Sharing is Caring 2017: Digitisation and Social Impact?
14. February 2018
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Sharing is Caring is a conference that was first held in 2011 in Denmark. Initiated by Merete Sanderhoff, Curator and senior advisor of digital museum practice at Statens Museum for Kunst (SMK), it focuses on challenges and potentials of digitizing cultural heritage. Targeted mainly at the GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives and museums) community, the aim is to show a pathway to digitizing without creating further copyright, to discuss success stories of engagement with the public and to inspire institutions small or big to start their own journey of becoming an openGLAM. Open GLAMs provide free access to their digitized collections.
After Extensions in Brussels and in Hamburg, the latter organised by the Institute of European Ethnology / Cultural Anthropology in cooperation with the Museum fr Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg (MKG), Sharing is Caring 2017 took place in Aarhus in November. Held at Den Gamle By and Aros Museum, two days of inspiration and networking awaited the guests. This edition focused on the social impact of digitizing cultural heritage and offered speeches and workshop aimed at motivating and enabling GLAMs to assess the impact of their institutions work, but also at critically discussing, what the goals and the desired impact should and could be. The tenor of the conference: focus on the people you wish to serve, not on the material you wish to preserve.

An element offering lots of inspiration was the ignite session. Different projects had the opportunity to be presented to the public. The Institute for European Ethnology/Cultural Anthropology was among them. Ragna Quellmann and Olivia Stracke introduced the Young Heritage Studio. You can find out more about this project here: digilab-culture.de

Participating in the Sharing is Caring conference as part of the seminar ECHY. From Cultural Heritage to open cultural data by Professor Dr. Gertraud Koch at the Institute of European Ethnology / Cultural Anthropology has been a profitable experience in two perspectives: On a personal level as well as on a scientific one.
On the one hand, the conference offered inspiring cultural anthropological insights into the field of cultural heritage institutions and projects in the realm of digitisation. This field is coined by a rather low public attention and resource scarcity, above all concerning finance and staff. During the conference, we were able to observe how the participants tried to motivate, praise and reassure each other. To understand the talks and process of the conference, one has to know that the leaders and participants belong to a strong network with high interdependencies. Many institutions cooperate on a long-term basis, some people are holding positions in different institutions or projects and influence the field and its power relations.
On the other hand, it was exciting to actually get to know people whom we had only known through their publishings and listen to their talks. Furthermore, we could exchange ideas and opinions with people sharing the same interests as us – and get inspired by proficient speakers who gave us ideas on how to create more vivid presentations. Also the conference venue, the open-air Museum Den Gamle By, offered many possibilities to learn more about the history of Aarhus until the recent past.

This year, the conference was dedicated to the impact of institutions and projects. On the one hand, the institutions themselves have an interest to know if and how their projects and means are having an impact on society. On the other hand, you have to consider the financial support that states and also organisations such as the EU are giving to cultural heritage institutions. They exert pressure to evaluate the concrete outcome of such projects. Nevertheless, the participants and speakers rejected a quantitatively oriented measurement of the influence of cultural heritage projects on society and supposed an evaluation based on qualitative methods. Unfortunately, the suggestions remained rather vague and showed few assessments on how impact could be defined, categorised and measured.

The second conference day was dedicated to two workshop sessions and took place at Aros Museum. Having taken part in the workshops offered by Tim Sheratt and Rob Stein, the main takeaway was that you do not have to know how to code in order to do some cool cultural heritage hacks.

All in all, the excursion offered a lot of inspiration for the seminar ECHY. From Cultural Heritage to open cultural data by Professor Dr. Gertraud Koch and we were able to practice and apply the perspective of Critical Heritage Studies. For the Young Heritage Studio, participating in the Sharing is Caring 2017 conference has been most fruitful. The feedback we got from practitioners of the GLAM community is a valuable perspective for the further design of the project.

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