Mapping GLAM in Maharashtra

Posted by Subodh Kulkarni at Oct 23, 2020 08:55 AM |
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This is a short study on mapping the digital transition in selected Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums (GLAM) institutions in Maharashtra, India, and exploring possibilities and challenges for collaborations with Wikimedia projects. Research was undertaken by Aaryaa Joshi, Dnyanada Gadre-Phadke, Kalyani Kotkar and Subodh Kulkarni; the report has been authored by Subodh Kulkarni with editorial oversight and support by Puthiya Purayil Sneha, and external review by Sumandro Chattapadhyay. This is part of a series of short-term studies undertaken by the CIS-A2K team in 2019–2020.

Introduction

The digital turn has been an important development for the cultural heritage sector in India, especially in the last decade, where access to internet and multimedia technologies has led to several advancements in the Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums (GLAM) space. This has also encouraged a multiplicity of uses of cultural content in diverse contexts. Several efforts have been undertaken in this space over the last decade, including state initiatives like the National Museum Collections digital repository, archival efforts at universities such as Jadavpur University and private and individual initiatives such as the People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI) and Indiancine.ma. Apart from developments in preservation, curation and content sharing there remain continued concerns related to access, infrastructure and linguistic barriers in this sector. Intellectual property rights, open access and privacy issues have also emerged as important issues for cultural institutions looking to open up their collections to a wider public.

Collaboration with open knowledge production spaces like Wikimedia and OpenGLAM then offer important insights into possibilities now available with the digital turn for better public access to cultural content, but also in terms of the development of collaborative  archival efforts. Efforts such as GLAM-Wiki have been crucial in bridging the gap between cultural institutions and initiatives in the free knowledge movement. There is still however lack of documentation and research on the various kinds of existing collections and archival efforts afoot in India, and how they may benefit from better access through platforms like Wikimedia. This study maps a few of such GLAM institutions in Maharashtra, India, and reviews their collections, challenges and limitations to explore possibilities for better collaboration between cultural and public memory institutions through GLAM-Wiki initiatives.

Research Questions and Method

The study was framed by the following questions:

  • How has the digital transition in the GLAM sector in Maharashtra, India, impacted the process of creation and access to cultural content?

  • What are possible collaborations with open knowledge efforts like GLAM-Wiki?

The mapping of GLAM institutions was undertaken through questionnaires/surveys conducted with six GLAM institutions working in Pune district and one in Kolhapur district of Maharashtra state. The institutions were identified through existing networks established by Subodh Kulkarni, CIS-A2K Programme Officer associated with Wikimedia projects working in this area and snowball sampling. The questionnaires were focused on the nature, objective and scope of the collections, funding, provenance, offline and online workflows (including acquiring, preservation, accessioning, digitisation and metadata standards), human resources, infrastructure, IPR policies and public outreach efforts. The questionnaires were administered with the help of the Programme Officer and volunteers working in this language community. The questionnaire with Marathi translation is given in Annexure I.

The mapping helped to produce a set of recommendations for possible GLAM-Wiki collaborations in the Indian context. This was done through field visits to these institutions, review of the material, and interviews with key resource persons (administrators, faculty and students, archivists, librarians, developers etc.) who manage the collections of cultural content.

The following seven GLAM institutions were visited during the period November 2019 to February 2020. Further visits were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic situation. Three Wikimedians — User:ज्ञानदा गद्रे-फडके, User:आर्या जोशी & User:कल्याणी कोतकर uploaded  images of these collections on Wikimedia Commons, and added/expanded five related articles on Marathi Wikipedia — राजा दिनकर केळकर संग्रहालय, पुणे नगर वाचन मंदिर, सार्वजनिक वाचनालय, राजगुरुनगर, and आपटे वाचन मंदिर

Observations about Research Method

The study was done with the help of three active Wikimedians, Aaryaa Joshi (Username:आर्या जोशी), Dnyanada Gadre-Phadke (Username:ज्ञानदा गद्रे-फडके) & Kalyani Kotkar (Username:कल्याणी कोतकर) interested in GLAM related activities. The questionnaire was developed with their participation. Orientation sessions were conducted to discuss the research design, process and outputs. The potential areas for bringing content into various Wikimedia projects were explained. While these Wikimedians conducted the visits for this mapping voluntarily, the actual expenses on travel, refreshments etc. were reimbursed. These volunteers had to carve out time slots from their regular jobs to complete the task. The timings at institutions and availability of key persons also needed to be considered while planning the visits. Sometimes the volunteers had to take leave from their regular work, which also led to some difficulties.

The first visit was to establish an association with the institution and the persons. The meeting with the authorities at the institution was essential to get the consent forms signed and complete other such formalities, including permissions to conduct interviews. This process delayed the work slightly, but is an important learning in terms of the need to establish a rapport with institutions for such research. The questionnaire was translated into Marathi (the local language) to facilitate the discussions. It was felt that to cover the basic aspects of the collections at an institution, at least 4–5 visits are required with a little gap between visits. This regular frequency will help to build relationships as well as maintain the work flow. The sample size for the present study was small due to some unforeseen constraints such as getting enough number of interested volunteer Wikimedians to undertake some of the research, multiple visits required for each institution which extended the duration of fieldwork, lack of positive responses from the GLAM institutions as well as eventual restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Survey of GLAM in Maharashtra

To identify the major institutions in Maharashtra and prepare the list of major GLAM institutions in the state, various government and private official websites as well as publications were studied. It was realised that no website or publication has created a comprehensive district or statewide list of  institutions. Information about a few institutions is available online, but these are helpful largely from a tourism point of view. There is no proper selection or thematic categorisation which considers researchers, students, or other communities of interest. The popular tourist routes are given importance. Therefore, there is a need to document all the GLAMs category-wise on platforms freely accessible to the public. Some of the websites are listed in Annexure II.

Description of Surveyed Institutions

 Apte Vachan Mandir, Ichalkaranji
 
Art_gallery_at_Apte_vachan_mandir,_Ichalkaranji
 
 

Apte Vachan Mandir is a 150 year old library in a small city named Ichalkaranji in Kolhapur district of Maharashtra. The authorities are very cooperative and eager to start digitization of the old/rare books and art gallery. They also need help regarding digitisation and preservation of the century old paintings. The institute is ready to scan the books if equipment and training is provided to their staff. The officials have given the list of 400+ rare books which they are planning to digitise. The official communication has  started with the secretary of the institution. The further process stalled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Iravati Karve Anthropological Museum, Pune

Iravati Karve Anthropological Museum is located in the Savitribai Phule Pune University campus, Pune. The initial visit was conducted and permission was sought for further documentation. The curator and authorities have extended all possible cooperation regarding open knowledge access to the museum collections urther visits could not be undertaken due to the restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Joshi’s Museum of Miniature Railways

Joshi’s Museum of Miniature Railways was founded in 1998 by B. S. Joshi in Pune city. It houses different models of trains, railway stations, tracks with signals, bridges, streets in the cities, circus etc. Light and sound shows are also arranged here. This is a unique collection in India. One can get an experience of scientific concepts, handicraft, technology, history, amusement related artifacts at one place. The authorities of this museum do not feel the need of digitization as it is a live show which gives the best experience. However the documentation of the development process regarding railway models present in the museum is important. They wish to increase the outreach through publicity of the museum on free knowledge platforms to attract visitors to increase the footfall. As it is a privately owned museum, it is getting difficult to maintain it or add new things to it. So, there is scope for some kind of engagement with this museum.

Museum in College of Military Engineering, Pune

College of Military Engineering is a premier institute for army training in India established in 1943. The museum houses vintage engineering equipment from the pre-World War I era, which is displayed over a large landscape. The archives of the corps are also maintained in the library section. Permission for an initial visit was received late due to administrative procedures. Further visits for interviews with the key officials were planned but cancelled due to the lockdown following the COVID-19 pandemic. But there is scope to document the rare machinery, engineering structures, military vehicles etc. as it is openly accessible to the public. The institute is also keen to spread this knowledge to young generations.

Pune Nagar Vachan Mandir

Pune nagar  vachan

Pune Nagar Vachan Mandir Library. By दिपक कोतकर, पुणे नगर वाचन मंदिर ग्रंथालय 4, CC BY-SA 4.0

Pune Nagar Vachan Mandir is a historic library in Pune founded in 1848. The library houses a rich collection with rare books in various languages from the 17th century. It also possesses historical manuscripts and valuable diaries. The library management is very up to date on new developments in the field  and has already adopted web technologies for catering to members. The catalogues are made available online in Koha. They have started digitisation efforts to some extent but need inputs and support. The authorities are eager to collaborate on larger projects to make their resources freely available. The authorities are ready to give the database of books for further integration with Wikimedia projects.

Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum

Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum was founded in 1920 by Dinkar Kelkar in Pune city. This museum houses 22,000 rare artifacts from different historical times. The thematic galleries have been developed thoughtfully. The museum has published 8 catalogues on these themes. More details of this museum can be seen on the official website.

Mastani mahal

Mastani Mahal restored at Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum,Pune. By आर्या जोशी, मस्तानी महाल, CC BY-SA 4.0

This museum is partially funded by the State Government for some regular maintenance. The funds for development, upgradation, conservation and promotion are to be raised by the institution. A digitisation project has been  planned by the museum authorities, and it is progressing as the resources are being arranged. The museum officials are open to share information digitally in the public domain. They believe that they can reach interested masses through Wikimedia Projects. They have given permission to photograph the objects and the various conservation practices in their laboratory. They have expressed their readiness to give free access to libraries and museums for Wikimedians visiting the institution for purposes of research.

Rajgurunagar Public Library, Rajgurunagar

Rajgurunagar Public Library is a 150 plus year old Public access library with a competitive examination center. The special features are rare books from the 19th century and manuscripts. The management was not aware of Wikimedia projects, Open source cataloging, Unicode data entry systems etc. But after the visit, the officials responded very positively to start digitisation of 25 rare books in collaboration with the Access to Knowledge programme, Centre for Internet and Society and Vigyan Ashram, Pabal. The task was completed and these books were digitised and uploaded on Wikimedia Commons by creating a separate category. As the manuscripts and other material is getting degenerated, this collection  needs to be digitised at the earliest.

Observations

 Target audience

The GLAM institutions, especially  museums and libraries  are facing a decrease in footfall in recent times. The officials feel that uploading material on the web under free licenses will further aid this trend. At the same time they also express their interest and ideas to attract a new generation to engage with these collections through promotional mobile apps. There are however persistent anxieties about public access to these materials on the web. Some institutions possess unique or rare material such as antiquities, manuscripts, live models or books. The officials fear that the institutions will lose their points of attraction if they are projected on the web with descriptions. On the other hand, the researchers and interested communities are unaware of such treasures with these institutions. 

Sustainability

Sustenance of the institutions is another important point and obstacle in digitisation of collections. The publications of the museums are a source of revenue for them. As the entry fees or subscription charges need to be kept minimal for the visitors, the priced material sold at the counters is the only income source for these institutions. Hence, there is a limitation of online availability and  promotion of this material. Finding a sustainable model which also allows for open access to content is a difficult task for a large number of organisations. The financial support to these institutions is not a priority area for Government agencies or philanthropic organisations. Some institutions have successfully attempted for corporate social responsibility (CSR) funding. They need professional inputs for fundraising campaigns.

Technical challenges

There are also technical challenges with the digitisation process itself. Some of the libraries have not adopted a universal cataloging system. Therefore it is difficult to analyse the data of books according to copyright status and physical conditions. The authorities are eager to dispose of decaying material after digitisation. Some of them have approached State Government departments for funds but got no response. This may be because standard digitisation policies are not in place at a national level, and a lot of institutions are unaware of existing benchmarks and policies. Another hindrance is that the books will not be permitted to be taken outside the institution for scanning because of the physical condition. Awareness and training in archival and records management is a key requirement in these conditions. 

Capacity building

The awareness and capacity building of the personnel at the institutions in the area of free knowledge and digitisation skills is to be enhanced before starting any project. The terminologies and case studies of some projects in local languages are necessary for better understanding of concepts as well as best practices. Some of the good archive projects in Marathi completed by various organisations include digitisation of the complete works of Vinoba Bhave, Prabodhankar Thakeray and Vinayak Savarkar. The language department of the State Government of Maharashtra has also digitised and uploaded 129 old books and 555 old magazines on their website. The other website of the literature & culture department has made available 434 books in PDF, epub and mobi format.


Recommendations

These recommendations are based on the interactions with the Wikimedians involved in the process, the interviews with key persons from seven GLAM institutions and previous experiences of working with such institutions. The important learnings from this research study are captured in the observations stated above. As the focus of the discussions remained limited to the access to cultural content and possible collaborations regarding Wikimedia Projects, the content creation aspect was not touched upon in detail. The recommendations emerging  from this study provide some guidelines for action points for the  near future. However, for designing broader strategies for the GLAM sector,  a sizable number of institutions in different regions of the state need to be mapped to provide a more comprehensive picture of the sector and its possibilities  

The recommendations regarding various stakeholders in the mapping process are stipulated below -

For Wikimedians

  • Orientation sessions for Wikimedians visiting the institute regarding GLAM related Wikimedia projects, copyright issues, Creative commons licenses and basics of library science should be conducted. The availability of resource material on these topics in local languages will be useful in the interview process.
  • For replicating this mapping  activity across one state or several states, the selection of Wikimedia volunteers is crucial. The provision for reasonable honorarium per visit should be made for time bound as well as qualitative execution of tasks.

For GLAM institutions

  • It was observed that the GLAM institutions are not well aware about the free knowledge platforms like Wikimedia projects or Internet archive. They are aware about copyright and intellectual property rights, but not about Creative Commons or other licenses available. They wish to make their resources available across the world but are not clear about the methods. The collaboration regarding these aspects is highly appreciated.

  • Old libraries have a good collection of rare old books. They are finding difficulties in preservation of books as well as facing space constraints. Also for these books, readership is also negligible. Hence there is a need to digitise this valuable reference material before it degenerates.

For CIS (or other implementing agency)

  • A comprehensive list of GLAM institutions in the state, with further categorisation into geographical & thematic aspects is to be developed and be made freely accessible for the public at large. 

  • Training in universal metadata structures and unicode systems like Koha is to be arranged for the staff and management members at these institutions. At least the cataloging in universal format should be done on priority to analyse the metadata for copyright free status. A central repository is needed to avoid duplication in scanning. CIS-A2K needs to design strategic plan for this activity.

  • For in-depth case studies of potential GLAM-Wiki institutions, Wikimedian in Residence (WiR) programme should be adopted.

  • Interactions with concerned State and Central Government departments would facilitate the research activity and further collaborations. The findings of the research could be shared with such agencies along with concrete project proposals designed in collaboration with concerned institutions.

 As illustrated by the observations of this study, the digital turn has brought about significant changes in the cultural heritage sector, but a large part of these still pertain to concerns around access to cultural content. The role of digital technologies and free knowledge platforms like Wikipedia in addressing these issues of access and outreach, and importantly in content creation therefore remains to be explored, through a more comprehensive study of the sector. Further, the study has also been indicative of the potential of collaborative work, and efforts needed towards the same, which may be helpful in also contributing towards a broader strategy for GLAM work with Wikimedia projects in Indian languages.

Read this report on Wikimedia Meta-Wiki here.

 
 

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