Monday, 20th April 2009
Resource of the Week: Europeana
Resource of the Week: Europeana
By Adrian Janes, UK Contributing Editor
Europeana is an ambitious collaborative project between European archives, libraries and museums. First launched in November 2008, the initial interest was so great that it overwhelmed the site. The current version is described as a prototype, with the full-scale launch now expected in 2010. But even at this stage, it is a most interesting resource, claiming currently to provide access to four million digital items but anticipating this to have grown to 10 million by next year.
The types of items collected in Europeana are in the broad categories of Text, Images, Video, and Sound. Text, for instance, may include books, articles and music scores. However, although the site can be searched in a preferred language (26 in all), it is important to note that all items are presented as originally created (e.g., a Hungarian text will remain in Hungarian). From that point of view, the most international aspect of the site is the range of images, such as paintings, photographs and maps, and access to some music recordings. Similarly the site spans the centuries, with artists like Giotto, Watteau and Picasso, and composers like Mozart and Debussy among those represented.
All items are thoroughly catalogued, which helps make for productive searches. However some contributing organisations are more generous in the access they allow than others. The British Library's images can be freely viewed at a good size, whereas those provided by Scran, a Scottish source, are only thumbnails: anything more requires a licence.
Basic searching can be refined by Language, Country, Date, Provider or Type, or a combination of these. There is also an Advanced Search facility which allows the site to be investigated in other modes, namely by Title, Creator, Date, or Subject. Again, the fields can be combined. But it would be a mistake to assume that searching by an artist's country will necessarily produce the best results. The items provided by French sources tend to be the most relevant and plentiful, at least at the moment. Apart from the richness of their collections, this may be explained by the greater progress achieved in digitisation by some countries and their institutions compared to others.
By clicking on "View in original context" (displayed beneath any selected result), you are taken to the originating website -- a way of opening up the possibilities of discovery beyond Europeana, although facilitated by it. Complimenting this, a very useful gateway page brings together links to all of the websites of Partners and Contributors of content.
There are also customisation possibilities available to registered users, such as the ability to save particular searches, add tags, or share items.
The subtitle to Europeana is "Think culture," and its strength lies in its vast range of historical and artistic materials. As the project develops, this can only become even more the case. It is certainly a real collaborative achievement, but would be even more useful if the amount of access granted to items by the contributors was equalised. Nevertheless, this collaboration amongst such a diversity of institutions, languages, and countries is both heartening in itself, and also suggests exciting possibilities for parallel projects in other areas of European expertise, like science or medicine.
+ European Online Library Launches
+ EuropeanaLocal to expand participation in European Digital Library
+ New Portal from from the European Digital Library: Europeana Demo Goes Live