Judaica Europeana

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Digital Project Demonstration by Dov Winer (European Association for Jewish Culture)

Judaica Europeana works with cultural institutions to identify and provide access online to content which documents the Jewish presence and heritage in the cities of Europe.

Notes on the Judaica Europeana demonstration at the Center for Jewish History’s “From Access to Integration” conference:

To complete this project, a network of 24 institutions (including the Center for Jewish History) have combined forces to provide integrated access to digitized Jewish collections around Europe.

Judaica Europeana deals with Jewish participation in life in Europe. Collected material includes documents, photographs, films and recordings that attest this participation. There is a focus on both the internal life of the communities and their impacts on broader communities of Europe.

Europeana is not a web portal. It is a services platform providing an Application Program Interface (API), enabling cultural institutions and users to access content; provide content; and build applications using Europeana functionalities for their own use. It is a digital library system (DLS).

The Digital Public Library of America has also decided to join forces with Europeana for an integrated data portal covering both US and Europe.

Now, there is not a web of physical documents; “the new web is the web of RDF.” (And the “RDF triple” is “subject – property – value.”) That is why this conference occurs at such a critical moment. There is a new environment, and it is important to propose ways in which libraries will be integrated into it.

Dov Winer explains: “This is the new web. The new web is a database. You can make queries and get answers from the web. The vocabularies are critical here. Vocabulary is the mini-structure of knowledge… you can make links to other things.” These are the new primary sources.

For now, there are 5 million documents, or 5 million digital objects (uploaded documents) that comprise the digital library. The goals are to advance the digitization and aggregation of Jewish content; synchronize the metadata; and to create knowledge-management tools (to establish vocabularies, standards for indexing, etc.). The hope is that this online resource will be used in academic research, virtual exhibitions, the arts, conferences, cultural tourism and more.

Europe’s digital libraries, archives and museums online provide a showcase for Europe’s cultural and scientific heritage. This is a flagship project of the European Commission and the European parliament.

Strategic tracks for the future are centered on these goals: to aggregate, facilitate, distribute and engage—and are also based on the strong belief that knowledge society is able to create new jobs and be part of a new economy.

The new Europeana data model is able to express much more complex elements—such as different (and even contradictory) statements about the same objects. These different statements about the same objects can now coexist in the same layer of metadata. 

For example, take the word “Vikings.” The Irish definitions of and associations with the word “Vikings” include “pillagers”; the Norwegian definitions of and associations with the word “Vikings” include “loving fathers.” Now both statements can coexist in the metadata, allowing for much more effective searches.

Learn about these and other Judaica Europeana developments here.

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