This report was commissioned by the Towards a National Collection programme to better understand the ways in which open access shapes how the UK’s digital cultural heritage collections can be accessed and reused. The study was undertaken by Dr Andrea Wallace in 2021. The recommendations presented are the author's own, and the report forms part of the evidence that Towards a National Collection continues to gather to determine the future policies it will recommend.
The author gives a focused discussion on how the UK Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museum (GLAM) sector fares in the global open GLAM landscape and what potential is possible with a digital national collection. Four types of information inform this report:
- Existing empirical data on global open GLAM activity, policies and data volume;
- New empirical data on UK GLAMs, public domain collections and rights management;
- A review of relevant case law and policy developments in the UK and elsewhere; and
- A literature review of scholarly writing on copyright and open access to digital heritage collections.
The findings indicate there is no consensus in the UK GLAM sector on what open access means, or should mean. There is also a fundamental misunderstanding of what the public domain is, includes and should include. Indeed, staff perspectives and GLAM policies can vary widely, even within a given institution. Accordingly, this study aimed to discern and outline what support is necessary to address systemic barriers to open access, starting with copyright itself.