The project EXPLORAL is the continuation of the successful project Balkaneana funded under the IPA Cross-Border PROGRAMME “Greece – Albania 2007-2013” that delivered a digital library with content from the Central Public Library of Konitsa and the Municipal Library of Gjirokastra. EXPLORAL aims to enrich the content of the Balkaneana digital library with oral traditions and oral history, semantically enhance the content and explore its connectivity to cross-border historical heritage and cultural resources and events. Oral traditions are those recollections of the past, orally transmitted and recounted, that arise naturally within and from the dynamics of a culture. Oral history aims at the collection and study of historical information about individuals, families, important events, or everyday life using audiotapes, videotapes, or transcriptions of planned interviews that most of these cannot be found in written sources.
Thus, the content of those oral sources have an inherent additional social value in contributing to the social cohesion, dynamic evolution, and durability of the culture they represent and this aims to be exploited by the EXPLORAL project. There is a significant interest, from an ethnographic, cultural and historical perspective, to record testimonies from oral sources in the cross-border area of interest.
Greek minority in the region of Permet and Gjirokastra as well as the Albanian community of migrants in the area of Konitsa are too strong and there could be identified different sides in one story, identify and promote common cultural issues, common traditions and probably oral legends that are associated with the area of interest.
To this end, testimonies will be recorded and connected to the digital content that is already stored in the Balkaneana Library (books, magazines, audiovisual content), while a crowdsourcing functionality in the portal will provide the opportunity to people to manually upload their content. In addition, Optical character recognition (OCR) activities will be used in order to convert the existing digitized content of the library into machine-encoded text.
Finally, EXPLORAL includes the development of an application for mobile devices (mobile app) that includes interactive information on a map of the wider border area. The information will be provided to the user by selecting a point of interest (i.e. a block, square, street, or even a building or other cultural monument or natural heritage memorial). The interactive map will be connected with the content from oral sources and the already digitized material from Balkaneana that will result in an application with high cultural, ethnographic and touristic interest. Thus, this connection of the touristic information with valuable information acquired from oral and written sources, would result to transforming the Library, in its physical or digital form, to a reference point for all tourists in the area.
The end users could be divided to: (a) tourists, who will be equipped with a mobile app in order to get in depth knowledge for the area and get familiar not only with the sightseeing, but with the cultural and historical heritage, feel more like locals, when visiting the cross border area. (b) Visitors of the participating Libraries could benefit from the renovated infrastructure and services as well as from the EXPLORAL Network of Libraries and the interlibrary borrow system that incorporates. (c) Users that want to have remotely access to the digital content of the libraries in order not only to read an online book, but acquire in depth knowledge for the cross-border area of interest and its cultural, historical and ethnographic framework. These users could include people that have origins from the area and would like to look back into their memories and past as well as researchers and historians that want to exploit the content acquired through oral sources to study the common culture and history of the area.
However, the beneficiaries of the EXPLORAL solution include, also tour operators and tour agents as well as tourism professionals in general. These could exploit the EXPLORAL mobile app and provide cross-border touristic packages to clients, targeted to culture or history highlighting the common heritage and resources and probably the common local peoples’ memories on historical or cultural events.
The project EXPLORAL builds on the successful project Balkaneana funded under the IPA Cross-Border PROGRAMME “Greece – Albania 2007-2013” that delivered a multimodal digital library with content from the Central Public Library of Konitsa and the Municipal Library of Gjirokastra.
The overall objective is twofold: (i) to transform the Libraries into a reference point for all tourists visiting the cross-border area and (ii) identify and promote the common heritage of the cross-border areas of interest through the study and analysis of the oral history and tradition and its connection to the written content.
1. Publicity material development (leaflets and a website with translations in Greek, Albanian and English).
2. Organization of 2 Information Days (one Greece and one in Albania) to inform citizens, tourists and professionals in the tourism sector (i.e. hoteliers, tour operators, touristic agents) on the benefits of the Exploral Digital Repository and the EXPLORAL mobile app that will be connected to the content of the library.
3. A 2nd release of the digital library (v2.0) including enriched content (i.e. applying optical character recognition analysis on existing content) and increased functionalities. It will include a crowdsourcing functionality and a recommender mechanism resulting to the implementation of an innovative recommending mechanism for users to receive suggestions for similar content based on their searches, their interests and profile.