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Open Culture

The power of open culture

At Creative Commons, we truly believe in the power of open access to cultural heritage. This type of better sharing helps build and sustain vibrant and thriving societies.

Galleries, libraries, archives, and museums (GLAMs) have been the gate openers to the world’s cultural heritage for centuries, and play a fundamental role for the communities that they serve. They provide resources and services for enjoyment, education, research, and the advancement of knowledge, and stimulate creativity and innovation in the service of global sustainable development. By making their collections as openly accessible, shareable, and reusable as possible by the public — both on-site and online — they empower people, generation after generation, in offering them the scientific, historical, and socio-cultural resources to build a future for themselves and their communities.

The list of GLAMs with open access programs gets longer every day. However, those programs don’t just happen. They build on the experience of pioneering GLAMs that set the trend in the early days of the open movement. Unfortunately, today still, GLAMs face many barriers in trying to make their collections openly accessible online. Creative Commons strives to support GLAMs in overcoming these barriers to achieve better sharing of cultural heritage.

Why use the term “open culture”?

Over the past decade, the open movement has gained incredible momentum in the cultural heritage sector, accelerated notably by the creation of the CC Public Domain Mark and the publication of The Problem of the Yellow Milkmaid. This has led to the emergence of “open GLAM,” a movement for galleries, libraries, archives and museums that promotes open access, sharing and reuse of the collections of cultural heritage institutions in the digital environment. At CC we prefer the term “open culture” over “open GLAM,” but we still often use the acronym GLAM to collectively refer to cultural heritage institutions. 

There are three main reasons behind our use of “open culture.” First, open culture is more readily understandable, as it does not include an acronym that may be unfamiliar to many. Second, it is broader in scope as it envisions open sharing of cultural heritage as a participatory experience in a system that includes GLAMs but also their users, their communities, commercial entities and non-profit sector institutions, as well as society as a whole. Third, open culture encapsulates the synergies between culture as heritage and as contemporary creativity. Open culture’s most exciting potential is to empower creators anywhere in the world to discover, share, reuse and remix cultural heritage. We see open culture as a catalyst for the dissemination and revitalization of culture, a spark for the creation of new cultural expressions and experiences, and an engine for sustainable cultural, economic and social development, where culture as a public good takes center stage. 

CC Open Culture Program

Thanks to the generosity of Arcadia, Creative Commons runs the CC Open Culture Program to support the development of a thriving open culture ecosystem among cultural heritage institutions and their users. Informed by our 2021-2025 strategy and 20th anniversary campaign to ensure better sharing of knowledge and culture (i.e. sharing that is contextual, ethical, inclusive, sustainable, purposeful and prosocial) and in line with our organization’s values of informed intention, global inclusivity, and agile leadership, our program is made up of four key components.

Policy

We take part in activities to reform policy to enable cultural heritage institutions to fulfill their legitimate and public interest missions. This includes continuing to advocate for strong copyright exceptions and limitation; stating the importance of keeping non-original reproductions of public domain works in the public domain; encouraging a purposeful policy discourse celebrating open culture as a positive affirmation of the importance of open access and sharing of cultural materials to the fullest extent possible; and engaging in conversations on the respectful and ethical use of culturally-sensitive materials.

In 2022 we released the Creative Commons Open Culture Policy Guide which suggests 5 key actions that policymakers can take to enable better sharing, and the Creative Commons Open Culture Policy Paper which gives an overview of the copyright-related issues facing cultural heritage institutions and their users. Both are available on our resources page.

Infrastructure

We play our part as stewards of the CC licenses and tools, in particular, the Public Domain Mark and Public Domain Dedication Tool, and strive to ensure they function properly in the cultural heritage sector. Our Needs Assessment Report on Public Domain Tools in Cultural Heritage Sector (2023) offers key insights into the unique needs and challenges of the cultural heritage community with regard to our public domain tools.

Capacity building

We support the transformation of cultural heritage institutions by offering training for GLAM professionals who want to engage with open access through the GLAM/Open Culture Certificate, as well as other training and consulting opportunities tailored to their needs.

We work with GLAMs and other cultural organizations to bring Creative Commons licenses into their infrastructure to manage their materials and make them more widely available.

Creative Commons & Cultural Heritage by Jane Park

Community engagement

We empower and contribute to building the Open Culture community and the Open GLAM movement. Discover the Open Culture Platform and join a network of dynamic GLAM practitioners and experts from all over the world (membership form and mailing list). We hold monthly meetings to share ideas, challenges and experiences and collaborate on activities to promote open access to cultural heritage globally. We also support the OpenGLAM Initiative, a community-driven project.

Get in touch

Want to know more about our activities and those of the Open Culture community? Join the Creative Commons Open Culture Platform by filling out our membership form. Sign up for our Open Culture Matters newsletter to get regular updates about our work and related news and events.

For questions and requests, contact Brigitte Vézina, Director of Policy, Open Culture and GLAM, and/or Jocelyn Miyara, Open Culture Manager, at info@creativecommons.org.