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2 minutes to read Posted on Tuesday September 22, 2015

Getting heritage out of its boxes and into the real world

We believe that the digital cultural heritage available via Europeana can make Europe an even better place to live, learn, work or visit. That’s why, under the recent Presidencies of the Council of the European Union, we worked with experts, member state and EU policy-makers to forge a path and create Recommendations for the use of our digital cultural heritage in four sectors - research, education and learning, tourism and the creative industries.

By making it easier for people to find and share our shared European culture, we can help researchers uncover more. We can inspire learners everywhere to think more. We can encourage tourists to explore and discover more. We can help creative professionals to develop ever more sophisticated and enticing products and services.

A new White Paper outlines how policy-makers can continue this mission, using their knowledge, experience and influence to support and find funding for the cultural institutions to begin or to continue in their digitization, aggregation and enrichment efforts, and to raise awareness on the importance of improving the openness of this material for its proper use in these sectors with new technologies.

Read the full recommendations in this new White Paper.

22.0 IBM Diverse maskiner, Telemuseet CC BY-SA

Why now?

Having completed the series of Presidencies meetings, it is both important and useful to bring together the themes that occurred time and again, and in particular to emphasize the main point made across all discussions that improving data quality is key to ensuring wider re-use of our digital cultural heritage.

The publication of this paper comes at an important and exciting moment for Europe’s cultural sector. The European Parliament has recently adopted a report recognizing the importance of the cultural heritage sector as a strategic resource for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, and recommending a dedicated European Cultural Heritage Year.

What’s more, Horizon 2020, an EU research and innovation programme, has dedicated 100m euros to research related to cultural heritage. At the same time, both the European Parliament and the European Commission have announced their intentions to encourage the use of digital tools in education and tourism.

What are the recommendations?

In the discussions held with experts from research, education, tourism and the creative industries, there was broad agreement that:

  • More of the cultural heritage held in Europe’s museums, galleries and archives needs to be digitized, especially 20th and 21st century material.
  • More cultural heritage institutions should be encouraged to open up their digital collections, for re-use.
  • Quality should be seen as a priority when digitising cultural heritage objects - creating high-quality reproductions with detailed and descriptive accompanying metadata.
  • High-quality, rights-cleared cultural heritage content should be easy to access and easy to use.
  • Awareness of the existence and benefits of the cultural collections available via Europeana should be raised within the target sectors.
  • Strong ties between Europeana and the target sectors, and cultural heritage institutions and the target sectors, need to be developed and nurtured.
  • Case studies demonstrating the benefit of using high-quality rights-cleared digital cultural heritage content should be used to encourage participation by cultural heritage institutions and organisations within the target sector.

All parties also agreed that there are two major challenges that need to be addressed, and with which we need support at the highest levels:

  • The digital cultural heritage made available to these sectors needs to be high-quality with good descriptive metadata and appropriate licences to allow it to be re-used.
  • More funding is needed to digitize and maintain Europe’s cultural collections to ensure that they can be re-used for many years to come and that the digital cultural heritage ecosystem is sustained long-term.
  • Read the full White Paper for more about our recommendations, what Europeana and its Network Association are already doing to progress them, and the support we’re asking for.

We need your support to help us achieve these goals. Please read, share and act upon the recommendations in this report and help us to get Europe’s rich cultural heritage out of its boxes, cases and buildings, and into the digital world where it can be used on a large scale to make living and learning in Europe even better. Together, we can transform the world with the culture.