In 2005, a letter signed by French President Jacques Chirac and five other heads of state asked European Union officials to support the development of a European digital library. The Europeana prototype went live on 20 November 2008. Museums, audiovisual archives and galleries joined the libraries, creating a common access point to Europe’s cultural heritage. At launch, Europeana gave access to 4.5 million digital objects.
In January 2011, the European Commission released its ‘New Renaissance’ report which endorsed Europeana as ‘the central reference report for Europe’s online cultural heritage’. A huge milestone followed in September 2012 when, in the first move of its kind, Europeana metadata was released under the terms of the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication, making the metadata itself freely available for any kind of use, boosting opportunities for digital innovation and creativity.
In May 2015, Europeana became one of the European Commission’s Digital Service Infrastructures (DSI), all of which deliver networked cross-border services for citizens, businesses and public administrations. As a DSI, Europeana’s objectives are to make it easier for institutions to share their collections online effectively, to improve the quality of data and content shared with Europeana, and to empower cultural heritage institutions to build their capacity for digital transformation. All of this helps make sure that Europe’s people, institutions and businesses reap the full benefits of the technological revolution in digital services for culture.
As of early 2020, Europeana Collections provides access to 58 million digital objects - books, music, artworks and more - with sophisticated search and filter tools, and many themed collections, exhibitions, galleries and blogs.