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2 minutes to read Posted on Wednesday April 24, 2019

Member States
portrait of Emily D’Alterio

Emily D’Alterio

Former Editorial & PR Officer , Europeana Foundation

Europeana event under the Romanian Presidency - supporting strong national infrastructures

‘Europe’s large-scale digital transformation is in full swing. Now is the time to make sure that the platforms and infrastructures supporting and driving digital transformation in the cultural heritage sector are strong and resilient.’

Iași, Romania, (April 17-18) - Europeana brought together politicians, policymakers and professionals from across Europe, under the umbrella of the Romanian EU Presidency, to explore the next horizon of infrastructure needed to support digital cultural heritage.

Exposing Online the European Cultural Heritage: The impact of Cultural Heritage on the Digital Transformation of The Society. Photo by Sebastiaan ter Burg, CC BY 4.0
Exposing Online the European Cultural Heritage: The impact of Cultural Heritage on the Digital Transformation of The Society. Photo by Sebastiaan ter Burg, CC BY 4.0

Europeana conference exposing online the European cultural heritage from Sebastiaan ter Burg on Vimeo.

The transformation so far

Europe’s cultural heritage sector has moved beyond digitisation. Whilst the early stages of tech influence in the cultural sector saw cultural heritage institutions digitising their objects and making them available online (or incorporating other forms of technology into their work practices) this has progressed far beyond practical digitisation.

In fact, Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society recently argued that the term ‘digital’ was becoming increasingly defunct in a digital world, stating ‘...digital is not a sector. Digital is not a thing. Digital is everything’.   

If digital is everything, the challenge now facing European leaders is to secure that progression and to manage the outcomes - societal and technical - and the next stages of technological advancement.

Today, Europe is competitive and world-leading in its infrastructures supporting digital cultural heritage - the result of significant investment from the EU and Members States. New technologies such as 3D, bring new challenges and the advent of game-changers, such as AI, signals the need to revisit and recommit to our approach.  So what should be the next steps in Europe’s cultural innovation leadership?

According to Europeana Foundation Executive Director Harry Verwayen, ‘We need to think about infrastructure in a wider sense - taking into account the role that communities play and develop shared policies and frameworks that make things fluid throughout the Digital Single Market. Now  is the time to make sure that the platforms and infrastructures supporting and driving digital transformation in the cultural heritage sector are strong and resilient.’

Exposing Online the European Cultural Heritage: The impact of Cultural Heritage on the Digital Transformation of The Society. Photo by Sebastiaan ter Burg, CC BY 4.0
Exposing Online the European Cultural Heritage: The impact of Cultural Heritage on the Digital Transformation of The Society. Photo by Sebastiaan ter Burg, CC BY 4.0

Supporting best practice and strong infrastructures across Europe

Last week in Iași, Romania - under the umbrella of the Romanian EU Presidency - Europeana brought together stakeholders from across Europe to explore the next horizon of infrastructure needed to support digital cultural heritage. 90 officials, policymakers and practitioners examined the positive impacts and the challenges of making cultural heritage available on the web for heritage institutions.  

Speakers included Mihai Alexandru Gherghe, Secretary of State from the Ministry of Culture,  Lăcrămioara Stratulat, Manager of ‘Moldova’ National Museum Complex and Bogdan Trîmbaciu, Director of Project Management Unit, Ministry of Culture and National Identity.

Interoperability and cooperation emerged as the keywords of the day and pointed to the foundations needed to consolidate and secure the cultural heritage sector’s place in Europe’s digital future.

There is a clear case that investment in digital platforms and infrastructures - like the Europeana platform - must be matched with continued investment in robust policy and reliable infrastructures, at national and European level.

Keynote speaker Gail Kent, Director CNECT G. Data at the European Commission said, ‘Millions of content items on Europeana would have not been possible without national support, national infrastructures and over 3,700 institutions themselves opening up their collections online and contributing to this EU initiative’.

Exposing Online the European Cultural Heritage: The impact of Cultural Heritage on the Digital Transformation of The Society. Photo by Sebastiaan ter Burg, CC BY 4.0
Exposing Online the European Cultural Heritage: The impact of Cultural Heritage on the Digital Transformation of The Society. Photo by Sebastiaan ter Burg, CC BY 4.0

Working in groups, participants were invited to share their own experiences of challenges and opportunities from working within their own aggregation systems with each other. They identified where they share common ground and what refinements or changes they think are needed to build on their experience.

Workshops, plenary and feedback sessions saw delegates develop a series of ideas, recommendations and shared issues that have been surmised and delivered to form a number of strategic recommendations to tackle the issues of national and European infrastructure investment.

Recommendations  

As resultant of discussions and sharing throughout the event, three principles for building a strong national approach were identified and agreed upon with the delegates.

  1. National Strategies should achieve more than enabling a national aggregator -
    A published strategy should be agreed upon by the local CHI sector and supported by policymakers.
  2. Having a standard on paper is not enough: it needs to be supported on a local level -
    Adoption of international standards requires local environments that create opportunities to learn, share and access resources and expertise.
  3. Individuals are the drivers of motivated and sustainable communities -
    Local communities are essential tools to agree on and implement shared standards and practices towards increasing access to higher quality data

What next?

Europeana - together with representatives from this meeting - is developing a paper that builds on these principles. This paper will both illustrate and articulate the thoughts, ideas and recommendations which came out of the conversations, observations and strategic planning in Romania. As part of this paper, recommended actions to support the aforementioned principles will be outlined at Ministerial level, as well as actions for cultural heritage institution and the Europeana Initiative.

For more information on the event, read the presentations and see the images. Visit Europeana Pro for updates on the publication of the recommendations paper.

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