Rome, October, 17th 2002, Palazzo dei Congressi, Bibliocom 2002
Quality in cultural Web sites
edited by the Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali
In conjunction with European Commission and Associazione Italiana Biblioteche,
within the MINERVA Project
Commission, General Directorate for Information Society
The opportunities for cultural heritage within the 6th Framework
Programme for Research and Development
I would firstly
like to say that I am pleased to be here today and to have this
opportunity to tell you a little about what the European Commission
is doing. In the paper I will try to focus on some issues that I
believe are of direct relevance to cultural heritage institutions
and their continued participation in European-funded research and
development projects. Firstly, I will rapidly touch on some of our
key policies, strategies and programmes.
Secondly, I will look at a particular action that involves digitisation,
and very recently an extension to long-term digital preservation.
Thirdly, I will mention activities in our research programmes, and
in particular our future research plans.
Let me start
by trying to set the scene. In May this year there was a meeting
in London on preserving Europe's public broadcast archives. It
was organised by a grouping of our research projects (under the
title PRESTO), and some very astonishing figures were mentioned.
If my memory serves me correctly these archives hold something like
10 million hours of film, 16 million hours of video and another
20 million hours of audio recordings. However about 75% of the holdings
are on old formats that can no longer be read on commercially available
equipment. In addition about 35% of the total archive is in such
a state that the original will be damaged or even destroyed during
the cleaning and digitisation process. Finally they loose every
year several 10,000's hours of the oldest parts of the collections.
So what does this example tell us? Well firstly they have a pressing
need to act immediately since valuable assets are being lost each
year. Secondly in many extreme cases their first action must be
the right one since the original is often irreparably damaged and
they are left only with the new digital original. Thirdly they must
constantly address the interrelated problems of appraisal, selection
and cost. In addition broadcasters are still trying to understand
how to use the new technologies to deliver, or re-deliver, their
historical content to the viewer. They will need to manage their
assets better using the latest content management applications and
the new tools for such things as indexing, tagging, data mining,
etc. They will also need a strategy for the long-term preservation
of their digital archives that must be intimately linked with the
way they provide new services. In addition they must learn how to
exploit the potential of the entire archive and not just focusing
on a small fraction of its content. In the years to come they will
have to digest a changing public-service mandate and a revised public-funding
regime, and no doubt come to grips with new models of public-private
partnerships. I think that many of these issues sound familiar to
Having set the
scene let me now look at what the Commission has done over the past
4 years concerning digital preservation issues. Let's turn back
the clock to the year 1998 and start with the research programmes.
Culture heritage in
the present IST
issues had a focus in one specific part of the programme of Information
Society Technologies - namely in an area entitled multimedia content
The specific research focus over the past 4 years has been on the
networking of Europe's libraries, museums and archives.
Our work has
thus focused on:
access to heritage by expanding the contribution of our libraries,
museums and archives; new ways to access heterogeneous, distributed
and networked collections;
- the provision
of powerful new functionalities for accessing and managing large-scale
- new technologies
for the preservation of electronic materials and surrogates of
fragile physical objects.
We have issued
7 different actions over the past 4 years, and just to give you
some idea of the size of our efforts:
So what about the
results so far? Well for digital libraries we are funding about 30
large projects many of them looking at resource discovery, metadata
and interoperability issues. We are confident that we will see both
new tools and new services for navigating through collections of different
types of content. We have also a few research projects looking at
different ways of publishing scientific and technical content over
the Web, including work on Open Archives. I do not wish to bore the
reader with long descriptions of projects, but I will just mention
two that have received funding recently. The first is CHLT, which
is looking to integrate computational linguistic tools and techniques
within digital library environments. This project which includes Imperial
College and the University of Cambridge, has a kind of brother project
funded by the NSF, and they have a collective objective to reduce
the barriers to accessing and reading texts in classical Greek, early
modern Latin and old Norse. The other project is METAe, which is developing
software modules to automate metadata capture by introducing layout
and document analysis in to digitisation software used to create and
maintain digital collections of printed material. They have also developed
an omni-font OCR engine specialising in Fraktur and old European typefaces
of the 19th-century.
- we have received
and evaluated more than 400 proposals with a total requested funding
of about 540 million euro, and using more than 150 different independent
- we have launched
more than 100 cost-shared projects for a total budget commitment
in excess of 90 million euro;
- the projects
involve more than 600 participant organisations from a total of
35 countries, and this translates into more than 1,500 man-years
of research effort dedicated to Europe's cultural and scientific
In the field of digital preservation we are funding some projects
on digital restoration of old film, on video archival technologies,
on new digitisation techniques for old manuscripts, and on new business
models for exploiting digitised assets. Here I would just mention
the project PRESTO, which brings together Europe's major broadcast
archives INA, BBC, and the RAI, to develop affordable and efficient
approaches and improved workflow for preservation of audio-visual
For intelligent heritage we are funding some very practical projects
on image capture and management as well as some rather more advanced
projects looking at virtual and augmented reality, in particular in
the field of digital archaeology. Projects range from Tourbot, which
is an interactive robot providing Internet access to museums, through
Archeoguide that develops augmented reality, 3D-visualisation, and
mobile computing for archaeological site visits, to Vakhum that is
building animated computer models and visualisation tools for viewing
the kinematics of human movement.
Concerning the issue of community memory "which is a new activity
for us" we have now launched a small number of projects looking at
new and experimental ways to delivery memory-related services as well
as new models for allowing the citizen to become more involved in
the way they can create, manage and have access to the future digital
memory of society. As an example, CHIMERS brings together museum specialists,
teachers and children in the Czech Republic, Lithuania, the Netherlands
and Spain to create new forms of repositories of children's views
of local cultural heritage using digital maps, GPS and mobile technologies.
The European Commission has also been particularly active in establishing
a solid collection of supporting projects covering networks of excellence,
training, standards development, awareness building, and benchmarking
and evaluation fora. Topics covered by the larger networks include
museums, public libraries, digital library researchers, historical
film collections, music publishing, national libraries, architectural
heritage, and digital preservation information.
And finally we have launched 25 small projects designed to help the
transfer of new technologies into smaller cultural institutions. Topics
range from the use of GIS for historic gardens, through the role of
VR for presenting museum objects and collections, to the creation
of 3D models of open-air museums.
Concerning the results so far, more information can be found on the
CORDIS Web pages, the eCulture newsletter and the Cultivate
Interactive ezine (the www.cordis.lu/ist/ka3/digicult
includes details on all the points mentioned in this paper).
eEurope: Creating cooperation
Let us move
forward to March 2000. The European Union recognised the need to
address the emerging challenges of the new knowledge economy, and
at the Lisbon European Council of the same year it was decided that
we should do everything we can to make Europe the most competitive
and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world.
The European Commission created a political initiative called eEurope.
Within eEurope 2002 more than 60 different practical actions
were identified and I would like here to mention just one of those
This is for Member States and the Commission to jointly:
Create a co-ordination mechanism for digitisation programmes
across Member States.
The first step for us was to bring together Member State experts
to look at the problem and the nature of the actions needed. We
were very fortunate that the Swedish Presidency of the Council provided
both moral and practical support and hosted our meeting in Lund.
From that meeting emerged something we are calling the "Lund principles"
They define the importance of the issues and what actions are most
It was decided
to create a forum for ongoing co-ordination across all Member States.
We have now created a National Representatives Group, made up of
officially nominated experts from each Member State. Its mission
is to act as guardians of the Lund Principles and to monitor progress
of a practical Action Plan. This group meets every 6 months under
the chairmanship of the current Presidency, for example the next
meeting is planned for 10-11 December 2002 under the Danish Presidency.
In fact the meeting in December will include a day dedicated to
issues of digital preservation.
The national representatives group shares experiences and provides
a common platform for cooperation and coordination of national activities
across the European Union. It provides a stable, continuing focus
for consensus building between Member States, for promoting good
practice, and for encouraging initiatives to support the visibility
of quality cultural sites. Another important element is the recent
creation of MINERVA, a Network of Excellence funded by our research
programme. The network was created with an initial participation
of 7 Ministries or related national bodies, and all 15 EU Member
States are expected to join in the coming months in fact already
another 5 Member States have signed up. MINERVA is a collaborate
framework for executing the Lund Action Plan and organising its
At the European level, these activities have been lent added support
from recent European Council Resolutions on "Culture in the knowledge
society" and the "Role of culture in the development of the European
Union" . More recently the Spanish Presidency (1st semester 2002)
took on the challenge to create a framework for long-term digital
preservation. A Council Resolution was prepared and has been accepted
by the EU Ministers of Culture. The Resolution entitled Preserving
tomorrow's memory: preserving digital content for future generations
was published in July in the Official Journal. The establishment
of a EU-wide action plan on long-term digital preservation may be
one way forward.
the second meeting of the national representatives took place in
Alicante, Spain on 16 May 2002
under the chairmanship of the Spanish Presidency and hosted by the
University of Alicante. One result is that policies for digitisation
now exist in several Member States, and a number have been influenced
directly by the Lund Principles. In addition co-ordination networks
have been established in most Member States. Candidate projects
have been identified as possible good practice exemplars, and a
strong indicator of excellence is cross-referencing between countries.
The meeting agreed that one major priority for the next 6 months
would be the production of a EU-wide status report on digitisation.
Each Member State will produce a progress report, which will be
compiled together and widely published early in 2003.
Preserving tomorrow's memory
Let me now turn
to digital preservation issues. Late last year we discussed with
the incoming Spanish Presidency the possibility to continue the
work started with the past Presidencies. The issue of long-term
digital preservation, whilst mentioned in the Lund Action Plan,
was not really fully developed and as such does not figure as a
major objective of the MINERVA network. The Spanish Presidency felt
that this was a topic that would merit further work, and possibly
justify a Resolution of Council. I must immediately compliment the
Spanish Presidency on its courage in taking on such a difficult
and complex subject. Long-term digital preservation is not an intuitively
simple topic, and there are no short-term easy answers. It is technically
complex and challenges the fundamental role of our cultural institutions.
Solutions are not available today and it is already clear that there
is a lot to be done in the coming years if we are find acceptable
and affordable answers to this problem.
For those working in the cultural heritage sector the importance
of having clear policies concerning long-term digital preservation
is self-evident. In fact a majority of cultural institutions believe
that irreplaceable information will be lost if digital preservation
issues are not resolved in the near future. However, it is vital
to recognise that a comprehensive digital preservation policy could
be very expensive and will inevitably result in a substantial mutation
in the focus and core functionalities of our cultural and scientific
So I think it became more and more evident that not only was there
a need for a Council Resolution on long-term digital preservation
but that now was the right time for such a Resolution. Over the
past few months we have hosted three expert meetings, and below
I will try to summarise their ideas concerning future actions.
what are the possible actions and recommendations? Very rapidly
of digital heritage must become a major policy objective and even
an institutional raison d'être. Many cultural institutions already
assume responsibility for preserving digital material and most expect
to do so in the near future. However few have explicit policies
that govern acquisition, conversion, storage, refreshing, and/or
migration of digital content. New organisational policies and procedures
will be needed that maintain accessibility and authenticity over
time whilst respecting cultural diversity and pluralism.
Solutions will not be purely technological, and research agendas
must recognise that social, legal and ethical issues will be important
in finding practical, acceptable, and affordable solutions for digital
preservation. Important questions will need to be answered, for
example, such as what should be preserved for the future? Who will
archive preserved information and what skills will they need? What
preservation meta-data will be needed and who will create the meta-data?
Who will pay for it?
Solutions will need to be supported by organisational will, economic
means and legal right, and must ensure the preservation of and permanent
access to digitally produced materials. Consideration should be
given to innovate ways to manage Europe's digital collections such
as through national information infrastructures or a system of certified
Recognition of digital preservation as a major institutional and
societal problem can only be achieved through large-scale, sustainable
and significant initiatives that incite and stimulate public support.
Large-scale initiatives are essential since they will force the
cultural institutions to be explicit about their priority setting
and selection criteria, it will bring to the fore other societal
issues such as privacy and data protection, and it will oblige the
institutions to take seriously the development of revenue generating
activities to pay for collection maintenance.
about the issues of costs and scale?
are no reliable and comprehensive data on costs, nor any proven
techniques for estimating those costs. What is certain is that digital
preservation could be very costly, and the survival of existing
cultural institutions will depend upon the development of new cost,
business and financial models and new ways to share those costs
between the public purse and business interests. Today digital preservation
is seen as a costly "extra" task. Recognising that society cannot
collect everything, selectivity will need to be based on a collective
understanding on quality metrics and collection appraisal. Automation
will also be needed in order to reduce costs, however the way forward
must be through the integration of digital preservation functions
into the creation process' this is in part a technical issue and
in part a issue of awareness about how to create properly so that
it can be preserved effectively and efficiently.
the building of awareness and advocacy of the subject...
It is vital
to raise awareness among governments, public institutions and other
information producers and holders on the need to safeguard the digital
memory as much as possible in its authentic form. It will be important
to convince the public since it is not immediately evident that
the citizen cares about preserving digital information.
Stakeholders will need strategic guidance, with a particular focus
on building awareness with data creators. There is also a need to
move away from guidelines and towards specifications which help
the smaller institutions deal with the problem.
There is recognition that there is a major skills deficit in the
institutions. The "skills gap" needs to be assessed and quantified
with a view to what new skills will be need in the future. One option
is to create a skills map and develop "fellowship" training and
exchange programmes that would transfer knowledge between institutions
and could be scaled up to a formal infrastructure.
way forwards is networking
. A large-scale
multidisciplinary and multicultural collaborative model will be needed
that both strengthens existing networks of archives, libraries, museums
and other documentation services and brings together developers and
users of digital information management and processing tools.
In addition an information infrastructure should be evaluated that
would be collectively responsible for the long-term accessibility
of the social, economic, cultural and intellectual heritage instantiated
in digital form. This could be a network of certified repositories
or archives meeting standards and criteria of an independently administered
certification program. Such a network should not only provide archival
for their own content but should also work on behalf of others who
do not care (providing failsafe mechanisms). It is not clear how such
an infrastructure could be created, what would be the technical and
institutional attributes of digital repositories, and how to set standards
for institutions as repositories that operate across different existing
collecting agencies. It goes without saying that there is much scope
for a shared infrastructure to develop economies of scale, however
as a final point there is still no convincing benefit model of such
an infrastructure (and one that would take onboard all the regional
implications and agendas).
then there are the technical and research challenges.
I will not bore
you all with a long list of technical objectives and research issues,
structures, provenance, legal validity, authenticity, etc. We need
to validate social and economic models of archives and digital libraries
as ways to ensure the future accessibility of information with enduring
We need new tools and technical infrastructures. The tools must
automate preservation for data creators and warn us when obsolesces
occurs. We need new standards and we need to ensure that they are
used. And we will need test beds, prototypes and trails that demonstrate
the technical and economic feasibility of operating on a mass scale.
The 6th Framework Programme
Let me now turn
to the new research programme. In the new Framework Programme, the
Information Society will form the largest priority thematic area.
One of the key objectives of the future programme will be to find
solutions for major societal and economic challenges, and this will
include work on health, security, environment, learning, e-government,
etc. and also «access to and preservation of culture heritage
». Today this is the only easily identifiable place for cultural
heritage, and the working text that we have put forward as a specific
objective is as follows: «for cultural heritage the effort
will focus on intelligent systems for dynamic access to and preservation
of tangible and intangible cultural and scientific resources ».
Technologies' Work programme 2003-2004
Today the future
Information Society Technologies priority has a draft work programme
for 2003-2004, and the 1st call is planned for December 2002.
For 2003-2004 it is planned to focus on a small set of strategic
objectives, possible only 23 specific topics, and devote 1.725 billion
euro over the two years. For cultural heritage the present plans
envisage only one single call in late 2002 on the topic of "technology-enhanced
learning and access to culture".
The research focus would be on providing a global view of Europe's
educational resources and cultural and scientific collections, through
advanced services that generate new forms of cultural and learning
Concerning "access to culture" the key objective is to improve
the accessibility, visibility and recognition of the commercial
value of Europe's cultural and scientific resources. Specific research
objectives are provisionally:
digital libraries services, providing high-bandwidth
access to distributed and highly interactive repositories of European
culture, history and science;
for intelligent heritage and tourism, re-creating and visualising
cultural and scientific objects and sites for enhancing user experience
in cultural tourism;
tools, platforms and services in support of highly automated digitisation
processes and workflows, digital restoration and preservation
of film and video material, and digital memory management and
Our target is
to have, within the next ten years, a stable distributed repository
of Europe's digital cultural content as well as assured protection
from loss. And for digitisation we hope to see within
the next five years systems that are both automated and considerably
less expensive than those used today.
I realise that
I have jumped around a bit, however I hope I have outlined some
of the more urgent challenges facing us, and some of the practical
actions we are considering for the future. My first objective is
to give visibility to the important challenges facing Europe's
cultural organisations' on digitisation, preservation and research.
In Europe there are world-class collections of cultural and scientific
content and it is normal that we will continue to offer, at the
European level, a place to tackle some of these major challenges
facing our cultural institutions.
However in order to exploit these new opportunities our cultural
institutions must create a true European vision for themselves.
They must be seen to move rapidly to establish leadership on key
problem issues, and they will need to be much more vocal and militant
about their vision for the future and the values they wish to protect
in tomorrows society.