Edinburgh Collected

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Icons use case study main actors

Main actors

City Government, NGO / Philanthropy

Icons use case study project area

Project area

Whole City/Administrative Region

Icons use case study duration


Ongoing since 2014/05

An innovative solution to the management and expansion of heritage digital collections.

Edinburgh Collected is the result of a programme run by Nesta UK with four Scottish local authorities - the Open Data Scotland programme. The programme created the opportunity for intensive new learning in local authorities and the production of a range of tools and new products/services.

Edinburgh Collected provides an innovative solution to the problem heritage organisations are currently facing - how to gather their 'future history' from local people's digital collections. Edinburgh Collected is crowd-sourcing citizens memories through images and text, adding to the award shortlisted existing digital products delivered and managed by Edinburgh Libraries
All the data is open data as soon as it is created - image and text memories can be re-used by any individual or organisation through the Creative Commons Licence.

Sustainable Development Goals

Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Size and population development
487,500 (as at June 2013)

Population composition
High proportion of young adults; proportion of people born outside the UK is 15.9% (as of 2011)

Main functions
Capital city of Scotland

Main industries / business
Financial services, scientific research, higher education, and tourism

Political structure
Edinburgh constitutes one of the 32 council areas of Scotland; the council has powers over most matters of local administration; Edinburgh is also represented in the Scottish Parliament.

Edinburgh Council was one of the partners for the NESTA Open Data Scotland programme, which took place between 2014/15. 
Each local authority was appointed a ‘Code Fellow in Residence’ (a technologist) who worked intensively with the local authority staff over 12 months to open up data sets, publish these on a portal so they could be re-used and created new digital public services apps and web content to enhance both citizens and visitors experiences of the local authority. A ‘Designer in Residence’ also worked with the technologists and local authority staff across the four authorities.
The programme was part of the wider ‘Code for Europe’ programme which has involved designers and technologists across Europe working with civic authorities to increase the use of open data sets to enhance civic transparency and improve decision making. 
Edinburgh's project was ambitious, to deliver a new digital service that offered a fresh approach to creating future heritage, and also demonstrates the power of open data. 
Edinburgh Council has largely delivered this with Edinburgh Collected, a platform where individuals and groups can contribute material related to their daily lives past and present, their working life and the areas where they live, expanding Edinburgh’s digital heritage. The city has created a new digital product and service that creates open data at source. Every image and its descriptive meta data are immediately available for sharing and re-use. The initiative is encouraging a collective approach to open data in the City of Edinburgh, crowd-sourcing the data with local people.

The project was delivered in under a year, with a team involving Edinburgh Libraries staff, the Nesta developer and web designer, and in-house UX support. 

It followed an agile approach to project management due to the short timescale, this allowed for quick responses to any issues and ensure the development moved forward. The first version of the site was complete by December 2014 and additional development work was completed by March 2015.
The project team accessed images and data from Edinburgh Libraries digital collections to start the population of Edinburgh Collected, making Council data available for re-use.

Joint financing on a 50/50 basis was provided from Nesta UK and each contributing local authority.

The results thus far have been very promising:
• sharing existing open data from the Capital Collections (web) digital repository.
• crowd-sourcing new heritage data.
• writing and sharing newly produced open data.
• offering a platform and digital support to organisations and groups across the city for their own heritage data.
• a new, fully developed and robust platform that’s shareable and reusable.
• sharing agile techniques training with teams in the Council.
• Held the Council’s first flash hack, a proof of concept that developed a prototype for a new app over a week’s intensive activity. This approach has now been embedded in the working practices.
Edinburgh Council has produced something that appears to be unique, certainly in the UK, and which offers other bodies the chance to do the same as the whole product is open source. Interest has been high and varied - from local organisations to national bodies.

The project was fortunate in having the full support of the Council, specifically from the then Chief Executive Sue Bruce, and Chief Information Officer Claudette Jones. This gave the project a mandate to proceed, and also to ensure it was supported post delivery.

The main barrier was the project timeline which meant development and delivery was intense, and required considerable resource time for Edinburgh Libraries staff. However, the learning derived through this - agile project delivery, development approaches, and delivery of completely new approaches to gathering heritage data - made this worthwhile.
Main lessons learned throughout the implementation of the project include:
Project scoping is critical as there is a resource commitment for the project beyond paid for developer/designer time. Scope should be as detailed as possible and potential dependencies such as user testing, meetings and external commitments for team members.
• It is essential to have a sponsor who can support the project and sustain it post delivery.
• Make sure a team is in place and committed from the start – valuable time will be lost  catching up and coping with delays if not.
• Agile planning techniques are great for this type of project but allow time in the project plan for the regular stand-ups, iterations and reviews.
• Build a responsive web solution first – it avoids support implications of multiple apps.
• Have a clear plan for marketing, embedding and sustaining the project.
• Have a wider strategy that the project sits within, to achieve maximum benefit.

Nesta Open Data Scotland programme - http://ow.ly/Z3RzJ

The City of Edinburgh Council Open Data Strategy  - http://ow.ly/Z3RLs

Museums Association article (April 2015) - http://ow.ly/Z3S0c

SOCRATA article (July 2015) - https://www.socrata.com/blog/open-data-helps-edinburgh-preserve-memories/

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Sally Kerr
Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Sally Kerr

Individual | Digital

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