Cultural heritage institutions such as galleries, libraries, archives and museums have the mission to preserve and disseminate their collections. As part of this mission, many are taking advantage of new technologies, digitizing and putting their collections online to engage with existing and new audiences. The crisis caused by Covid-19 pandemic demonstrated how appropriately sharing records is pivotal to build a global community that is connected and active, even when not physically able to move and meet.
The symposium Is Sharing Always Caring?, organised by EFHA – the European Fashion Heritage Association in collaboration with Creative Commons and with the support of the Onassis Foundation, will explore issues regarding digitised fashion cultural heritage, analysing approaches to making collections available and reusable online while being mindful and respectful of cultural rights, interests and values. The aim is to present some thought-provoking cases and provide museums and other cultural institutions, as well as researchers and practitioners, with some useful tools to make responsible and ethical decisions and develop policies and practices to be able to share and care.
Regarding public domain material, there is growing consensus that their digital reproductions should remain in the public domain and be reusable with no restrictions. Against this backdrop, the Open GLAM initiative promotes the openness of public domain material held in GLAM collections for the benefit of all; Creative Commons licenses and rights statements are becoming the standard in communicating the permissions associated with digitized cultural heritage objects made available online.
However, as copyright expires and such legal barriers to reuse cease to exist, issues appear regarding the provenance and history of the objects and the data – images and information – particularly in the digital realm. The management, creative reuse and communication of digital cultural heritage is a hot topic when it comes to themes as authorship and belonging, and, more generally, cultural appropriation.
Appropriation is a central theme in today’s discussions about material culture, especially in fashion. The appropriation of instances, designs, traditions, symbols and histories is an act performed at many levels of our society, sometimes even unconsciously, embedded in the way the dominant culture has so far managed to assimilate ideas without acknowledging their provenance and original meaning. This is true for objects and artefacts as they are designed and produced, but also when they ‘change their nature’ and become part of museums and private collections.
The freedoms of use associated with public domain materials can at times give way to controversy, especially when the cultural heritage of Indigenous people and local communities” is concerned. Digital accessibility makes it even harder to have control over the interpretation, use and dissemination of information and often increased accessibility rhymes with increased vulnerability. Materials may be completely free for anyone to use under copyright law, but not necessarily where other legal restrictions or ethical considerations apply. This is why it is pivotal now to attribute the right value to fashion heritage, understand how to manage the digital data and respect their cultural meaning.
On the first day, the symposium will focus on open access of digital cultural heritage and the possibilities created when sharing collections online and allowing their reuse, as well as legal and ethical issues related to it. The second day will be a discussion on awareness in dealing with fashion objects linked to particular groups and cultural traditions and the role that cultural heritage professionals play. Both days will see the participation of speakers from fashion, academia, copyright, museums and fashion criticism sectors who will give open lectures on selected topics, and explore further issues in roundtable discussions, engaging both speakers and the audience.
The two-day event is free, and registration is via our dedicated Eventbrite page that contains also the full program.
The symposium is part of Europeana Initiative’s capacity building framework.
European Fashion Heritage Association
The European Fashion Heritage Association was established in 2014, following a successful project co-funded by the European Commission, in which for the first time both public and private archives and museums across Europe gathered together to share online their rich fashion heritage of historical clothing and accessories, contemporary designs, catwalk photographs, drawings, sketches, magazines, catalogues and videos. Since then, the Association has grown attracting more than 40 European fashion institutions, from small private museums to large national institutions, with the objective to unlock and give free access to the unique and vast fashion heritage of Europe. We believe that this growing network we have created will strengthen our understanding of national and international identities and help us in finding a definition of our European identity, unlocking the full potential of sharing our common fashion heritage for creatives, scholars and fashion lovers alike. The Association operates also in the broader landscape of European digital cultural heritage, contributing as fashion thematic aggregator to Europeana, Europe’s platform for digital cultural heritage, empowering cultural heritage institutions to share their collections with the world.
Creative Commons (CC) is the world’s leading non-profit organization that stewards the Creative Commons open copyright licenses and tools, which are free, easy-to-use, simple and standardized tools that enable the worldwide sharing of creative content. CC licenses and tools are the easiest and simplest means to communicate to the public what uses can be made of digital cultural heritage objects and to facilitate wide dissemination of culture. They are becoming the standard for GLAMs that are opening up their collections on the internet, helping navigate some of the challenges posed by copyright law and enabling broad reuse. As part of our leadership role for the OpenGLAM initiative, CC provides guidance on the use by cultural heritage institutions, such as galleries, libraries, archives and museums (GLAMs) of open tools as a way to further their missions of providing access to and enabling use and reuse of their collections by the public. CC helps GLAMs understand and apply our licenses and tools so they can more effectively and clearly share their collections with the commons, notably by offering training courses such as the CC Certificate. CC also develops technology like CC Search that makes openly licensed material, including cultural heritage from several museums and other cultural heritage institutions’ collections, easier to discover and use.
The Onassis Foundation was created in 1975 on the basis of a historical weight, a responsibility, and a desire. The historical weight was and remains the name of its founder, Aristotle Onassis, who in January 1974, in an airplane crossing over the Atlantic, was inspired to write the Foundation’s founding declaration. The responsibility can be condensed into the words “aid, progress, and development,” which Onassis himself carefully chose, noted down, underlined, and passed on as a legacy, the motivating factor underpinning the Foundation’s existence. And the desire was, is, and will remain, the individual. The Foundation’s first and last principle is human nature. Progress, stories, and the individual’s imprint within the greater whole of the city. Words and curiosity – sometimes torturous, sometimes entertaining, but always creative. Thoughts, contradictions, and above all the release of possibilities, of the strengths we each carry within, which develop if properly nurtured. The individual, full of contradictions and adventures, takes shape in an ongoing workshop of actions, interventions, and ideas that begins with the Foundation’s financial self-sufficiency and independence and ends with its three central pillars of activity: Culture, Education, and Health. These are the things a human being needs to truly live – rather than merely to survive.