Sunday, May 20, 2007

A treasure chest of unique resources

Cultural treasures have been of interest on internet. Now in The Netherlands a study has appeared on the treasure chest of unique resources, published by the Social and Cultural Planning Office of The Netherlands (SCP). The study looks at the digitisation of cultural resources and the use of it. Digitisation is not only meant as digital preservation, but it is also intended for use.

'The best we have to offer, is not on the Net'. Around the turn of the millennium, this lament would have been justified for anyone referring to all the material that was stored in museums, archives and libraries. The European Commission spoke of a 'treasure chest of unique resources' (EC 2002) and implied that cultural institutions held the key to that chest. Digitisation is vital to improving access to this vast quantity of material. Virtually all cultural institutions in the Netherlands - not just traditional guardians of cultural heritage and libraries, but also broadcasting associations and art institutions - now have their own websites and are working hard on digitisation and creating digital access to museum collections, old films and television programmes and a host of other material. Thanks to the placing of this digitised material on websites, CD-ROMs and other carriers of digital information, the scope for disseminating our shared cultural capital has increased greatly, enabling the contents of the cultural treasure chest to be made accessible to a wider public. There are any number of publications which say something about the status of the digitisation of culture, but to date there has been no systematic overview of what kind of digital material the various cultural sectors (cultural heritage, the arts, libraries and public broadcasting) offer.

This publication summarises a study of the digitisation of cultural sources and the use of that digitised material. The exploratory study ensues from the Culture and ICT (Cultuur en ICT) programme within the Culture and Media Directorate of the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCenW) and was carried out by Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) in collaboration with the Social and Cultural Planning Office of the Netherlands (SCP).

The study focussed on the digitisation of information in four cultural sectors: cultural heritage, the arts, libraries and public broadcasting. It brings together quantitative and qualitative data to provide an overview of available information on both the supply of and demand for digital material. In addition to this description and broad analysis of supply and demand, the study looks at the relationship between the various disciplines, the relationship with the field of education and the participation of Dutch institutions in international projects. This study also looks at what gaps in knowledge exist in the field of Culture and ICT and can serve as a reference point to clarify what research is still needed for further policy development.

In summary, the object of study can be formulated as follows:The object of the study is to provide an impression of the available information on both the supply of and demand for digital cultural information in the cultural heritage sector, the arts sector, the libraries sector and the broadcasting sector in the Netherlands.

In order to realise this object, six research questions were formulated in consultation with the Ministry, and these served as a guiding theme for the study.
- What does digitisation mean in the different sectors?
- What do key figures and bodies believe to be the main activities and developments in their sector and what problem areas and (knowledge) gaps do they perceive in the development of digital products and services?
- What collaborative alliances have been forged within and between the different sectors?
- How do the different sectors contribute to the development of digital cultural information for education?
- What is happening at European level as regards the digitisation of culture, and how does the Netherlands participate in this?
- The digital cultural products offered and what are the main gaps in the knowledge about the 'digital public'?

In order to elicit the necessary information a literature search was carried out, websites were visited and interviews were held with representatives of umbrella organisations and key institutions, as well as with specialists from several directorates at the Ministry. The interviews formed the main part of the study; a total of 69 experts were interviewed and additional information was obtained from 11 persons. Below we first summarise the findings on the supply and use of digital cultural information based on these research questions. Conclusions are then drawn concerning the digitisation of culture in the Netherlands.

A long summary of the report is available in English.

Blog Posting Number 759

Tags: ,

No comments: