The importance of sharing

This is not a piece on the architect Viljo Revell, although I urge you to look up his works in Helsinki. I’ll come back to this.

No, this is a piece on the importance of sharing, whether it be ideas, care or in this case media. One of the first things we are taught as toddlers is that you need to share toys in order to make things work a bit more smoothly. Later on this transforms into paying taxes, giving someone space in a busy car lane or returning library books on time. Call it a reworked practical golden rule if you will.

The thought of sharing user generated content on the web through licenses such as Creative Commons has started to catch on and there are even talks on how mutually owned content producers could join in (Link in Swedish). Time-Life magazine is another example (sans the CC).  But there are some who are lagging behind when it comes to sharing images, video and even text. I thought I’d mention one.

Both state and private museums are extremely restrictive when it comes to sharing material and it doesn’t help anyone. Their strategy at the moment is to portion out their archives through selected exhibitions and only few have digitized material freely available. Additionally in many places you are not allowed to photograph or shoot video of the exhibited material.

I’ll mention a recent example at the Didrichsen museum in Helsinki. I went to see the Viljo Revell exhibition and as always, I brought my camera. I took a number of photos for about ten minutes until a woman from the staff told me to stop. I asked her why and she said they have a no photographing policy. I again asked why. She said that it has always been that way. I then said that their policy will be their doom and if they wanted to I could come over and give them hints on how to develop a new strategy for free . She looked at me perplexed and that was that.

In light of this I propose three things for both state and private museums:

1. Create an open mutual national portal for all museums, institutions and galleries

2. Start releasing as much archived material as possible under a sharing and mixing encouraged CC license

3. Encourage visitors to contribute content and comments under a sharing and mixing encouraged CC license

Now, I know what you’re thinking. This requires money right? Well yes, but the long lasting effects would far surpass the initial cost many times over in very much the same way P2P has boost music sales and concert visits. If you don’t do it, over time, someone else probably will. You’ll be amazed at what might be come out of it and there will no longer be a need for museum visitor books. You’ll get ideas for coming exhibitions, attract new visitors and find unique material you didn’t know existed. Later on when anyone asks how?, you’ll say.

“It was teamwork, you see”

(More images from the Viljo Revell 100 year exhibition at the Didrichsen museum can be found in my Flickr set). All images on my Flickr account are licensed under Attribution-No Derivative Works, with a possible extension if asked for.

Update: I found a Wiki on digitalization guidelines for several of Finland’s larger museums.

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