How did you get into your profession?
It’s a long story ! I did a doctorate in philosophy, on the notion of predicate in logic, and I worked as a teaching assistant at the Faculty of Letters of KU Leuven when it still included the philosophy department. In the late 80s and early 90s, my interest in (personal) computing and subsequently the Internet grew, and I got a job as an ICT coordinator for the Faculty of Arts. I have effectively coordinated large university projects on web information systems, e-learning and library systems. Eventually, I was appointed professor of computer science for the arts, and later for online publishing in the department of cultural studies. I helped found the Faculty’s Photolab, which would become the university’s Imaging Laboratory.
After running a few local projects on image databases, my first contact with Europeana was as the coordinator of the Europeana Photography project, in which we delivered around 450,000 images from the first 100 years of photography. From this project was born Photoconsortium – the accredited aggregator for photography – of which I am the current president.
What are you currently working on?
Currently, I mainly work on projects related to digital transformation in the cultural heritage sector. This corresponds to my initial career in ICT, during which I worked to build bridges between the needs of humanities education and research and information technology. I’m interested in how we can capture more aspects of cultural processes in data flows, for example, event or history of use of art objects and representations. This also relates to understanding how ICT solutions can support genuine user interaction and engagement with heritage collections.
What are some of the challenges in your role? What are some of your favorite things?
I like the interface between disciplines, and I have always worked – after my doctorate – in interdisciplinary research. This is what sociologists Harry Collins and Robert Evans call “interactional expertise” in their Rethinking expertise (University of Chicago Press, 2008). Often, you have to learn the “language” of other professionals in order to be able to collaborate, even if you are not supposed to be able to do their job. I see this as a major challenge in the heritage profession, because it touches on so many dimensions of life. This leads me to become interested in the development of multi-perspective metadata.
What was your motivation for joining the Membership Council?
I joined the Europeana Network Association (ENA) to help develop the Europeana initiative, because I firmly believe that the European Union needs its own large digital platforms. I like the democratic nature of the Network and I see the Council of Members as a kind of parliament representing the thousands of members. This gives real “weight” to the Europeana initiative and is, in my opinion, one of its main strengths. I strongly encourage other members to run for and stand for election to the Members Council!
What do you plan to do as a member advisor?
As my term comes to an end, I have been happy to contribute, in the last two boards of directors, to the development of the communities of the ENA, ensuring that there are funds available for the work. indispensable volunteer of ENA members. My heart goes to education, for it holds the key to any sustainability endeavor. My dream is that every schoolchild in Europe will have the chance to discover Europeana at least once in their course!
You are part of the steering group of the Europeana educational community; As we focus on educational activities this month on Europeana Pro, can you tell us what the community has been up to recently?
There is so much to tell! We were thrilled to launch Built with Bits, where educators can learn to contribute to the New European Bauhaus movement by participating in a mentoring program and educational challenge to design beautiful and sustainable spaces with Mozilla Hubs. There is an introductory workshop open to everyone on September 30 for those who want to learn more about the project with a large panel of representatives from the European Commission and experts on immersive technologies for education.
The Audiovisual Working Group that operated last school year, led by EUScreen, will also soon be releasing a White Paper on Audiovisual Material, and we hope to launch a Journals in Education Working Group in collaboration with members of the EuropeanaTech community in the coming months!