Over the last decade, art galleries, libraries, archives and museums from around the world have increasingly discovered the potential of crowdsourcing for describing and indexing heritage collections. What has been missing so far is a clear model to determine the types and methods of crowdsourcing needed for different purposes. This model is necessary as crowdsourcing will be of ongoing importance within the workflow of heritage institutions. The University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam City Archives and Picturae are going to develop such a model in the MOCCA project (Modeling Crowdsourcing for Cultural Heritage).
The term is used in this context to indicate that heritage institutions mobilise the 'crowd', i.e. the general public, to collect, describe and manage heritage collections. This is done through online platforms where people can make a particular contribution, such as www.VeleHanden.nl. There are currently many types of crowdsourcing, such as correction, contextualization, collecting, selecting, classifying, common management and financing. Crowdsourcing can also be open, semi-structured or structured. This is because crowdsourcing can have varying purposes (outsourcing labour-intensive work, increasing involvement or funding projects) and often has specific requirements and demands.
The MOCCA project – a partnership between the Centre for Cultural Heritage and Identity of the University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam City Archives and Picturae - aims to develop a model for crowdsourcing within the cultural heritage sector. The project is funded by the Centre for Digital Humanities and the Creative Industry Research Centre Amsterdam, of the University of Amsterdam. Despite numerous experiments in this area, there is still no useful model. Using this model, the Amsterdam City Archives and other heritage institutions will more easily be able to determine which form of crowdsourcing can most effectively be applied for the purposes of the institution. The model will ensure that the technical infrastructure that Picturae and other creative entrepreneurs offer for crowdsourcing projects, is consistent with the conditions and requirements.
Furthermore, the model will be a necessary, empirically based contribution to the academic debate over the impact of crowdsourcing on the status of cultural heritage institutions as centres of knowledge. This debate has hitherto been largely theoretical and ideological in nature; proponents of the democratisation of traditional knowledge institutes have crossed swords with fervent opponents who fear the total decay of expertise. MOCCA will provide balanced, realistic and empirically based research to evaluate the role of crowdsourcing in the cultural heritage sector, so allowing a better understanding of the future of centres of knowledge and expertise in the digital age.
Save a Portrait (Red een Portret) and the Maria Austria Institute
The model will be developed on the basis of an analysis of the purpose, organisation, infrastructure, and results of two crowdsourcing projects. At this moment, the Amsterdam City Archives and Picturae are working together with two relevant crowdsourcing projects: Save a Portrait project, in which volunteers are asked to describe and identify portraits from Jacob Merkelbach's photograph collection, or to donate an amount of money, and the tagging (identification) project for the Maria Austria Institute's photo collection.
More information about this project may be found on the University of Amsterdam website.