|2023-2024| DE-BIAS – Detecting and cur(at)ing harmful language in cultural heritage collections

DE-BIAS is co-funded under the Digital Europe Programme of the European Union. The project consortium is composed by DFF – Deutsches Filminstitut & Filmmuseum (coordinator), Europeana Foundation, Datoptron, European Fashion Heritage Association, Thinkcode, Michael Culture Association, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Stichting Archives Portal Europe Foundation, Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication, Stichting Nederlands Instituut Voor Beeld En Geluid and ECCOM. 

Cultural institutions have been undertaking work to describe and catalogue the historical objects in their collections for decades. However, once created, catalogue data are rarely updated to reflect changes in language and society. As a result, many object and collection descriptions that once fit into popular social narratives now convey outdated views that not only ignore and therefore alienate a wide range of people, but in some cases use language that is offensive, inappropriate or even harmful. 

DE-BIAS therefore wants to promote a more inclusive and respectful language in the texts and descriptions of digital collections and give space to those minorities that have so far been excluded or not represented. The goal is to create an AI-powered tool to automatically detect problematic terms in cultural heritage metadata (i.e. that information that allows the object sought to be identified for its recovery) and provide information about their problematic background. It will use vocabularies that combine offensive language with contextual information and suggestions for appropriate terms. 

These vocabularies will focus on three themes: migration and colonial history; gender and sexual identity; and ethnicity and ethnoreligious identity. They will be developed in collaboration with the affected marginalised communities by giving them the space and agency to change the way that cultural artefacts have previously been described due to outdated colonial, patriarchal and hegemonic structures.  

By enabling bottom-up work with marginalised communities, DE-BIAS seeks to improve the representation and participation of people who feel that museums and archives don’t speak of them or, worse, are not for them. 

The project aims to analyse more than 4.5 million records in five different European languages currently published on the Europeana website and to automatically detect and flag item descriptions that contain derogatory language. 

In this context, ECCOM has been involved in the implementation of a series of capacity building activities, which aim to develop skills and knowledge aimed at improving cultural production processes. 

In addition, thanks to the experience gained in the management of intercultural projects, training activities and publications such as the Intercultural dictionary, ECCOM participates in the drafting of vocabularies, through an active involvement of communities. 

To know more visit the DE-BIAS website.

European Union


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Gruppo di lavoro

Cristina Da Milano
Maria Francesca


Partner di progetto

DFF – Deutsches Filminstitut & Filmmuseum
Europeana Foundation
European Fashion Heritage Association
Michael Culture Association
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Stichting Archives Portal Europe Foundation
Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication
Nederlands Instituut voor Beeld & Geluid
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