International seminar on European culture portal and the intercultural dialogue
Assisi, 26-28 May 2005
The objective of the Agenore international seminar was to progress on the discussion about improving on line accessibility and reinforcing visibility of cultural content and activities of each Member State, contributing to the promotion of the European culture.
There was general agreement that the European Culture Portal should become one of the instruments to raise the visibility of the activities carried out by the Member States and the EU and across the different areas having a link with culture.
The starting points of the discussion were the priorities set by the Council in its Workplan for Culture 2005-2006:
- the development of the Lisbon strategy (creativity and culture sector as key factor for the European growth and cohesion – Priority 1);
- the reinforcement of the coordination mechanisms for digitisation of cultural content and the transformation of the NRG as informal network into a strong European cooperative group with clear function and range (Priority 2);
- the fundamental role that a European Culture Portal could play for the improvement of online information (Priority 3) on: mobility of artists, mobility of works of art and intercultural dialogue.
In this framework the Agenore international seminar identified specific objectives thatshould be pursued in a short and mid term timescales.
The first objective was to take stock of and endorse what had been done so far by the European Commission and by the Member States through the National Representatives Group, MINERVA and the Presidencies of the European Union since 1999.
Through analysis and understanding of the existing results,the second objective was to develop a strategy for the future, based on what has been achieved until now.
Two components constitute the basis if the envisaged European strategy: the content and the instruments.
Content issues should be addressed in the widest possible perspective.In this regard, the European Culture Portal could be developed as tool providing precise practical up-to-date and easily accessible information on cultural matters at EU and national levels, in order to encourage the mobility of practitioners, the circulation of works of art and intercultural dialog. For this initiative to be successful, there is a need for a close cooperation between European Institutions and national Authorities of Member States.
In this light, as part of the contribution to the development of the European Culture Portal and according to the discussion paper “Towards an Agenore project” presented to the Comité des Affaires Culturelles of the Council of the European Union on 10 September 2003 (ref. N.12163/03), it is up to each Member State to select the key players of their cultural life at national or regional level, along commonly agreed principles.
On the other hand, the instruments should be conceived as the combination of recommendations, guidelines, technical tools, coordination mechanisms together with best practices, understanding of the technology and methods for the creation, publication and access of digital content on the network.
It was underlined that the digital dimension of the European cultural heritage and its on-line publication has become a leitmotiv of European governments; six Heads of States and/or Governments of the Euopean Union signed a call to the President of the European Council and to the President of the European Commission that stresses the will of building a digital library with European digital cultural content. In this perspective, the concept of European Digital Library would have to be extended to the whole heritage, libraries, museums, archives together with archaeological sites, landscape and the whole audiovisual heritage.
The European Commissioner Vivian Reding reacted to the call of the Member States defining future action lines and fostering the continuation of coordination mechanisms.
The fundamental role of the internet and digital technologies in the life of European citizens was recognised in 1999 when the European Commission launched the eEurope initiative - “An information society for all”.
Since then, the European Commission with the support of the Member States and the National Representatives Group has worked towards the creation of coordination actions to be carried out in the field of digital culture: the results are a set of guidelines and recommendations for digitisation and web publishing of the cultural heritage edited by the MINERVA project, and the realisation of a first core of a multilingual open source portal of the European digitised cultural collections, MICHAEL. MICHAEL is a spin-off project of implementation that has been launched by Italy, France and the UK and it is currently under extension to 8 new countries (Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland).
A demo prepared by MiBAC was presented during the seminar,conceived as a concrete and tangible example of digital cultural application.
The European Cultural Foundation gave a presentation outlining its pan-European Cultural Portal, the LAB (Laboratory of European Cultural Cooperation).
The Hellenic Ministry of Culture presented the Hellenic Cultural Heritage Portal, called “ODYSSEUS” as an example of a Greek contribution to the European portal.
UNESCO also presented its “Information for All” programme which is very interesting and aligned with the Agenore scenario.
The following areas have been identified for future action and should be considered as suggestions to be taken into account by the Cultural Affairs Committee of the Council:
- to continue coordination and cooperation in order to contribute to create common and shared action plan and strategies, amongst and between the cultural and technology sectors, among the European countries as well as in a truly enlarged international perspective; synergies should also be encouraged among initiatives (such as the European Culture Portal, Minerva and Michael);
- to define common criteria for the selection of content to digitise in order to illustrate and promote European cultural diversity at its best; federative projects should be fostered such as the European Cultural Portal and the European Digital Library;
- to capitalise on best practices about digital culture and online information about culture and to foster their development, dissemination and exploitation among Member States;
- to use coordination, best practices and common selection criteria as the fertilising ground to grow numerous new implementation projects, able to generate practical outcomes, to provide tangible results and to reinforce the European added value;
- to involve the cultural institutions of all sectors into this process and to fosternetworking activities; the level of involvement of the Institutes will differ from country to country; it is an important work in order to achieve a deeper level of penetration;
- to work for integration among the different cultural fields, as well as the public and private sectors;
- to exploit the opportunities given by the use of semantic technologies, to improve the management of digital audio-visual heritage, to work for the long term preservation of the digital memory;
- to identify technological needs in order to develop a research agenda for the cultural sector.
This informal document was elaborated by the organiser of the Seminar with contribution of the European Commission and integrates comments from some participants.