| Table of contents | Foreword | Introduction | Overview of recommendations | Situation analysis | Key Issues | Conclusion | Imprint |

V. Key Issues and Recommendations

Organisational change

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 as online,
  • 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.



 Key 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 environment.


 Key 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 capital).

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 interpretations.

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.


 Key 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 expert communities.

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.


 Key issue 4: Supportive infrastructure

Many cultural heritage institutions are not capable of setting up and managing sustainable digital collections without outside assistance.

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 programmes.

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.


 Key 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.

This demands:

  • to make a clear distinction between commercial versus scholarly and educational uses,
  • to come to an agreement with resource holders that respects their rights and allows them to provide their resources for non-commercial uses,
  • 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.


 Key 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).


Scottish Cultural Resources Network (SCRAN)

Picture Australia

CultureNet Norway

24Hour Museum, UK

L'Internet Culturel, France


CultureNet Canada

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 and services.

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 sector services.

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 digital environment.

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 and tourism.



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