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Web person at the Imperial War Museum, just completed PhD about digital sustainability in museums (the original motivation for this blog was as my research diary). Posting occasionally, and usually museum tech stuff but prone to stray. I welcome comments if you want to take anything further. These are my opinions and should not be attributed to my employer or anyone else (unless they thought of them too). Twitter: @jottevanger

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

To Leuven (expenses paid), but who will pay for EDL?

Tomorrow sees EDL's working group 1 meeting at the Katholieke Universiteit in Leuven, not far from Brussels. Quite exciting to be visiting, albeit fleetingly, a place that played host to Matsys, Bouts, Erasmus and Vesalius, amongst others (not to mention, apparently, the infamous AQ Khan). I'm looking forward to attending, though with no expectation of being able to contribute a lot since this group covers different ground to the one I've worked with up till now. I'm not even sure if I'm part of the group or simply in attendance. Anyway, the meeting will look at progress with Europeana so far, and consider the business issues facing it, particularly how to move to phase 2 (i.e. following the prototype, to be launched in November) and how to build a sustainable future. Working my way through 100-odd pages of reading matter in preparation for the meeting, I'm struck by how big a challenge it will be to find the necessary ongoing resources, but also the fact that they are tackling the problem head-on and examining a wide variety of options, from direct subsidy, through subscription by contributors or users, to corporate partnership or sponsorship.

A significant factor in the search for revenue-raising avenues is the fact that Europeana is not going to be a content owner in any significant way, but rather a broker/facilitator for accessing content owned by others. One possibility that I believe it could be worth exploring for two reasons is some form of partnership with a search provider. Yahoo! may be a bit too distracted to talk at the moment, but along with Google could be productive partners. Both sides could benefit by working on an interface and aligning their data structures, and EDL could perhaps offer quite a bit to such a partner in terms of preferential access to the semantically enriched data it will hold. This might be directly to do with searching the resources in EDL, or it might be, say, helping to clean up datasets of people and places. In exchange, maybe either some cash or technological assistance? Perhaps some of the semantic-y startups currently taking wing could also be interesting to work with, but they won't be as well resourced. Cultural heritage organisations have a lot of knowledge and context to offer here so maybe there's a business model to be had.

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