Photo: Escher's Cabinet of Curiosities by fdecomite
Those who have been following open access activities for a while know that some of the most interesting and innovative work in the field, both in Australia and internationally, is being done by galleries, libraries, archives and museums. Collecting institutions are a natural home for open access activities – after all, the whole point of most of them is to provide material, information and resources to the public.

It is hardly surprising, then, that as digital technologies have developed collecting institutions have generally been in the forefront, delivering their material to users and connecting with the general public in new, creative and fun ways. And as the public seeks more and more to use and interact with these materials, collecting institutions are exploring how open access policies can increase their utility for the public.

Seeing this potential, in 2009 Creative Commons Australia’s sister research centre, the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation, established a research project aimed specifically at exploring and encouraging open access strategies within Australia’s collecting institutions.

After spending most of 2009 and 2010 consulting with representatives of the collecting sector in Australia, the Opening Australia’s Archives has now released its first output – the Open Access Principles for Australian Collecting Institutions.

These Principles aim to articulate best practice standards for providing open access to material housed in institutional collections. They are intended to assist institutions exploring digital strategies that incorporate open access philosophies, or who otherwise seek to increase public access to and reuse of their collections. Developed in consultation with the industry, they try to set what open access is and how it may be used by (and useful to) collecting bodies. They also provide a summary of some of the open access strategies currently being used by collecting institutions in Australia and international, as well as case studies of successful open access initiatives in the sector.

The Principles are intended to be a growing and collaborative project that draws on expertise across the sector. With this in mind, the Opening Australia’s Archives project has released the current Principles as Version 1 and is encouraging comments and feedback, to help them further align it with the needs and expectations of the sector.

The Principles are, of course, published under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 licence, so please feel free to copy, adapt, distribute and edit them as you see fit, as long as you credit the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation. To make them as useable as possible, they are available in three different formats – as a rich text document, as a pdf, and as a wiki.

For more information about the Opening Australia’s Archives project, the Principles, or the feedback process, see here.

Credits—Photo: Adaptation (crop and resize) of ‘Escher’s Cabinet of Curiosities‘ by fdecomite, CC BY 2.0 Generic.