From the Europeana: "Professionals in Focus - Cosmina Berta"

Cosmina Berta is head of the Metadata Quality project at the German Digital Library Service Centre. Now she is also part of the Europeana Members Council. The Members Council decides on the Association’s priorities, steers its activities and further develops the Europeana strategy. Following her election as a member of the Members Council on 20 November 2020, Georgia Evans from Europeana spoke to our colleague Cosmina Berta about her work at the German Digital Library and her plans for her time on the Members Council. We congratulate Cosmina Berta on her election and thank Europeana Pro for allowing us to republish the interview.

By Georgia Evans (Europeana Foundation)

Europeana Members Councillors have diverse jobs and wide experience across the heritage sector, but are united by their passion for digital cultural heritage. In their ‘Professionals in Focus’ series, the Europeana speak to Europeana Network Association Members Councillors about their roles, working lives and plans for their time on the Members Council. This month, Cosmina Berta discusses her role at the German Digital Library as well as the challenges and opportunities of heterogeneous data. 

Cosmina Berta bei der Veranstaltung „Exposing Online the European Cultural Heritage“ (Online-Exposition des europäischen Kulturerbes), Foto: Sebastiaan ter Burg (CC BY 4.0 International)
Cosmina Berta bei der Veranstaltung „Exposing Online the European Cultural Heritage“ (Online-Exposition des europäischen Kulturerbes), Foto: Sebastiaan ter Burg (CC BY 4.0 International)

Tell us about your role. 

I started working at the German Digital Library in 2013, coming into close contact with the various aspects of a cultural platform which is in many ways similar to Europeana: metadata, workflows, communication within a large network, diverse partners from various cultural sectors  - all with a common feature of making cultural heritage available for all. It is a very exciting environment and I can say I learn something new almost every day, even now, after eight years! There is a lot of creativity, a lot of will and dedication, and a lot of challenges, both big and small.

I came into contact with Europeana through this role, but also when I started reusing digital objects for Europeana for my hobby – art collages. One might say that my relationship with Europeana has two dimensions – both providing data and reusing it!

What are you currently working on? 

I am currently managing the project ‘Improving the quality of the metadata and the processes in the German Digital Library’. It is a very exciting project because it combines various aspects of the German Digital Library: metadata quality and improvement, increasing the efficacy of processes, and also standardisation and communication. It is an intersectional project - it takes work across the whole process of delivery into consideration, dives into the quality of input and output data, and considers various factors that influence the whole lifecycle of metadata. 

For the last two years I have been working in this direction with Europeana and my colleagues in the Europeana Common Culture project: we have been developing an aggregation prototype that would make the data delivery more efficient and working with data providers towards improving content and metadata quality.

What are some of the challenges in your role? What are some of your favourite elements?

One key challenge is 'heterogeneity'! We have heterogeneous data, coming from heterogeneous partners, we use a multitude of heterogeneous tools to process the data in various formats and we have a heterogeneous public. Also communication across such an intricate network is always a challenge. Our direct work colleagues involve at least 20 institutions. However, this is also a valuable potential, because the spectrum of skills and experiences across the network is extremely large!

What was your motivation for joining the Members Council? 

I believe in Europeana and its ideals! I believe that European culture has much digital potential that still needs to be brought to light – and used. We all know there is still much work to be done to strengthen the aggregation infrastructure, work towards improving data quality, and support (especially small) institutions that need help and guidance in the digital world. And use all this in order to transform the world with – digital – culture! It is a crucial role and especially now, in times that are so trying for all of us, the importance of the digital world is bigger than ever. We have the chance to give it a new direction, a strong push, and continue to embody the pioneer spirit that brought Europeana to life!

What do you plan to do as a Members Councillor? 

We live in a transformational environment, because a crisis, especially one of these dimensions, will change us as society. I think – like most of us do - that the digital perspective will offer new dimensions. This is a unique moment for us to jump on the wagon of change and work hard to close the digital divide - because digital is essential now. Looking back, I want to reflect on the European Union’s 2011 call for a ‘New Renaissance’ which brought us Europeana. I think ten years since this, it is time for a second wave. Let those synergies flow! Channeling them into pan-European infrastructure projects – this is where I see myself involved. We can’t beat heterogeneity, and we must not even try, because there is beauty in disharmony - but we can make it work for us.


Originally Published on Europeana Pro on 16 February 2021.