The question that we focused on after a very interesting project plenary in Edinburgh was: could researchers working in completely different areas, like agriculture and food, could discover and make uses of available interesting digitised materials, from the vast amount of resources available through Europeana?
This is why we have decided to run a pilot for a specific group of scientists that we work with: the team of the Agriculture Economic and Policy Research Institute (AGRERI), the national agricultural economics and policy research institute of Greece. The work of these guys is heavily dependent on ethnographic studies and other social science methods and tools. In many cases, historical resources and archives are used as research resource. And we wanted to investigate this dimension further: could Europeana collections become a useful digital resource for the AGRERI team? And how could we develop an online service that would bring the relevant digital collections and resources at their fingertips?
What we have developed for the AGRERI team was a discovery service, positioned right inside their web site: a virtual library of digital collections coming from various sources (Europeana but also other important repositories and archives). Allowing them to either browse through these collections, or to search within them using keywords such as Agricultural Cooperatives, Agricultural Products, and Agricultural Economics. We started by developing an initial online demonstrator of how something like this should work. This was tested with the AGRERI team, through hands-on workshops and trials. We have incorporated their revisions, we have addressed their questions, we have revised and simplified the interface and the functionalities. And they liked this so much, that they have decided to actually integrate this discovery service into the new web site of the institute (that just went live, yeah!).
We do have a first answer in place, thanks to our work in Europeana Cloud and the AGRERI team: yes, scientists working with social methods and tools on topics related to agriculture and food, can and wish to discover and make use of relevant digitised collections and archives that are catalogued in Europeana. We have also taken a step further, exploring how a cultural digital infrastructure like Europeana can be connected with a data e-infrastructure for agriculture and food like AGINFRA, in order to facilitate the discovery and exploitation of such resources from our communities. It is all described in a White Paper titled “Europeana as a Resource for Social Scientists In Agriculture and Food” that we have prepared, summarising our work in the project and some directions for future work. And we are very happy and proud to share this also with you, as it illustrates how we find, connect and deliver agriculture and food information worldwide in order to make it usable, meaningful and useful.