Scientists, particularly those associated with natural history museums and botanical gardens, collectively hold large number of multimedia data like pictures, sounds, movies, about specimens in their collections. This multimedia content is held in different kinds of databases and therefore is only available to those few people who can gain direct access to the databases. The attractive multimedia is thus effectively withheld from use for a wide range of scientific applications, which includes research, education, taxonomic study, biodiversity conservation, protected area management, and maintenance of diverse ecosystem services.
The OpenUp! project was launched to provide multimedia content with specific biological and multilingual functionality to a wide European cultural audience via the Europeana portal. The inclusion of culturally-significant multimedia content from European natural history collections (i.e. billions of pictures, artwork, movies, and audio files) widely enhances the scientific dimension of Europeana by adding substantial information about the natural world, complemented by digital biodiversity literature, to the existing material, predominantly from the arts and humanities.
OpenUp! started in the EC Best Practice Network, co-funded by the European Commission under the eContentplus programme. Therefore, the interoperability of existing repositories and the implementation of technological solutions for uploading, search and long-term sustainability of the digitized multimedia objects was one of the goals of the project. This was realized by the end of the project, when the OpenUp! Network was founded to maintain the established pipeline for multimedia content to the Europeana platform.
The OpenUp! Network is a consortium of 30 partners from significant European Natural History Institutions, Botanical Gardens etc. Since 2011, OpenUp! has developed a workflow and established a sustainable pipeline for multimedia content from distributed natural history collections to the Europeana platform as a single access point. Currently, over 3.2 M high quality images, movies, animal sound files from the natural history domain have been published. The incorporation of multilingual metadata, in particular common names of organisms, provided in 250 languages, helps to find and identify scientific objects by non-scientific users. The data of all OpenUp! partners are interoperable not only with Europeana but also among the different partner institutions in a cross-domain web-based framework with semantic enrichments.
There is an increasing demand for digitized multimedia objects from natural history, that is fueled by needs largely from science and education, including multiple disciplines from the biological sciences (e.g. taxonomy, biogeography, evolutionary biology, ecology), geosciences (e.g. palaeontology), but also humanities (cultural history, history of science).
Many initiatives greatly benefit from the availability of scientifically validated, object-based media, e.g. for helping to identify indicator species used in monitoring and for training participants to be involved in those activities. Access to multimedia data held in natural history museums can support monitoring programs for nature conservation. Significant parts of monitoring programs are currently carried out by amateur biologists. Direct access to the voucher material helps to increase the skills in determining biological objects during field work.
As a result, OpenUp!/Europeana is providing scientists, policy makers as well as the general public with a substantial information source needed in the understanding of global biodiversity, building public engagement and participation, raising awareness of important challenges like climate change or loss of biodiversity. The procedures set in place to make natural history data accessible can serve as proof of concept of the networking and distributed access mechanisms used for Europeana content provision for other content provider communities with a similar high degree of distribution.
The OpenUp! Network offers:
• Technical support
for the aggregation process (e.g. mapping between Community and Europeana data standards, enrichment of metadata towards compliance with Europeana standards), powered by AIT Graz
• Helpdesk located at BGBM Berlin
• Data enrichment at the source
o Incorporation of multilingual metadata, in particular common names of organisms provided by NHM Vienna,
o addition of digital biodiversity literature provided by BHL,
o geo-referenced information
• Guidance on licensing for multimedia content for participating data providers