What do the Museu Picasso, Europeana and cultural hackers have in common?

That’s easy: the philosophy of making content and tools available to users. The Museu Picasso has a collection and the aim of extending knowledge and enjoyment of it to the greatest possible number of users. The Europeana internet portal, which currently offers access to some 19 million cultural objects, has the same aim as the Museum. The expert developers have the skills and the talent to make the data ‘play’ and extract open applications that are made accessible to the public.

This happy triangulation has proved an ideal culture medium, helping make the Hackathon event in Barcelona and the prototypes it featured such a success. Invited by Europeana, programmers from Catalonia, the rest of Spain, France, Italy and The Netherlands worked intensely over a day and a half to create a total of 17 projects. The venue? The future library of the Museu Picasso’s new Centre for Knowledge and Research, a bright and spacious facility with a great window looking onto Plaça Jaume Sabartés — a perfect setting for exploring and creating knowledge.

Photo: Kippelboy, CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The topics around which Europeana invited programmers to develop applications included, among others:

Going Mobile: applications for bringing Europeana to mobile devices

Multilingual: applications that facilitate mashups to provide translations or create multilingual tags for Europeana metadata

Going Social: applications for bringing Europeana metadata to the social networks

Data Visualization: combining data to present the different types of content on Europeana

The effort did not go unrewarded. There were prizes decided by a jury for the best application in three categories and a fourth prize voted for by the participants themselves. Here are the winning projects:

Innovation: this prize was shared by two projects: ‘Colour Art Bits’ (by Sergio Manuel  Galán and Victor Manuel Díaz), an application that analyses the basic palette of colours used by artists throughout their careers, and ‘Colour Chronology’ (by Bert Balcaen), which brings up the roster of works by each artist, arranged by year, in a very graphic form.

Commercial Potential: ‘Europeana Layer App’ (by David A. Lareo) is a mobile app that combines geolocation with the Europeana databases to display artworks and other cultural content via the smartphone camera, with an augmented reality system.

Social Impact: the ‘Timebook’ project (by Luca Chiarandini and Eduardo Graells) is a kind of Facebook for historical figures. The app integrates Europeana and DBpedia content and shows it in Facebook format. ‘Timebook’ lets us know whom a given personage would have known or influenced, and their wall has actual quotes, taken from WikiQuote. This same application also won the prize awarded by the participants and was selected by Europeana as the Barcelona project to go on to the Digital Agenda Assembly awards in Brussels.

Luca Chiarandini and Eduardo Graells in the Museu Picasso receiving the prize for their prototype ‘Timebook’, judged the best application in the Social Impact category. Photo: Anna Guarro

What are the immediate benefits of all this for Europeana / Museu Picasso / the developers? Well, I can think of at least one key idea for each:

1. Diffusion – Europeana: Europeana will have gained an increased public awareness of its digitalized cultural heritage. Thanks to its dissemination on the networks, especially Twitter (#hack4europe) and blogs, as well as the coverage in the media, a lot of people — museum professionals among them — will have discovered a rich mine of heritage material. It is even possible that it may prompt institutions such as libraries, museums and archives to think about incorporating their data into Europeana.

2. Digital strategy – Museu Picasso: The Museum is increasingly establishing itself as a dynamic agent of innovation and digital strategies in the social sphere, a mission that began with the redesigning and expansion of web services, experienced natural growth on the social media and continues with our involvement with Wikipedia — the definitive free knowledge network — and our local strategies. As our director, Pepe Sierra, says: ‘Digital initiatives are not an option anymore, they’re Museum Strategy. Museums and cultural institutions should enhance our collections online, based on the highest academic rigour but with a universal vocation, trying to reach the maximum number of people.’

3. Networking (and fun) – developers: The programmers were invited to do what they do best, the thing that is really exciting for them. They also got to know other developers and their projects, and obtained well-deserved recognition for their work.

The data are there; what’s wanted is access to them (open data, open source, free apps). Imagination and expertise are needed to create new connections, provide new tools and generate new knowledge.

Conxa Rodà
Project Management

Related links:

More images: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Hack4Europe_Barcelona

Outcomes of Hack4Europe by David Haskiya

Other articles:

Hack4europe! by Milena Popova

Reviews of the other threeHackathons held simultaneously around Europe:

In Stockholm: Hack the cultural heritage! Hack4Europe in Sweden by Åke Nygren

In Poznan: Hack4Europe! 2011 in Pozna?: prizes were granted! by Kinga Jurga

In London: Hack4Europe London, by your oEmbedded reporter, a very personal vision from Jeremy Ottevanger

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