I. The Meeting
This meeting (April 28 – 29) was jointly organised by Deutsche Kinemathek (A nationally important archive documenting the history of film) and Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz (The public foundation charged with preserving the former Prussian state‘s cultural heritage running some of the most important museums, libraries and archives in Germany). Its topic was digitization in German collections of all kinds. Attending were interested representatives from the whole spectrum of cultural heritage institutions and connected projects, but also software developers and specialists. The meeting agenda comprised four thematic blocs analyzing digitization and documentation efforts an a national level and their integration into a European context.
II. Conclusive Overview
The basic idea the meeting promoted was that of an integrated European continental information system linking individual efforts to digitize and make available cultural heritage items. To achieve such a system is a matter of effort for players on every level, from individual collections right up to the European Commission. Therefore, technical know-how as well as the economic potential for digitization must be made available regardless of the size of a given collection or institution. For in order for digitization efforts to be perceived and used in a satisfactory manner, a critical mass of available content must be accumulated. Accordingly, the issues of current or future technologies and standards were ever-present in lectures and discussions. Other major and continuous issues were legal problems, particularly concerning usage rights and especially regarding audiovisual content, and multilinguality.
It is apparent that there are extensive efforts being made and significant funds being made available on the European and national levels to enable individual access to cultural productions and heritage via combined portals in the world wide web. This increasingly includes audivisual content. Since efforts to digitize and supply items are widely spread, an integrated system will be structured pyramidally, with individual collections at the base, syndicated and national access points in the middle layers and European unified portals at the top.
The first bloc of lectures featured an introduction to two projects intended to collect and provide information on digitization, including comprehensive databases and best practices. One is the German project „kulturerbe digital“ (www.kulturerbe-digital.de) which aims to provide an overview over past and present digitization in Germany to aid, link, and pass on experience to, upcoming digitization efforts. The other is the European MINERVA network (www.minervaeurope.org) which publishes manuals to provide broad procedural advice. Both stop short of setting standards but give more or less strong recommendations. The third lecture in this bloc introduced the effective and systematic Dutch approach to nation-wide comprehensive digitization which is taking a similar route.
The second lecture bloc provided information on the MICHAEL portal (www.michael-culture.org), a multilingual directory to digital collections and assets in museums, libraries and archives. Access is possible in 3 languages, English, French and Italian. By summer 2008, multilinguality is to be extended to comprise sixteen European languages. MICHAEL aims to provide links to 6 million digital objects by 2010. It will be linked to its German counterpart (www.bam-portal.de) and to the projected German Digital Library (Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek or DDB).
The DDB has a European counterpart as well, the European Digital Library or Europeana which will be going online in November 2008 (www.europeana.eu). The third thematic bloc was dedicated to this EU Commission funded project. The main difference between the Europeana and MICHAEL is that the Europeana operates on an object level while MICHAEL is purely collection level. Meaning that while searching on MICHAEL users will find links to and information on collections containing a certain object, whereas while searching on Europeana they will be able to access the object itself. This raises a lot of questions in regard to usage rights that currently complicate the presentation of digital material, be it audio, video, image or text. The EU is in the process of tackling this issue with a number of projects, one being ARROW with a focus on publi-private partnerships. Both MICHAEL and the Europeana will be multilingual.
The fourth bloc of lectures was concerned with the possibilities and challenges regarding standardized software solutions to problems connected with digitization and supply of cultural heritage. OpenCollection is an open source software available free of charge with a growing user community in the US. It is a tool for the administration of, and provision of access to, collections. OpenCollection is primarily intended for the use in museums but is modular and can be used and amended to satisfy other collection types‘ needs. It‘s an example for cost-effective but no less professional applications aiding the provision of digital heritage.
For further information see: http://www.kulturerbe-vernetzen.de/ (German language)
Written by: Jens Meinrenken, Martin Maaß (Deutsche Welle – Video Active content provider)