In this interview, we were delighted to speak with Revekka Kefalea, a graduate of the CC Certificate for GLAM (galleries, libraries, archives and museums).
Revekka works as project manager at the civic, non-profit organization Inter Alia (Athens, Greece), conceptualizing, managing and monitoring the implementation of projects in relation to arts, (digital) cultural heritage, open access and civic engagement. She holds a BSc in Social Policy and Social Anthropology (Panteion University), a MSc in Urban and Regional Planning (National Technical University of Athens), and a MSc in Political Science and Sociology (National and Kapodistrian University of Athens). She is also certified in cultural management and social entrepreneurship, and closely follows the GLAM sector and its transformations, since her research interests focus on nationalism, material culture, cultural heritage, identity and memory politics. Here is the Q&A:
What inspired you to take the CC Certificate for GLAM?
I decided to take the CC Certificate for GLAM almost two years ago, when it was first announced on the CC website — that is when I started saving money for it. At that time, I was writing my Master’s thesis on the history of access to national museums, in light of the mass digitization projects of cultural heritage and the Open GLAM movement. But the story about my sources of inspiration and motivation goes way back in time.
It was around 2008-9 when I discovered the term “open access”, while involved in a research project (at a public university in Athens, Greece), and while mass digitization projects of cultural heritage were gaining momentum. Of course, I benefited from this development, because I was able to find materials necessary for my research in digital libraries and collections easily and for free. Everything was just one click away! At this time, Greece was facing a debt crisis in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2007–2008; and there were major funding cuts to the public sector, including the funding of public universities and libraries. This situation got me thinking: Would I be able to continue my research without the existence of these mass digitization projects and open access, digital collections and libraries? Would I be able to afford it? And what about other people with lower income than mine? How could they equally get access to education and knowledge resources to overcome the inequalities and obstacles posed by the crisis?
Being in this situation and triggered by these questions, I started exploring the open culture / open GLAM movement more closely. In December 2018, I decided to launch a non-formal, self-funded initiative (GLAM Hack) to spread the word about the research, educational and creative possibilities of open access via workshops and other events. You can read more about the work on the blog post.
In this effort, I reached out to the founders of Inter Alia for support and feedback, and they proposed to hire me, providing me the opportunity, on the one hand, to go on with my initiative autonomously, and on the other, to advocate for open access within the context of Inter Alia’s projects. This development was very rewarding, but also very challenging for me, because advocating for open access requires knowledge about copyright law and CC licenses, as well as considering various economical, ethical, and social-political issues that arise when digitizing and opening access to cultural heritage materials online. I had to read a lot about these topics on my own; and, at some point, I realized that I need to systematize my knowledge to articulate stronger arguments (and especially, arguments beyond the legal aspects of digital access). This is when the CC Certificate came to my attention. The timing was just perfect!
“Would I be able to continue my research without the existence of these mass digitization projects and open access, digital collections and libraries? Would I be able to afford it? And what about other people with lower income than mine? How could they equally get access to education and knowledge resources to overcome the inequalities and obstacles posed by the crisis?”
Tell us more about your current project and any challenges or early successes you’ve experienced:
Currently, I am involved in the Creative Europe project ECHO II: Traditions in Transition, advocating for its open access policy. Within its context, we invited artists to participate in five art residencies, and create original artworks inspired by selected local traditions from Greece, Bulgaria, North Macedonia, and Hungary. After each art residency, we digitized the artworks, and published the digital copies on the website under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license. Of course, we went through all the legal formalities to do so; and given the complexities of copyright laws and the (mis)understandings around CC licenses, that was a very demanding task for us. But we managed to go through this, because opening access to the project outcomes was our clear goal from the very beginning, and we were transparent about it along the way – we even included a specific section about it in all our open calls for artists.
Apart from publishing the digital collection of artworks openly, we went a step further, and included a section on the website (“Locations | Traditions” webpages) with information about the selected traditions, and illustrations from open access repositories and cultural heritage aggregation platforms. We did so, because we didn’t want to create just another project website that would showcase only its progress and outcomes, but a knowledge base that would be useful for and used by wider communities for any purpose. However, if you explore this section, you will find out that the “Locations | Traditions” webpages are unequally developed and illustrated. Due to language barriers — and also due to the restrictions resulting from COVID-19 — we had to rely heavily on open access digital platforms, and especially on resources and content with rich metadata in English. Of course, we consider this unequal representation of the selected traditions a problem. Personally, I think it is an indicator of the unequal development of mass digitization and open access to cultural heritage in European countries. But it is also something that highlights, on the one hand, the importance of rich, multilingual metadata, and on the other, the importance of open access to GLAMs, not only for research and education, but also for the creative and civil society sectors.
“Advocating for open access requires knowledge about copyright law and CC licenses, as well as considering various economical, ethical, and social-political issues that arise when digitizing and opening access to cultural heritage materials online.”
What do you aim to do next?
Inspired by the CC Certificate resources, the CC Toolkit for Business, and the publications Made with Creative Commons and The Power of Open, I prepared and just offered (in the context of the ECHO II project) a pilot workshop on (a) the history of copyright and CC licenses, and (b) open business models for artists, heritage professionals, cultural managers, and open culture / open GLAM activists. I would like to enrich the content of this workshop and offer it again in the near future, taking into consideration the developments in the so-called platform economy.
More broadly: if you had to guess, what is next for the open culture / open GLAM movement? What should we be looking for in the future?
Hm… This question is really difficult to answer, because we (need to) work simultaneously on many levels and towards various directions… Every aspect is equally important… In any case, based on my educational background, work experiences and research interests, I can suggest the following two issues:
- The current discussions around digitizing and opening access to cultural heritage collections online stress the economic costs and risks that GLAMs (need to) take into consideration before adopting their own approaches and policies. Of course, economic resources play a fundamental role in these processes, and hence, GLAMs need to have funding for them. However, public and private funding varies greatly across institutions, national states, and even fiscal years (since it is tied to the general state of the economy, and usually is least available when it is most needed). But maybe, we can look at the situation from the reverse point of view, and -from the existence or lack of financial resources- we can draw conclusions about the role, status and importance of GLAM institutions in national cultural policies, histories and identities. I think that such an approach would help us, on the one hand, to explore the power relations and dynamics existing in the GLAM sector, along with the ideological, and socio-historical factors that (re)produce them; and on the other, to draw a more complete picture of the various influences in GLAMs’ processes and practices. In this light, present-day challenges might appear less puzzling and easier to overcome.
- In the open culture / open GLAM movement, we usually highlight the benefits of open access for societies in general and GLAM audiences in particular (e.g. production of new knowledge, enhancement of creativity, generation of new business ideas, etc.), but we rarely discuss the premises for the audiences to be able to reuse and remix open content for their own purposes (research, education, entertainment, entrepreneurship, etc.). If the ultimate goal of open access is to encourage and ensure everyone’s active and equal participation in the transformation of knowledge and culture, then every reuser -apart from internet/web access- needs to have advanced digital skills and to be knowledgeable in many fields (e.g. research methodologies, classification systems, copyright laws, codes of ethics, social and cultural norms, programming etc.) to be able to do so. From the standpoint of a reuser, it seems to me that digital cultural heritage collections and aggregation platforms (including their creative functionalities) tend to be designed with an ideal internet user in mind, who is supposed to already have all the necessary knowledge and skills. However, this is rarely the case; and hence, along with building the capacities of GLAM institutions and professionals, we also need to respond to the audiences’ needs. And in this effort, apart from offering educational activities and helping GLAMs open their collections, we also need to encourage them to explain and open their internal processes and practices.
“From the standpoint of a reuser, it seems to me that digital cultural heritage collections and aggregation platforms (including their creative functionalities) tend to be designed with an ideal internet user in mind, who is supposed to already have all the necessary knowledge and skills. However, this is rarely the case.”
Thank you so much for your time with us, Revekka! Before we go, do you have any advice for open culture advocates?
Well, I can say what I repeatedly say to myself:
- Opening access to knowledge and culture is a never-ending process for various reasons — first and foremost, because collecting and preserving knowledge and heritage materials for the present and future generations is a never-ending process itself. So, don’t get discouraged and don’t give up; be persistent and patient at the same time.
- No one can be fully aware of all the issues that need to be considered when advocating for open access. Fortunately, though, the members of the open community are experts in a wide variety of topics, and, due to their mentality and values, they are always willing to share their knowledge and expertise. So, don’t be shy; just reach out and ask for help.
We celebrate Revekka’s excellent work, and we want to celebrate more of our CC Certificate alumni’s work! If you have a story about something you’ve tried or an open project you’ve accomplished at your institution, please let us know (email firstname.lastname@example.org).