In an era where natural history and environmental education inadequacy in formal and informal contexts is becoming an increasingly challenging issue, harvesting the potential of European digital libraries appears as a very attractive option.
However, an impressive abundance of high quality digital content that is available in Natural History Museums (NHMs) around Europe remains largely unexploited due to a number of barriers.
Natural Europe is a project co-funded by EC under the ICT-PSP programme which suggests a coordinated solution at European level in order to overcome such barriers, by connecting the digital collections of a number of European NHMs with Europeana, and studying the educational methods and deploy the necessary software tools that will allow museum educators to design innovative online pathways through the digital collections of NHMs. To this end, the federation of the Natural Europe digital libraries aims to facilitate: storage, search and retrieval of digital content that is related to Natural History; as well as search and retrieval of content objects related to educational objectives and curricula on Natural History, Environmental Education, and Biological Sciences.
To achieve this, Natural Europe will design and deploy novel graphical interfaces that facilitate the navigation of educational pathways within digital collections, both from Europeana and the NHMs' Web sites. It will also adapt and tests innovative interactive installations at the NHMs that will allow visitors to follow educational pathways through Europeana's content on Natural History and Sciences, as part of the Museums' exhibition. Finally, it will evaluate and validate the delivered services/solutions through extensive pilot trials with project-internal and external organisations and user groups.