blog: An eCommons3 Overview

From the opening speaker to the closing panel; the issue of access was promoted as an integral aspect to the archives’ sustainability. The question most posed was how best to utilize digital technologies as a means of reaching a broader public. Professor William Uricchio emphasized the urgency of finding new ways to engage potential users of the online archive: “Without demand, what use is access?”, he asked the audience on the first day. It is a time of transition as cultural heritage institutions seek to use digital tools as both a method of preservation as well as assurance that the contents are available to the public.

The parallel track was mostly technology-oriented, and several speakers presented data on the new tools designed to facilitate easier accessibility and participation in the archive. These included the various processes of creating digital access, the pros and cons of implementing crowdsourcing strategies, and the importance of open culture data. In addition, it was suggested that the archive find ways to stimulate creative reuse, as this would find new archive users as well as bring exposure to the contents of the archive.  Such projects include the Open Images platform and the Celluloid Remix competition, both from the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision.

The hot-button issue of the conference was copyright, a theme that played heavily into many of the presentations and sparked a somewhat-heated debate in the parallel track.  There was almost universal consensus that current copyright legislation has not caught up to the digital age. The challenge of clearing copyrights has prevented archives from placing many of their materials online for use by the general public, as there is potential for legal action against the archive for unintended copyright infringement. The conversation prompted a dispute whether the archive should abide by the current system of rights clearance, and whether this system could allow for mass digitizing of archival holdings. The conference concluded with the idea that the system of copyright today is a hindrance to archive accessibility and as the archive depends on access for its sustainability, copyright could be a risk to the future of the archive.

by Travis Werlen

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