Amsterdam & Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision (Netherlands)
Museums benefit from fostering a ‘culture of innovation’ – as a way to effectively manage ever-changing expectations of user groups, and at the same time make the most of new opportunities offered by technology. The fundamental challenge is how to achieve the public missions, i.e. supporting a myriad of users to utilize heritage collections so that they can actively learn, experience and create. As Douglas Rushkoff notes “It’s not about how digital technology changes us, but how we change ourselves and one another now that we live so digitally”. For this, it is essential for museums to have access to technical infrastructure that allows not only to manage digital assets but also to “pursue contemporary objectives”. For instance, using new channels for content distribution, (e.g. YouTube, Instagram) to engage with new user groups; or using technologies (e.g. linked open data, NLP) to enrich and optimize work processes; or allow for creative ways to access collections. In this paper, we propose how innovation is fostered by introducing the concept of ‘two-speed IT’ and the organisational structure to realise it for heritage organizations.
Our illustrative use case is the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision – a leading audiovisual archive with a growing fully digitized collection of 1.9 million objects (ranging from film, television and radio broadcasts, music recordings and web videos) and a museum that attracts ~250.000 visitors annually. Born-digital assets are ingested in a state-of-the-art digital repository and accessible online and in the museum. Sound and Vision has ensured the successful transition to the digital domain after completing a seven year, 90 million Euro programme to digitise its analogue assets. As integral part of the transition, a new mission statement, a new strategic plan and a new organisational structure were defined and implemented. A guiding principle was the conviction that the success of memory organisations lies in their ability to make the notions of ‘smart’, ‘connected’ and ‘open’ integral part of their strategies.
In redesigning its organisational structure, Sound and Vision adopted ‘two-speed IT’; a strategy that accommodates two tracks simultaneously a ‘slow’ foundational and a ‘fast’ innovative tracks. In the case of Sound and Vision, an off-the shelf asset management system forms the foundation, next to a more agile layer of tailor made solutions for distinct functionalities, notably open source search and automatic metadata extraction. This is the layer where output of research can be implemented in production workflows. Following this strategy, in 2014, Sound and Vision successfully deployed speaker labelling. In 2015 technology to extract names of people, places, events and organisations from subtitle files was also implemented. In both cases, spin off companies from Universities are playing an important role. At present, plans are underway for a major revision of the access strategy. Using the off-the-shelf asset management system as backend, three distinct access scenarios will be supported (1) providing unified access to the collections (2) present the collections in on-line and on-site exhibits (3) access to ‘open’ collections though API’s. This will be the ultimate test case for the ‘two-speed IT’ approach as it impacts multiple departments and requires significant investments in the supporting infrastructure.
This paper highlights the rationale behind the two-speed IT strategy, its implementation and and the main lessons learned that will help other museums and memory organisations to think about creating and maintaining the technical prerequisites to flourish in an online networked environment.
Johan Oomen is head of the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision R&D Department (20 FTE) and researcher at the Web and Media group of the VU University Amsterdam. He is elected board member of the Europeana Association, of the EUscreen Foundation and of CLICKNL, the innovation catalyst for the Dutch Creative Industries. He is the director of the PrestoCentre Foundation. Oomen and his group are working on research projects (Horizon 2020, ICT-PSP, national) that focus on providing durable access to digital heritage on the Web. Oomen holds an BA in Information Science and an MA in Media Studies. His PhD research focusses on the relation between participatory culture and institutional policy. He has worked for the British Universities Film and Video Council and commercial broadcaster RTL Nederlands and has talked at high profile events in six continents.