V. Key Issues and Recommendations
National Policies and Initiatives: Maximising the impact of a nation’s
Without effective cultural heritage policy dedicated
towards preservation, access and value of cultural heritage, it is unlikely
that the full potential of the sector in the Information Society can be
realised. As cultural heritage resources are valuable capital in the emerging
knowledge economy, the primary objective of political action is to make
the richness of cultural heritage resources accessible to citizens in
a way that is usable and understandable.
So far, national governments in the European Member States
have spent substantial resources on building a critical mass of digital
cultural heritage resources, yet mostly in an uncoordinated and ad hoc
manner that centred on individual projects instead of programmes. Last
but not least, because of growing budget constraints, national governments
have now realised the need to develop a systematic and co-ordinated method
to implement cultural heritage policies to unlock Europe’s rich cultural
The primary objectives of such a comprehensive cultural
heritage policy are to:
- build a critical mass of digital cultural heritage resources in response
to user expectations (digitisation policy),
- transfer know-how to less enabled institutions and actively promote
ALMs in regions (technology transfer, development policy),
- make cultural heritage resources more widely available (access policy),
- stimulate usage through different target groups (usage policy),
- create and develop new markets for cultural heritage resources (market
- secure accessibility of cultural heritage resources in the future
In addition, it is also national governments that have
the responsibility to enable the implementation of these policies by creating
a favourable legal framework and making the necessary finances available.
In addition, experts participating in the DigiCULT study consider education
to be one of the most important drivers that pushes development in the
cultural heritage sector.
issue 1: A vision for diverse and multilingual cultural heritage
Memory institutions largely depend on political frameworks
and clearly shaped national cultural policies to realise the full value
of (digital) cultural heritage resources. Yet, planning and definition
of concrete implementation programmes requires political vision. This
vision will set the parameters for possible action as it:
- (re)defines the mission and core functions of memory institutions,
- provides the criteria for selecting and digitising past, present and
future cultural heritage resources,
- establishes the framework for future decisions of cultural organisations,
- supplies best practice guidelines with respect to digitisation practices,
methodology, and project documentation.
However, the DigiCULT study found that such a vision
is clearly lacking in many European Member States. It may be the role
of the European Commission to help foster this vision.
Recommendation 1: The European Commission and national
governments will need to develop a clear vision concerning the future
of the cultural heritage sector and its role in society.
This vision should address:
- the role and value of cultural heritage in European society;
- the criteria used for including or excluding resources from future
cultural heritage collections such as issues of social inclusiveness,
or the inclusion of new forms of cultural expression,
- multilingual access as a means to communicate to an increasingly pluralistic
society and the global community,
- the changing role, objectives and scope of the activities of cultural
heritage institutions, and
- the position of education as part of cultural policy and as primary
pillar within the Information Society.
Such a vision would then form the basis for national
governments to support cultural heritage in the future.
issue 2: Maximising a nation’s investment through a methodological approach
In the information society, in the long run, only the
digital will survive in the memory of a nation as it is more readily available
and accessible than analogue cultural heritage resources. Therefore, creating
digital material and e-content to be delivered over global networks is
a primary responsibility for national governments. Yet, the increasing
volume of cultural heritage material on the one side, and limited financial
and human resources on the other side, demands taking a highly selective
approach to digitising cultural heritage material.
To use the limited resources most effectively, national
governments are challenged to develop sound models and guidelines to ensure
a comprehensive and systematic approach to releasing the value of (digital)
cultural heritage resources. Providing such models, guidelines and examples
of best practice as basic decision making tools for cultural heritage
institutions is the prime responsibility of national governments. National
governments, as the primary financiers of cultural heritage institutions,
are in a key position to significantly influence the quality of the projects
intended to increase the value of cultural heritage resources.
Creating a critical mass of digital cultural heritage
content demands a co-ordinated approach to avoid wasting resources. Such
co-ordination mechanisms are currently established as part of the eEurope
initiative. In April 2001, Member State representatives agreed to co-ordinate
national digitisation policies to avoid a duplication of effort, known
as the "Lund principles". Nevertheless, it will take the mutual
effort of European, national and regional authorities to guarantee an
effective information exchange in both directions: bottom-up, from the
regional to the national and European level and top-down, from the European
bodies to the national and regional level.
However, all national governments are not equally endowed
with financial resources to support methodology development and to provide
guidelines. It therefore falls to the responsibility of the European Commission
to ensure that there is adequate information available for use on a country
by country basis.
Recommendation 2: The European Commission should fund
a study of best practice information on digitisation and ensure that this
is readily available to ALMs Europe-wide.
Recommendation 3: National governments and regional
authorities should use their position as primary financiers to encourage
best practice in cultural heritage institutions. They should strive for
the highest quality to be delivered by projects.
To do so, national governments should consider the following
- support the development and publishing of methodologies as a basis
for institutional digitisation policies,
- publish and demand compliance with technical and quality standards
- evaluate cultural heritage institutions on the basis of their adherence
to these best practice guidelines,
- issue criteria and measure impact and quality of digitisation projects,
- issue certifications to cultural heritage projects that follow or
employ best practice guidelines and fulfil certain quality criteria,
- and, finally, mark institutions with a quality seal on national cultural
Recommendation 4: National governments and regional
authorities should build on ongoing co-ordination initiatives for digitisation
programmes. They should support the establishment of an information exchange
infrastructure or interface that connects top-down initiatives vertically
with regional initiatives, but also horizontally, with other Member States.
issue 3: A participatory heritage to strengthen regions and small institutions
With up to 95 percent of European cultural heritage institutions
being small entities, valorisation and exploitation by means of information
technologies also means enabling these institutions to participate by
setting up supportive organisations and virtual infrastructures (e.g.
networks, platforms, and more advanced environments). Both in Europe and
in North America we can see that there is a trend towards a decentralised
model with a common methodology for digitisation, but with the initiative
in the cultural heritage inventory coming from regions and local authorities.
It can be expected that the success of this model will become increasingly
evident. More and more European countries will see that the way to unlock
the value of cultural heritage is to expand the number of digitised collections
to support small cultural heritage institutions by providing centralised
centres of expertise.
These new and established organisations and infrastructures
would primarily fulfil two functions: On the one hand, they serve as information
transfer centres that provide training and further support small institutions
with developing the skills of their staff. On the other hand, such infrastructures
would allow small institutions to become more visible in the information
society and "market" their activities, collections, services
Recommendation 5: The European Commission as well
as national and regional authorities should ensure that in all e-culture
initiatives small cultural heritage institutions can participate and make
full use of the opportunities provided by the new technologies.
Recommendation 6: National governments and regional
authorities should develop mechanisms that allow small and under-resourced
memory institutions to participate.
- investing in the capacity of institutions by raising the number of
- ensuring the availability and take up of an appropriate range of possibilities
for professional and continuing education as well as training in the
cultural heritage sector,
- providing easy access to best practice examples, methodologies and
- establishing a support infrastructure in the form of cultural Research
& Development centres, (virtual) information service centres or
specialised centres of excellence to foster know-how transfer.
Recommendation 7: National governments and regional
authorities should further support initiatives to make small cultural
heritage institutions and regions more visible.
- setting up online networks and platforms where small cultural heritage
institutions become more visible and are able to market their activities,
collections, services and products in co-operation with cultural tourism
agencies and educational institutions,
- getting small institutions on board of larger projects and initiatives.
Recommendation 8: The European Commission should carry
out an in-depth analysis and monitoring of the development of different
strategies for digital cultural heritage in the European Member States.
For reasons of synergy, the knowledge gained should be brought to the
notice of the Ministries of Culture and the cultural heritage institutions
of Member States.
The analysis should focus on the effectiveness of centralised
vs. decentralised models to assess their applicability to nation states
with differing political frameworks.
issue 4: Low-barrier access to cultural heritage
To realise an information society for all, digital cultural
heritage resources need to be easily available and accessible for all
citizens. Therefore, an effective cultural heritage policy needs to address
the various aspects that determine easy access to cultural heritage resources,
- cost of access,
- the technical barriers,
- intellectual and physical impediments that may prevent citizens to
access digital cultural heritage resources.
Although most Member States advocate the view that access
to cultural heritage resources should be free of charge, there seems to
be an increasing pressure from national governments to charge for cultural
heritage resources. Such a trend needs to be evaluated carefully, as it
is a fact that, with increasing costs to receive access, the number of
users drops, while there is marginal return for the institutions. On the
other side, there are also examples in Europe where national governments
consider offering access to cultural heritage resources over the Internet
as a universal service, along the lines of public service broadcasting.
Whatever model national governments select, they need
to find the right balance between fee-based cultural services and free
Recommendation 9: National governments and regional
authorities should create favourable conditions that allow all citizens
to gain access to digital cultural heritage resources. This implies to
- ensure that the access to resources of general public interest is
free of charge,
- develop criteria to make transparent why specialised services must
be charged for,
- lower the technological barriers by offering cheap and fast Internet
access for all,
- foster equal access by developing and publishing guidelines for creating
digital cultural heritage resources for the visually impaired and persons
with other disabilities,
- create central, low-barrier access points to cultural heritage,
- co-operate and enter into partnership with other Member States to
establish a network of national access points to culture.
issue 5: Cultural heritage resources for education
Experts consider education as one of the primary drivers
for the future development of the cultural heritage sector. Because knowledge
becomes obsolete more quickly in the Information Society, it is a fact
that learning does not end at the termination of school life but will
be a life-long experience. Life long learning has already become a reality.
Beyond the obvious economic benefits of a well-educated
population, education also plays a crucial role in fostering integration
and mutual understanding among citizens. A key factor in this understanding
is a knowledge of and respect for the historical traditions and cultural
expression of a European multicultural society. Digital cultural heritage
may play a key role in educational programmes, as cultural heritage institutions
increasingly become important providers for new pedagogical tools.
Cultural heritage information is high on the list of
interests for individual learners. Accordingly, when making decisions
on priority areas for education, re-education and upgrading, national
governments should not neglect the importance of cultural heritage information.
Policies on digitisation of this information will be crucial in providing
the kind of access that will be required in coming years.
This is not to say that national authorities have been
negligent. The value and importance of education is well known and many
European Member States are already debating the issue. Despite the lack
of concrete policies, a body of experience exists from the projects linking
educational and cultural domains. As a result, national governments are
in a strong position to influence the market for educational material
particularly in the area of cultural heritage.
Recommendation 10: National governments and regional
authorities should see educational use of digital cultural heritage information
as a key target of any national digitisation programme.
Digitisation plans and programmes should be clear about
the intentions and objectives with regards to future use. Therefore, in
drafting digitisation plans, national governments should ensure that digitised
resources can be used for multiple purposes, yet with educational use
being always on the list.
In addition, national governments should encourage projects
with educational value. Such projects should actively foster the co-operation
between content providers and teachers as well as research institutions
to create new educational content based on cultural heritage resources.
Recommendation 11: The European Commission should
fund a current assessment of the market for educational use of digital
cultural heritage information and best practice in the field of educational-cultural
For commercial content providers, educational exploitation
is one of the more interesting fields for cultural heritage resources.
An assessment of the educational market for cultural heritage products
should go beyond the current view of market size and viability. It should
also include knowledge gained from the many projects that cross the educational-cultural
issue 6: For a sustainable cultural heritage
Reducing the value of cultural heritage to its economic
level, as is currently the trend within many national governments, means
only considering one part of what constitutes the value of cultural
heritage and what ultimately might influence the individual choices of
citizens as primary users of cultural heritage resources. What needs to
be understood by national governments is that the value of cultural heritage
and the benefit that is gained in building and maintaining digital cultural
heritage repositories goes beyond the economic value.
As primary financiers of cultural heritage institutions,
national governments need to be aware that what they are funding is the
intellectual value that constitutes a cornerstone in a society’s national
identity. Thus, the authorisation to invest large sums into the valorisation
of cultural heritage must derive from an overall objective in the public
interest – namely to unlock the value of cultural heritage for regional
development, quality of life, education and life long learning, and to
stimulate the cultural industries, i.e. tourism, publishing and broadcasting.
This should be considered when the demand for a commercial exploitation
of cultural heritage resources is put on memory institutions.
Recommendation 12: National and regional governments
that also expect cultural institutions to exploit their collections commercially
should provide substantial medium to long-term additional funding.
Recommendation 13: When funding major national cultural
heritage initiatives and projects, national governments and regional authorities
should not expect a direct economic return of investment. Instead, they
should ensure that they can create synergies and leverage results in other
publicly funded sectors (e.g online learning) as well as cultural industries
(e.g cultural tourism) to maximise the impact of their investment.
Recommendation 14: National and regional authorities
should develop value indicators to measure the impact of their investment
in cultural heritage.