

Return on investment

Return on investment: Not applicable / Not available

Track record of sharing

Judaica Europeana is carrying out an intensive program of dissemination that includes virtual exhibitions, newsletters, seminars, conferences and presentations for the academic communities, heritage professionals and educators. In particular it has succeeded in promoting the interest in digital humanities applications of its digitised contents. It is also making efforts focussed on education, university teaching, the promotion of museum curatorship and tourism.

Lessons learnt

  1. The need to expand the life-time of the project: an initiative able to take the lead in a public-minded cutting edge program like Europeana can harvest many benefits that otherwise, would be much more costly or technologically backward if based only on commercial provision of proven tools. The knowledge acquired by the partners in the course of the project can continue to bring benefits to other institutions.
  2. Organizational learning can take place only when there is a readiness to incur risks. The risks to bet on technologies not completely proven may provide the benefit of an extended life-span for the achievements.
  3. There are substantial benefits to be obtained in adopting an open source, open publishing approach. In this way, the outreach is greatly extended and there is a large availability of appropriate tools.
Scope: International, Pan-European