V. Key Issues and Recommendations
In order to fulfil their missions in the Information
Society, cultural heritage institutions must become highly interoperable
with users and partners. Interoperability in organisational terms is not
only and not foremost dependent on technologies. The frequent assumption
that the implementation of information and communication technologies
(ICTs) can serve as a ‘motor’ for organisational change in an institution
is more than questionable. In practice, such notions lead to short-sighted
and unsuccessful technology projects. The main prerequisites for the successful
use of ICTs such as decisive changes in the workflow, "re-skilling"
of personnel, as well as partnerships with supportive organisations should
not be neglected.
The Organisational Change part of the DigiCULT-study
highlights the following issues:
Cultural heritage institutions will have to
- become "hybrid" institutions in the sense that they will
have to provide information, material and knowledge in-house as well
- set human resources development on top of their priority list,
- co-operate on all levels to provide high-value services,
- make use of supportive infrastructures and protective environments
to make accessible digitised resources,
- as well as use intermediaries (cultural networks) to reach users.
issue 1: Becoming hybrid institutions
By becoming hybrid institutions, cultural organisations
struggle to find the balance between the analogue and digital worlds.
Institutions that become hybrid (national libraries, research libraries,
TV archives, etc.) are forced to bridge two different worlds: the physical
and the digital.
In their long history, memory institutions have developed
infrastructure capital that is directed toward the handling of physical
objects (written records, manuscripts, books, film rolls, tapes, pictures,
etc.). Today these same institutions also have to deal with intangible
objects, the born digitals. This will require new overall solutions, the
implementation of new procedures and workflows, and new tools to collect,
make accessible, exhibit, contextualise and preserve these objects.
Memory institutions should be able to work with the tangible
and the intangible, providing both their traditional services (e.g. books
and other printed material) and new online services. However, with limited
financial resources, memory institutions will need to find the right balance
between these services..
Recommendation 15: Taking care of traditional as well
as new digital resources, hybrid memory institutions need to be prepared
to face additional challenges related to: human capital and the availability
of skilled staff, cost of ownership for technologies, managing the life-cycle
of digital resources, as well as the cost to co-operate in a networked
issue 2: Human capital is a key resource of memory institutions
Today, memory institutions are forced to adjust to the
digital environment and implement new technological solutions at a speed
that puts enormous pressure on personnel to acquire new knowledge and
skills. Therefore, human resources development is a key task in cultural
institutions. This not only applies to IT competencies; highly qualified
personnel are necessary at all levels.
In the Information Society the most important intellectual
capacity of a memory institution lies in the contextualisation, interpretation
and explanatory narratives it can bring to networked cultural heritage
resources. Whereas there is substance in the view that "the real
value" of memory institutions is in the librarian, archivist or curator,
in fact, the efficiency of the intellectual capital of an institution
depends on the interplay of the staff (human capital) and technology (infrastructure
Recommendation 16: Cultural institutions should put
human resources development high on their priority list.
For hybrid institutions this means coming to terms with
the following challenges:
- be prepared for more physical handling of material as well as more
competencies needed to meet the intellectual demands of users,
- keep and further improve the key traditional competencies that are
valuable in the physical as well as digital spheres,
- monitor, develop, incorporate and share new competencies that are
necessary in order to be interoperable and expose the existing human
capital to upcoming new ideas, concepts, new services to be offered
and new products to be developed.
Recommendation 17: Cultural heritage institutions
should in particular further develop the knowledge, expertise and skills
of their staff in relation to tangible and intangible cultural resources,
i.e. providing object descriptions, contextualisation, explanations and
With regard to IT personnel, cultural heritage institutions
are running into severe problems. Particularly in smaller institutions
there is a manifest lack of technological expertise. New areas of expertise
must be covered e.g. in the development of digitisation projects as well
as the preservation of digitised and born-digital sources. Furthermore,
there is a need to update knowledge and skills in traditional areas related
to the digital environment, e.g. metadata creation in cataloguing.
Recommendation 18: Cultural heritage institutions
should develop information management know-how, intensively share IT-expertise,
and actively involve their staff in hands-on training programs.
Recommendation 19: Cultural heritage associations
and educational institutions should set measures to speed up the transfer
and integration of knowledge into professional training and develop special
courses for key areas such as digital management and preservation.
Recommendation 20: With regard to basic qualifications
of their staff, cultural heritage associations should promote the adoption
of the European Computer Driving License.
issue 3: Developing co-operation capital
Developing co-operation capital is one main key to success
for cultural heritage institutions in the networked environment. Co-operation
provides many general advantages for institutions as for example gaining
strength in negotiations with other cultural sector players or reaching
new users groups. The DigiCULT-study in particular highlights the importance
of co-operation in creating value added services and rich environments
for broader user groups as well as fostering more cross-domain co-operation
of cultural heritage institutions.
Co-operation in creating value added services and
rich environments for broader user groups
Co-operation is central to unlocking online the value
of cultural heritage resources for broader user groups. For these user
groups, not masses of "raw data" (digitised objects and basic
documentation) are needed but enriched, interactive environments and packaged
material (e.g. course material that fits into the curriculum).
At the basic level, this demands the creation of metadata
that includes elaborated descriptions of objects that can be integrated
in contextualising structures, e.g. historical concepts and narration.
For the creation of such data and structures, targeted initiatives, programs
and projects are required to form collaborations between the relevant
In building attractive online as well as in-house digital
environments project groups are needed that include subject experts and
scholars as well as specialists in interactive multimedia design and production.
Ways to build such groups are in particular: developing media creativity
within institutions, purchasing creativity from media companies, making
use of media culture centres, as well as working together with cultural
network organisations. Which option will be used by an institution will
depend on the project objectives and the available resources.
Furthermore, cultural heritage institutions within multicultural
societies need to find appropriate ways of involving and allowing for
the participation of different communities that demand and merit to be
present in the cultural record and memory.
Recommendation 21: Cultural heritage institutions
should not only provide "raw data" (digitised objects and basic
description), but co-operate in building enriched, interactive environments.
If their target audience is the educational sector, they should also provide
packaged material (e.g. course material).
Recommendation 22: Cultural heritage institutions
who regularly exhibit digital objects should develop in-house competency
or co-operate with innovative companies or organisations specialised in
interactive multimedia design and production. With regard to the presentational
forms, they should explore new approaches in the usage of advanced technologies
for building attractive virtual environments for cultural heritage applications.
Recommendation 23: Cultural heritage institutions
should seek to find appropriate ways of how to involve different cultural
and ethnic communities in society.
Cross-domain institutional co-operation
The traditional separation between archives, libraries
and museums is a major barrier to efficient access to resources and knowledge.
An important issue in the cultural heritage sector therefore is cross-domain
co-operation that allows for bringing together resources and knowledge
from the different institutions. Yet, such co-operations are not easily
achieved as the institutions struggle to come to terms with many other
major tasks. Promising examples of cross-domain co-operation, e.g. in
the Northern countries, are based on themes different memory institutions
can easily buy into, as for example local history. A major further incentive
is, if funding for projects is bound to cross-domain co-operation of institutions.
Recommendation 24: In order to foster cross-domain
co-operation, national governments, regional authorities, and cultural
councils should bind funding for cultural heritage projects to the participation
of cross-domain partners.
Recommendation 25: Cultural heritage institutions
should participate in national or regional cross-domain projects in order
to contextualise and present their rich resources together.
issue 4: Supportive infrastructure
Many cultural heritage institutions are not capable of
setting up and managing sustainable digital collections without outside
This issue is particularly relevant with respect to the
collections of traditional archives, as well as the special collections
in libraries and museums. While it may be the objective to unlock these
treasures and make them more readily available in the information and
knowledge society, to do this in a sustainable fashion might cost considerably
more than smaller or medium sized institutions can afford.
There is also the question of whether or not the public
purse can afford to finance a trial and error approach that may result
in unsustainable ventures in the cultural heritage sector.
Therefore, there is a clear need for specialised and
well funded organisations that support ALMs in setting up and managing
digital collections (e.g. digitisation, collection management, online
registration of users, licensing and transactions). The model that drives
innovation will not so much be knowledge transfer but a splitting of functions.
The memory institutions and scholarly communities will provide
the real value they can bring into the Information Society: that is knowledge
and expertise related to digitised objects, i.e. descriptions (e.g. metadata),
contextualisation, explanations and interpretations, and stories that
truly involve potential users.
Recommendation 26: Instead of funding individual digitisation
projects of cultural heritage institutions, national governments, regional
authorities and other funding bodies should invest in comprehensive digitisation
Recommendation 27: National governments, regional
authorities and other funding bodies should invest in specialised organisations
that particularly support small and medium sized cultural heritage institutions
in setting up and managing digital collections (e.g. digitisation, collection
management, online registration of users, licensing, and transactions).
Recommendation 28: Cultural heritage institutions
should not individually attempt to address all the problems involved in
digitising and managing digitised cultural heritage, or expect that they
can solve them on the basis of a knowledge transfer model.
Cultural heritage institutions should split tasks with
specialised organisations and focus on providing the real value they can
bring into the Information Society: knowledge and expertise related to
the digitised objects.
Recommendation 29: Cultural heritage institution should
use a multi-tiered partnership and licensing model that involves creators
and owners of digital surrogates of cultural heritage resources as well
as distributors and licensees that address special user groups.
issue 5: Developing protected online environments
Cultural heritage institutions perceive many risks in
the digital environment. They fear losing control over digitised resources
once they are "out there" on the Internet as well as harming
their reputation if, for example, images of objects are used in inappropriate
ways and contexts. These fears keep institutions unwilling to make their
resources available online. Trusted competency and service centres can
convince institutions to bring their digitised resources into protected
environments for licensed uses by scholarly and educational communities.
- to make a clear distinction between commercial versus scholarly and
- to come to an agreement with resource holders that respects their
rights and allows them to provide their resources for non-commercial
- usually, such an agreement will grant perpetual, non-exclusive rights
to aggregate materials and distribute them electronically for scholarly
and educational uses,
- these uses are bound to the protected environment and allowed only
under well-defined terms.
The protected environment concept is spearheaded by renowned
organisations such as the Scottish Cultural Resources Access Network (SCRAN)
or the Mellon Foundation that has funded similar digitisation projects
(e.g JSTOR and ArtSTOR).
Recommendation 30: National and regional governments
should support the creation of protected environments that enable scholarly
and educational user communities to access high-value cultural heritage
resources. This implies to exempt educational use from the current European
Union copyright directive.
Recommendation 31: Cultural heritage institutions
should participate in building protected environments and allow for licensed
uses of their digitised resources by scholarly and educational communities.
issue 6: Reaching users - the role of intermediaries
Intermediary organisations play an essential role in
bringing the value of cultural heritage to larger interest groups (e.g.
scholars, learners, tourists) and the public at large.
Traditional memory institutions that seek to bring their
hidden treasures into the emerging digital cultural economy will not be
effective enough to reach larger segments of certain user communities
(e.g. the educational sector or cultural heritage markets related to tourism).
This is due to a lack of marketing and technological capacities of individual
memory institutions (that also have no tradition of this type of work)
and to the necessary critical mass to generate markets and rich services
that are needed to attract and involve users.
Therefore, intermediary organisations that build user
platforms and environments are of critical importance to the cultural
sector. They provide access to information resources of many institutions
(within and/or across sectors) as well as function as portals to (protected)
virtual environments that include digital collections (see graphic).
Source: Salzburg Research Forschungsgesellschaft, 2001
Teaming up with intermediary organisations may considerably
reduce the entry barriers for smaller institutions and provide a wide
range of opportunities: from being present in event calendars or news
tickers, up to participating with their collections in major digitisation
initiatives (depending on the aims and models of the existing intermediary
organisation in a country or region).
Recommendations 32: Cultural heritage institutions
should actively participate in consortia that establish intermediary organisations
In bringing cultural heritage resources to larger interest
groups, institutions and intermediaries in the cultural heritage field
can build on online services that already have been established in the
educational and tourist sector. To address, for example the educational
community, they can interlink with the existing European and national
educational servers, as well as projects which aim to enhance the use
of new media by teachers.
Recommendations 33: Cultural heritage institutions
and intermediaries should interlink with established educational and tourist
Unlocking the value of the cultural heritage sector into
the Information Society will demand huge efforts and investments in building
new organisations and services that support existing institutions in coming
to terms with different issues that determine success or failure in the
In the discussions on the digital economy the concept
of disintermediation (i.e. the elimination of intermediary organisations
that stand between producers and users of products and services) figures
prominently, yet, to bring cultural heritage into this economy will demand
to exactly build these intermediaries that were missing in the old economy.
Recommendations 34: National governments, regional
authorities and funding organisations should actively support the establishment
of intermediary organisations and services in the cultural heritage sector
and their co-operation with services in other sectors, such as education