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2 minutes to read Posted on Monday February 15, 2021

Updated on Monday November 6, 2023

portrait of Nicole McNeilly

Nicole McNeilly

Impact Advisor , Europeana Foundation

portrait of Sebastiaan ter Burg

Sebastiaan ter Burg

Knowledge Development Specialist , Europeana Foundation

Defining digital transformation for the cultural heritage sector

At Europeana, the ambition of ‘digital transformation’ has been at the heart of what we do for many years. In early 2020, it was written into the Europeana Initiative’s mission, which became to ‘empower the cultural heritage sector in its digital transformation’. At a time of global crisis, working digitally has proved more important than ever before, and we set out to work with our partners and network members to understand what it meant to them in practice. Now, we have a shared working definition of digital transformation for the cultural heritage sector.

Sketch of digital transformation. Three buildings on a map of Europe.
Visualising digital transformation
Europeana Foundation and Sketchy Business
The Netherlands

‘Digital transformation’ is a term that is used in different ways by different people in different sectors. We have worked with our peers, partners and Europeana Network Association members to agree a common working definition that is relevant to the cultural heritage sector and our stakeholders. We will use the definition to help shape our future strategies and priorities, so that a cultural heritage sector powered by digital can contribute to a Europe powered by culture. The definition will help us meet the needs of the sector, guide how we think about our impact and shape how we measure our success and, ultimately, the progress of the digital transformation of the sector. 

The work on the definition builds on the outcomes of the series of sense-making workshops run by Michael Peter Edson and Jasper Visser in the summer of 2020 that helped us identify and shape a capacity-building framework based on the needs of the sector. To complement this, we asked Culture24 to explore what terms like ‘digital transformation’ mean in practice for GLAM institutions. Their findings, and a series of consultative workshops with the Europeana Network Association Members’ Council and Europeana Aggregators’ Forum, have fed into the process of defining our central term - ‘digital transformation’.

Digital transformation - a definition for the cultural heritage sector

Digital transformation is both the process and the result of using digital technology to transform how an organisation operates and delivers value. It helps an organisation to thrive, fulfil its mission and meet the needs of its stakeholders. It enables cultural heritage institutions to contribute to the transformation of a sector powered by digital and a Europe powered by culture.

Our work, our sector, indeed our world, is not static. And neither is our definition of digital transformation. We will use it as our guiding principle and we expect to keep revisiting it, adapting it, making sure that it is fit to serve the cultural heritage sector. We’ll keep thinking about how the definition - and our capacity-building framework - changes as the digital landscape and the work of our heritage institutions evolves over time. 

A longer, fuller version of the definition is available on our ’Building digital capacity’ page.

Thank you

We’d like to thank everyone who has taken the time to feed into the process of creating this definition, including the many representatives of the Europeana Network Association Members’ Council and the Europeana Aggregators’ Forum. 

If you’re interested in our work to develop a capacity-building framework, sign-up for updates and join our forthcoming Europeana Café on capacity building.