Imagine you are sitting on a train admiring the majestic winter landscape of the Dovre mountain range in central Norway.
Would you have known that this is the most important area for wild reindeer in Europe? Perhaps you would be curious about how medieval pilgrims also made their way through these mountains to Nidaros Cathedral and the grave of Saint Olav? Would you realise that the very area you were travelling through was also a strategic centre for the German army during World War II? Or maybe you would wonder about who lived here while the very railway you are traveling on was built over 100 years ago?
The answers to these and other questions lie in numerous national and local databases in Norway. So how can we access and use this content from the comfort of our seat as we speed through the Norwegian countryside? That is when ‘Heritage Here’ comes into play.
Heritage Here (or “Kultur- og naturreise” as it is known in its native Norwegian) is a national project which has been running since 2012 and has two main objectives; Firstly, to work towards increasing access to and use of public information and local knowledge about culture and nature, and secondly, to promote the use of better quality open data. The aim being that anyone with a smartphone or a tablet can gain instant access to relevant facts and stories about their local area wherever they might be in the country.
This project is the result of cross-agency cooperation under the following governmental bodies; the Ministry of Local Government and Modernization, the Ministry of Climate and Environment and the Ministry of Culture. Project partners include the Norwegian Mapping Authority, the Arts Council Norway, the Directorate of Cultural Heritage, the National Archives and (until December 2014) the Norwegian Environment Agency. Together in Heritage Here the data from these partners has been made digitally accessible; it has been enriched, geo-tagged and disseminated in new ways. Content includes information about animal and plant life, cultural heritage and historical events, and varies from factual data to personal stories. This content is collected into Norway’s national digital infrastructure ‘Norvegiana’ and from there it can be used and developed by others to create new services for business, tourism, education or exported into the international arena, such as Europeana.eu. Some of the results of a hackathon ‘Hack4no’ which the project arranged and hosted in Oslo last year provide great examples of what you can do with good quality accessible source data and some imagination.
In 2012 and 2013 the main focus was to facilitate further development of technical infrastructures to help extract data from partner databases and other databases for mobile dissemination. There has also been ongoing work with local partners in three pilot areas; Bø/Sauherad, rural municipalities in Telemark (expanded in 2014 to include the entire Telemark county), Akerselva in Oslo, and Dovre in Oppland. The two latter are also included in an additional pilot, ‘Gudbrandsdalsleden’ the pilgrims route from Oslo to Trondheim. These pilots have been crucial to the project, both as an arena to test out the use of these different national datasets together, and by contributing with new relevant and interesting content on these areas. They have also proved to be an opportunity to see Heritage Here’s work in a larger context and its potential interplay with other projects. The Telemark pilot has, for example, been used to test out the cloud-based mapping tools developed in LoCloud.
In addition to the afore-mentioned activities Heritage Here has worked towards being a competence builder – organising over 20 workshops on digital storytelling and geo-tagging of data, and numerous open seminars with different topics. The most recent was on ‘Mobile Communication’ with both national and international speakers, held at end of January.
In 2013-2014 the project developed a prototype app “KNappen” to visualise the content from its different projects partners, together with other sources, such as Wikipedia. This app has been used extensively in assessing the usability of the available content and its user experience. As the project enters its final year this year it will focus on researching and resolving the issues and challenges that this work has raised, such as improving functionality of the databases themselves, investigating possibilities for code re-use and exploring different methods and approaches to visualising geo-enriched content.
In the next 12 months the Heritage Here will continue developing and strengthening partnerships on a national and international level, and to work towards improving data quality and promoting the use of open data. By posing the testing questions and searching for the answers, the project hopes to contribute to (among many other things) ensuring that you can enjoy more than just the beautiful scenery on your next train journey through Dovre.
Project website (mainly in Norwegian).
Senior Adviser Heritage Here