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2 minutes to read Posted on Thursday June 4, 2020

Updated on Monday November 6, 2023

portrait of Harry Verwayen

Harry Verwayen

General Director , Europeana Foundation

Building capacity for digital transformation: how our workshops support the cultural heritage sector

Europeana’s ‘Digital Transformation in the time of COVID-19’ workshops began this week, bringing together thought leaders in the cultural heritage sector for sense-making, scaling-up and capacity building. With the workshops underway, we share how they contribute to Europeana’s strategic priorities to build capacity for the sector and how you can follow and benefit from the work they undertake.

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A Vision for European Cultural Heritage 2025
Sebastiaan Ter Burg
May 2018, Bulgaria
Europeana Foundation

Digital change and digital need in the cultural heritage sector

While the Europeana Initiative has been actively supporting the digital transformation of cultural heritage since 2008, in the last few months we have seen a rapid acceleration of digital activities in cultural heritage organisations. A recent NEMO survey reveals that during the lockdown in Europe, over 60% of museums increased their online activities, providing a vital lifeline to the audiences they serve. This quick and creative response shows that our sector has the elasticity to take action in times of need. 

At the same time, we have all become acutely aware that a solid digital strategy entails much more than simply adding content online. It requires a fundamental understanding of the relationship we want to have with our audiences, of digital skills, and the ability to evaluate choices such as which platforms to use. If we consider that the crisis required staff in many institutions to pick up responsibilities for digital processes that they had never been trained for, we see the emerging need for cultural heritage institutions to be able to develop, and build on, that capacity.

The recently launched Europeana Strategy 2020-2025 looks to address this need. The strategy imagines a cultural heritage sector powered by digital and empowered to make that digital change by Europeana, and prioritises digital capacity building for our sector. 

While an acceleration of digital change is evident and the need for embedding digital practices, digital skills and literacy is apparent, understanding what interventions are needed to support these changes is not so simple. For Europeana to develop training programmes, workshops or seminars that make a difference, we need to consult our community. How does your perspective towards digital transformation change because of COVID-19? Which areas have been most affected, and how can your organisation cope with that? How does a looming economic crisis impact your willingness and ability to change? 

Supporting digital transformation through our workshops

We have developed a phased project to help us identify and shape a capacity-building framework based on the needs of our sector. Our special workshop series around ‘Digital Transformation in the time of COVID-19’ contributes to this work.  The series calls upon our community to bring their perspective, experience and expertise together to identify new paths through - and beyond - the COVID-19 crisis for digital cultural heritage.

In June, 60 participants drawn from across the Europeana network will meet in groups for three peer-to-peer workshops. Each week the group will examine a different aspect of digital transformation as seen through the lens of the COVID-19 crisis, gathering a range of perspectives from participants. And just as we hope these workshops will help to contribute towards the participant’s work in their own institutions, we hope they will also contribute towards Europeana’s work as we gain a greater understanding of the sector’s changing needs. 

Noted digital strategists and innovators Michael Peter Edson and Jasper Visser are facilitating the workshops, and describe the value they see in the approach: 

Mike says, ‘The COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing crisis act as a magnifying glass for trends and developments in our sector. In this way, COVID-19 has a lot to teach us about the capacity of Europe’s GLAM institutions to be responsive and serve their audiences in a time of rapid change. Jasper and I have designed these workshops with the conviction that Europeana’s Network and community members, working together, can see and understand more than any textbook or TV pundit ever can.’

Jasper adds, ‘We've set up the workshops from the profound belief that if we are to address digital transformation successfully, we'll need to bring everyone to the table. The diversity of experiences and perspectives from the participants who come from all over Europe and the sector are invaluable as we tackle the challenges of today and tomorrow. It's incredibly exciting to bring so many minds together.’

Get involved and follow our work

We want to share the progress and outcomes of these workshops with those of you who cannot participate directly. Over the next three weeks, we will document the discussions and topics from the workshops in posts for Europeana Pro News, and invite our readers to consider a topic of importance in relation to the workshops. You can share your thoughts and follow the progress on Twitter through the hashtag #BuildDigitalCapacity. In time, we will share the full results of these workshops alongside a report from Culture24, which seeks to gain a greater understanding of digital transformation across our sector, with our audiences. 

Finally, if you want to receive direct updates about our work and be the first to hear about opportunities to get involved, you can sign up to the Europeana Network Association