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Coordinating digitisation in Europe

Progress report of the National Representative Group: coordination mechanisms for digitisation policies and programmes 2002

Päivi Salonen
Ministry of Education. Department for Cultural, Sport and Youth Policy
Minna Karvonen
National Board of Antiquities

National Report: Finland


Policy scenario

In Finland the most important policy line statement on the production of cultural and scientific contents and digitisation of materials is the Government Programme. It sets the aim of digitising our cultural heritage as part of the content creation project set up to promote the creation of high-quality content. The term of the present Government will end in spring 2003, at which point the preparation of the new programme begins.
The digitisation of cultural heritage is coordinated by a committee composed of representatives of museums, archives and research libraries. The committee has surveyed the materials to be digitised and prioritised them. The state budget contains an information society appropriation, which has largely been allocated for this purpose. The government has supported digitisation and information society projects undertaken by the National Board of Antiquities, state museums, and other professional (municipal or private) museums; the National Archive Service and private archives; and the Helsinki University Library (which is the Finnish National Library) and other research libraries.
The content creation project has otherwise focused on AV, audio and multimedia production and distribution, the development of digital information management, copyright issues and, as separate projects, content production within sports and tourism.
National and regional policies on the digitisation of cultural and scientific content can be found at http://www.minedu.fi/minedu/fidigi/nationalpages-1-fin.html.
Finland has appointed its representative to the NRG group and participated in all its meetings. The Ministry of Education and Culture as well as the official preparatory body for EU Affairs (Section 31) have been notified of the Terms of reference of the NRG.
The Lund Principles and the objectives of the NRG were presented at a Seminar "6th R&D Framework Programme and Memory Organisations" on 15 October 2002. On 12 and 13 November 2002, activities of the NRG were introduced at a national conference on digitisation of cultural heritage.
A presentation of the European Community´s information society activities in the field of cultural and scientific heritage (eEurope, Lund Principles, NRG) can be found e.g. at the Web sites of the National Board of Antiquities and Cultivate Network Finland.
The National Policy Profile (NPP) was published on the Ministry of Education Web site in the beginning of 2002.
It is our opinion that the NPP is a fairly unwieldy tool and laborious to update. We hope that Minerva will enable us to develop a tool for promoting benchmarking and good practices, which will probably make it possible to dispose of NPP or to develop it to describe policies rather than projects.


Co-operation activities

The official preparatory body for EU Affairs (Section 31 - enlarged working group responsible for preparation and implementation of all the official EU documents in the field of culture and AV) has been informed about the Lund process and the establishment of the NRG (Finland´s NRG and CAC representatives are members of this body). The NRG representatives have been in contact with CAC members, especially as regards the Council Resolution on Preserving tomorrow´s memory - preserving digital content for future generations.
A National Coordination Group has been established to provide support for NRG work and to gather information from the national field. The group had its first meeting on 18 March 2002. The experts of the National Coordination Group have been and will be consulted, when necessary, regarding Draft Council Resolutions. In the future, the group will meet app. twice a year prior to the NRG meetings. The Finnish NRG representatives are members of NCG.
The members of the National Coordination Group (app. 20) represent museums, libraries, archives and new media as well as different divisions of the Ministry (the CAC representative is also on the group). Institutions taking part in NCG work are: the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of the Environment, the National Archive, the National Library, the National Board of Antiquities, the Finnish National Gallery, the Finnish Literature Society, the University of Art and Design Helsinki, the University of Turku, the Finnish Museums Association, and the Finnish Museum of Photography.
Other relevant bodies:

The National Advisory Group for the IST Programme consists of experts on libraries, archives and museums. The advisory group supports the promotion of the IST Programme as well as other EU Programmes in the field. The Advisory Group meets 2-4 times a year. Information is disseminated via e-mail lists and on the national Cultivate Web site. The Group also organises information events and working sessions. The Group follows the Minerva project.

The overall objective of the European Museums´ Information Institute Distributed Content Framework (EMII-DCF) Project (2002-2003) is to investigate the feasibility of creating a framework for the provision of digitised cultural content for the IST Research & Technology Development (RTD) projects. The aim is to devise guidelines to which content holders can subscribe when participating in European Commission (EC) funded RTD projects.
The project is divided into five work packages. WP 01 focuses on the identification of researchers´ needs; WP 02 on legal issues; and WP 03 on content standards. WP 04 aims to establish and implement a dissemination strategy for EMII-DCF. WP 05 is dedicated to project management.
The National Board of Antiquities is one of the ten partners in EMII-DCF. The project is funded by the IST Programme.




The benchmarking workgroup in Finland has worked on the implementation strategy of benchmarking and refining the questionnaire for self-assessment and benchmarking. This has been done in co-operation with other Member States on the basis of the work done by the eEurope benchmarking group. The data collection strategy has also been refined and a provisional database has been created. The data contained will be updated constantly and be readily analysable. This would in turn enhance democracy by spreading the indicators for good practices in digitisation widely in Europe and also increase the quality of the end products. It would also enable the initiatives to learn from each other. Both qualitative and quantitative indicators are valuable: the database would give the opportunity to look into both aspects of different initiatives.
The Finnish view is that it is vital to validate benchmarking and good practices; they are also important priorities in cooperation. Minerva, which works in close cooperation with NRG, is currently developing effective models. We think this work should be utilised as far as possible within NRG. Finland is making co-ordinated input into promoting benchmarking through Minerva and holds the view that the Minerva Project has successfully developed and refined previous work and results of the Benchmarking Working Group set up by the Commission. At this point, it is important to make a definitive decision in this matter so as to avoid rivalling and conflicting practices.
Finland is of the opinion that it is essential to continue the benchmarking process initiated within the framework of Minerva on a more permanent basis after Minerva.
The question is how to implement the model:

  • in the short term and in a longer term;
  • so it can serve as a coordination tool within and between Member States.

Some countries in Europe have a top-down approach and others a bottom-up approach. Both have to be covered by the benchmarking model, but priority has to be given to the democratic outlook, i.e. the focus has to be on the end-user (bottom-up approach). The purpose of the benchmarking exercise is to promote and support good practices with a view to improving the quality of our digitisation policies, programmes and projects for the benefit of the end-user.


Inventories and resource discovery

The National Board of Antiquities has recently founded a data management centre to coordinate and promote co-operation between different stakeholders. To date, there is no up-to-date list of projects. The aim is to create "Finnish Museums Online", which would give citizens, researchers and other interested parties access to our digitised cultural heritage.
In the past few years, the number of digital and Web museums and exhibitions has risen considerably, but there are few significant digital inventories available to the public.
Muisti ("Memory") is a joint project, implemented within a framework programme "Finland as Information Society" of the Ministry of Education. The focus of the project is on digitisation of existing museum, archive and library collections and networking between them. The project produced the reference database Muisti and local image databases containing digitised texts, pictures, manuscripts and maps (http://www.lib.helsinki.fi/memory/etusivue.html). The system has Finnish, Swedish and English as search languages. The documents themselves are either in Finnish or Swedish, depending on the language of original documents.
VATI 2000 collection management system, the Digital Image Bank and the National Art Register (http://www.fng.fi/fng/html4/en/default.htm) constitute an inventory providing researchers and the general public with a Web user interface to the art collections in Finnish museums. In the planning of VATI 2000, special emphasis was given to the sustainability of the data. All possible components (hardware, software, security, imaging and data standards etc.) used in the system are either standardized or otherwise widely used in industry and continuously developed. The long-term sustainability of the images and archival material is based on microfilming and transparencies which have tens of times longer life expectancy than average digital media. The search tools and the content of this system are in Finnish, Swedish and English.
The Finnish museum thesaurus MASA (http://www.nba.fi/DEVELOP/asiasana.htm) is widely used when data is entered into computer systems. As part of the Semantic Web project, (see infra), it aims at creating ontologies based on Finnish controlled thesauruses, such as the Finnish Web thesaurus (http://vesa.lib.helsinki.fi/) and MASA.
Metadata and interoperability for resource inventories:

  • the national standard "Finnish version of Dublin core metadata elements" was published by the Finnish Standards Association at the end of the year 2001;
  • the National Library of Finland is a partner in the European Library TEL project. One of the aims of the project is to prepare the TEL Library Application Profile, which is based on the Dublin Core Element Set. The project is also preparing a common TEL Metadata Format for Collection Description Level.


Good practice and skills

For some years now, the Ministry of Education has supported training for museum personnel in ICT and content creation, which is provided by the Finnish Museums Association.
A Data Management Centre has been established as a unit of the National Board of Antiquities in 2002. The Data Management Centre will contribute to co-operation among museums, and between museums and other memory institutions. It will have a co-ordinating role in information technology development initiatives in the museum branch at the national level. In future, the centre will increase its activities in providing technological development services for museums.
In addition, the National Gallery and the Museum of Photography provide expertise in their fields. The National Archive helps all units of the National Archive Service in digitisation and questions relating to long-term conservation. The Helsinki University Library and its Microfilming and Conservation Centre are an important national and international expert centre.


European added value and content framework

When finalised and approved, the Brussels Quality Framework will be actively introduced to memory organisations by the Data Management Centre and other interested parties. More detailed guidelines for its application can be drawn up only after the tool has been presented in its finalised form. The Brussels Quality Framework will be adopted nationally only within the limits of awareness-raising and possible recommendations.
According to the draft Finnish legal deposit Bill, different digital publications must be preserved. The National Library of Finland is devising policies, workflows and systems for the management of these digital publications. The planning of long-term preservation is an integral part of this work.
The National Archive Service is responsible for the long-term preservation of electronic documents.


Research activities on digitisation

There is no systematic research into digitisation, but there are major joint projects between universities and research institutes (University Library Microfilming and Conservation Centre; University Library: portals and retrieval systems; Tampere Hypermedia Laboratory). The Semantic Web is one of the projects.

Semantic Web

Project "Cultural Semantic Interoperability on the Web: Case Finnish Museums Online".
The goal for Semantic Computing Research Group is to develop technology for creating a semantic portal "Finnish Museums Online" (FMO). FMO makes heterogeneous museum collections (databases) semantically interoperable on the Web. For the end-users this would provide an easy-to-use information retrieval from consolidated cultural repositories. The project started in 2002 and will be finished in 2004.


Copyright Minerva Project 2003-05, last revision 2003-05-13, edited by Minerva Editorial Board.
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