Europe’s galleries, archives, museums, and libraries (or ‘GLAMs’) are making their cultural, educational and scientific content accessible online. As a result, more and more content is published and accessible through the different providers’ websites. Unfortunately, these cultural and scientific resources are invisible to the majority of the general public. As for web users it’s impossible to know and search all those different platforms available. That’s a problem the EEXCESS project wanted to solve by taking the content to the user. We spoke with Silvia Russegger, senior researcher at Joanneum Research and coordinator of the EEXCESS project.
Data providers: Being known and used
Together with several cultural institutions, the international research organisation Joanneum Research and the University of Passau, started the EEXCESS project in 2013. They wanted to make data available not by browsing different web pages and portals, but by bringing the data into different applications directly to the user. Silvia: “We (Joanneum Research) have many customers coming from the cultural domain. Since many years they enter the metadata to their objects into collection management systems. After having so much effort they would like to get their data known and used by other researchers, curators and the public.” That’s why the project wanted to offer services and components to integrate metadata and multimedia data, like images, videos and documents, into the network of EEXCESS data providers. Also for small institutions that don’t have much resources in budget and manpower. Data providers involved in this project were for example: Europeana, Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek, Rijksmuseum (Netherlands), Mendeley, The National Archives (UK) and Swissbib.
From Open to Effortless Access
The EEXCESS project points out the large amount of knowledge available online, which is invisible for lots of users. For web users it’s impossible to search through a multitude of platforms with archival treasures. Therefore EEXCESS had the ambition to bring the content from the cultural aggregators to the platforms the general public uses, such as Facebook and Twitter. But also to their preferred devices, like smartphones and tablets. EEXCESS wanted to implement the archival content to the existing channels (websites, social media channels, blogs) people use. In that way you go, as they put it, “from Open Access to Effortless Access”. Silva explains: “Open means available and to be used by everyone. Effortless, at least in our definition, means that the user doesn’t have to care about how she/he gets the information, but recommendations are given by itself.”
EEXCESS built some prototype tools to do this, such as a Chrome Extension, Google Docs Plug-in and a WordPress Plug-in. One of their biggest challenges during the project was to get the common understanding between the data provider and the technicians, so that they talk about the same issues. Besides that, the definition of the most important metadata should be represented and fit for all cultural domains. Silvia: “Having the services available for the Chrome, WordPress and GoogleDocs was really a big milestone – and the components can still be downloaded – and are!”
How it works: Highlighting the Chrome Extension
The Chrome Extension helps finding documents, images and papers from sources regular web users don’t know about. When you download the EEXCESS Chrome extension it shows as a grey bar at the bottom of the webpage you’re visiting. EEXCESS tries to recognize the paragraph you are currently reading and will mark it with a green box. You can also click on a paragraph or select a some sentences yourself. In the bottom of the page appears a main keyword and some related keywords, which you can delete, give priority to etc. If you are satisfied with the keywords you can click on the EEXCESS logo to open the results. A pop-up opens where you can find all the results from the connected databases of the different cultural aggregators.
Future of EEXCESS
The EEXCESS project ended in July 2016, but the EEXCESS services will stay online and available. There is a commitment of the partners to have it running. Silvia: “I can say that is very stable as there is no effort of maintenance until now.” The tools are running and usable. “But of course always to become better”, Silvia adds. “As it is open source everyone can use and further develop the services. Some of the partners already do so.” Her wish is that many developers take over at least pieces and make it more used also within other projects and products.