OPERAS has signed the “Passenger Pigeon Manifesto”

Passenger Pigeon ManifestoOPERAS supports the “Passenger Pigeon Manifesto,” a call to public galleries, libraries, archives, and museums to liberate cultural heritage. The web version is available at https://ppmanifesto.hcommons.org/.

The OPERAS Executive Assembly has decided to support the manifesto during its meeting on 10 September 2020. OPERAS acknowledges the importance of authors to use images, often restricted by licenses, in Open Access publications. While the licensing of images is not OPERAS’ main area of activity, we see a strong need to remove restrictive licenses, which often hinder Open Access publications.

As an art historian, it is quite important for me to show the images which I’m analyzing in my publication. If I can’t publish these images in my Open Access book or have to pay exuberant high fees for them, this could persuade me to not go for an Open Access publication – even I would prefer to publish Open Access. For my book “Der Vietnamkrieg im Fotoessay. Larry Burrows zwischen Propaganda und kritischer Kriegsfotografie” (https://doi.org/10.11588/arthistoricum.514) I couldn’t publish the magazine-pages that I had analyzed as the rights to publish them online were only sold for seven years. I therefore decided to only add a link-list to online copies of them with lower resolution. This means the quality of the Open Access publication is inevitably lower, which lowers the reputation of my publication in a scientific environment.

says Dr. Judith Schulte, Digital Humanities Officer at Max Weber Stiftung and OPERAS Communication Officer

The manifesto’s main calls to action are:

  • Cultural institutions should reflect on and rethink their roles in relation to access.
  • Physical preservation is not enough.
  • Beyond preservation and providing access, institutions need to communicate the existence and content of their collections, our cultural heritage.
  • Publicly funded institutions must not be transformed by the market logic of neoliberalism.
  • Liberate and upload all digitised photographs and artworks that are in the public domain or whose copyrights are owned by public institutions.
  • All collections should be searchable and accessible in an international, digital photo repository.

Historical photos are kept by archives, libraries, museums and other cultural institutions. Preservation, which is the goal of cultural institutions, means ensuring not only the existence of but the access to historical materials. It is the opposite of owning: it’s sustainable sharing. Similarly, conservation is not capturing and caging but ensuring the conditions and freedom to live.

Even though most of our tangible cultural heritage has not been digitised yet, a process greatly hindered by the lack of resources for professionals, we could already have much to look at online. In reality, a significant portion of already digitised historical photos is not available freely to the public – despite being in the public domain. We might be able to see thumbnails or medium sized previews scattered throughout numerous online catalogs but most of the time we don’t get to see them in full quality and detail. In general, they are hidden, the memory of their existence slowly going extinct.

The knowledge and efforts of these institutions are crucial in tending our cultural landscape but they cannot become prisons to our history. Instead of claiming ownership, their task is to provide unrestricted access and free use. Cultural heritage should not be accessible only for those who can afford paying for it.

From: “Passenger Pigeon Manifesto,” https://ppmanifesto.hcommons.org/

Elisabeth Ernst

Digital Humanities Officer at Max Weber Stiftung (MWS) and Communication Officer for OPERAS

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1 Response

  1. 14/09/2020

    […] OPERAS Signs the “Passenger Pigeon Manifesto” to Liberate Cutural Heritage […]

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