Project journal
Edit 09 December 2023
by François Jégou

COGHENT Final Journal

« Collage van Gent » project selected by the CoGhent Co-creation Fund proposing a participatory collage of elements coming from Ghent’s collections producing a good picture of what could be a “collective memory” certainly tapping into CoGhent’s social cohesion goal (photo credit: Collage van Gent - Ctrl Alt vzw)
« Collage van Gent » project selected by the CoGhent Co-creation Fund proposing a participatory collage of elements coming from Ghent’s collections producing a good picture of what could be a “collective memory” certainly tapping into CoGhent’s social cohesion goal (photo credit: Collage van Gent - Ctrl Alt vzw)


The CoGhent project intends to repurpose digitised and digital born cultural data to facilitate the dissemination, reuse, and recombination of institutional cultural heritage data bringing in the contribution of different local communities with stories and artefacts to enrich, complete this city wide repository of cultural heritage data. In creating a multi-voiced platform the project sets out to promote social cohesion within the population of the city through a more open, accessible, rich, diverse and representative digital cultural heritage.

The project is in line with EU ERDF policy objectives focusing on open digital innovation, open access to culture, e-inclusion, community-based cultural services and education as well as similar technological, social, and participatory objectives at national, regional and local levels.

The last concluding year of the CoGhent project was dedicated to analysis of the different experimentations (the CoGhent Box testing the progressive development of the project in 3 successive city neighbourhoods and the Co-creation Fund, an open call for creative reuse of the 80 000 digitised cultural object and the open data technology to recombine them), to the discussion of their impact on the various cultural, social and technological dimensions of the project and, to the involvement of the multiple project’s stakeholder in order to ensure the sustainability of the project outputs and their out-scaling to other institutions and cities.


Last day of the installation of the CoGhent Box in Sluizeken-Tolhuis-Ham neighbourhood (photo credit: François Jégou)


CoGhent appeared to be based on 2 parallel tracks of projects. On the one hand, a top-down track: tech developments to make the 5 city cultural institutions’ collections digitally available and reusable. On the other hand, a bottom-up track: an effort to reach out to citizens and to enrich city collections with grassroots cultural heritage. Both tracks seem to have stayed apart with lack of synergies between them.

The experiments made along the project and their impact assessment pointed that neighbourhood inhabitants do see an interest in multicultural heritage that bring more connectivity between them, interactions across communities, belonging to the territory, etc. and confirm CoGhent’s courageous hypothesis on such a sensitive topic as social cohesion now in Belgium, in Europe and beyond.

The distributed management adopted by the CoGhent project coordination team reveals to be rather efficient to manage a large and heterogeneous consortium and showed relative resilience to the Covid crisis. It also shows difficulties to align all partners around the same clear goals, to balance autonomy in tasks and tight collaboration, to dedicate enough time to set a shared understanding of common goals in a relatively short 3 years UIA timeframe. More scenario building and forward-looking activities at the beginning of the project could have helped alignment of stakeholders, strategic conversation on project sustainability and up-scaling.

Impact of the project should be observed in the long run and at a more systemic level, looking at the increased connectivity across the city and the related potential of conducting integrated approaches. New ways of working emerged in the project, consolidated with the creation of a “city labs”.

The sustainability of the features developed by CoGhent is critical in times of shrinking public budgets. The CoGhent Box tech infrastructure will be displayed for record in the city Design Museum. The CoGhent platform revealed to be mainly focused on downstream reuse/recombination of cultural institutions collection through successful creative process such as the Co-creation Fund rather than on upstream participative enrichment of these collections with grassroots material collected from the city populations and neighbourhood history. Some of the data management technology blocks are likely to be reused at Flemish government level.






More than one core challenge, CoGhent is addressing a series of issues and opportunities concerning cultural heritage, its wholeness, representativeness, accessibility, dissemination through repurposing, etc. in the current trend toward open digital culture.

In particular, the project intends to address 2 parallel and interwoven streams of issues.

On the one hand, citizens have few means to contribute to cities’ cultural heritage presented in cultural institutions. In particular, popular history, grassroots’ knowledge, successive flows of migration tend to be missing in territories’ cultural heritage. However, culture has an enormous potential to improve social cohesion. All local communities should find themselves, their actions and life represented and worth to be preserved as common cultural heritage.

On the other hand, digitization of cultural data in progress among museums, libraries, and cities’ cultural institutions struggles to be appropriated and reused by citizens. In particular, a lack of common approaches between cultural institutions, of open and accessible platforms hinder the potential to reach out to new and larger parts of the population.