Those who have been following CC and the public domain in Australia will know that the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney has long been one of the best local advocates of open access in action. Not only have they released hundreds of public domain photos from their collection as part of the Flickr Commons, they also publish much of their teaching material and their ‘photo of the day’ blog under CC.

Yesterday they announced they were going one step further. In an Australian (and possibly world) first, they’ve released all of their collection documentation under CC. From now on, all the online descriptions of their objects will by under CC Attribution-Noncommercial, while the mainly factual data about each object will be under CC Attribution-ShareAlike.

This will make the material much more usable by the general public, and will clear up some uncertainty about how such simple materials can be used. To quote Seb Chan, Head of Digital, Social & Emerging Technologies at PHM:

Teachers and educators can now do what they want or need to with our collection records and encourage their students to do the same without fear. Some probably did in any case but we know that a fair number asked permissions, others wrongly assumed the worst (that we’d make them fill out forms or pay up), and it is highly likely that schools were charged blanket license fees by collecting agencies at times.

Secondly it means that anyone, commercial or non-commercial can now copy, scrape or harvest our descriptive, temporal and geospatial data, and object dimensions for a wide range of new uses. This could be building a timeline, a map, or a visualisation of our collection mixed with other data. It could be an online publication, a printed text book, or it could be just to improve Wikipedia articles. It can also now be added to Freebase and other online datastores, and incorporated into data services for mobile devices and so much more.

Liam Wyatt, Vice President of Wikimedia Australia in his list post, calls Powerhouse a “benchmark of what a museum can do”:

Considering the many thousands of interesting objects that the museum houses there are many potential Wikipedia article stubs that can be created straight away. . .If we can show the value of releasing what they have done already, by writing good articles and respecting their different licenses, then it will make the decision easier in the future to release even more :-)

Not only is this significant for the direct reason of improving our content but, just as we talk to each other, you can be absolutely sure that museums and galleries talk to each other too.

Congratulations PHM. You can continue to be an example for us all.