Questions to ask cultural institutions about open access

Lois Duncan Steinmetz admiring the scenery of the Suwannee River (detail), 1949. Joseph Janney Steinmetz. State Library & Archives of Florida, Public Domain Mark

A recent Twitter discussion addressed what questions people would like to ask GLAMs (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums) about their open access policy and practice.

Here’s a summary of the most frequently suggested questions, arranged by topic. Feel free to use and remix them, or suggest your own in the comments.

Policy and Practice

  • Tell us about your institution’s open access policy
  • How was the policy developed? Who were the key players?
  • What motivated your institution to adopt open access?
  • Who are you trying to reach?
  • What are the main challenges to practising open access in your museum?
  • How do you balance open access with income-generating pressures?
  • Which staff members/departments in your institution manage and maintain open access?

Mission and Impact

  • How does open access relate to your institution’s mission?
  • How do/will you measure the impact of open access?
  • How do/will you advance the mission of open access beyond collection images and data into public engagement? (e.g. scholarly publication, public programmes, Open Educational Resources)
  • Describe some open access initiatives that your museum has undertaken. Which of these has been successful? Which are ongoing?

Legal and Tech

  • How do you evaluate the copyright status of your collections? Who’s involved?
  • Which legal tools (licences and rights statements) do you use for open access?
  • Do you have an API? How do you provide/manage access?
  • Is your API documentation accessible online?
  • Which international data standards/frameworks do you employ?
  • Which Linked Open Data (OD) models and/or authority files do you use to make your metadata interoperable?

Partnerships and Communities

  • How important are partnerships to your museum’s open access practice?
  • Which organisations and/or communities are you working with?
  • Do you share/publish open data on other platforms (e.g. Wikimedia Commons, CC Search, Europeana)?
  • Does your institution host, or take part in, hackathons, edit-a-thons or similar events?
  • Do your collections include material relating to traditional knowledge and indigenous communities? How do you approach permissions, licensing and appropriate acknowledgement for this material and its communities?


  • What advice would you give to other museums considering open access?
  • Who are the open access influencers in your country/sector?
  • What topics or tools do you think are missing from the open access scene?

Thanks to everyone whose questions and comments contributed to this article.