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Path: Home |Publications | Global Report | Global Report 2002 | Sweden



Coordinating digitisation in Europe

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

Borje Justrell
ICT Department, National Archives

National Report: Sweden


Policy scenario for digitisation

Digitisation and ALM co-operation
In Sweden, co-ordination of digitisation policies and programmes on cultural and scientific content is closely related to a national discussion on increased co-operation between cultural institutions like archives, libraries and museums. The purpose of this so called ALM co-operation is not officially defined, but can in most cases be described
as an ambition to:

  • enhance public accessibility to holdings in archives, libraries and museums;
  • increase quality in the activities of these institutions;
  • stimulate a more effective use of resources.

It is also accepted by most cultural institutions
that ALM co-operation can cover all kinds
of co-ordination like:

  • planning and actions in ICT;
  • digitisation, including technical quality and standards;
  • registration, including authorities for terms, names, subjects etc.;
  • ethic and legal questions;
  • different kind of projects like exhibitions, Web sites and portals.

ALM co-operation is today considered as essential for the possibilities to get results of long lasting value in digitisation.

Ministries involved

The Ministry of Culture
(http://www.kultur.regeringen.se) is responsible for such matters as the arts, cultural heritage, the media and religious communities. The ministry is also responsible for 25 government agencies, some 40 institutions and foundations, etc., and four enterprises wholly or partially owned by the state.

The Ministry of Education and Science
(http://www.utbildning.regeringen.se) is responsible for matters regarding pre-school education and child care for school children, pre-school classes, compulsory school and equivalent schools, upper secondary school, independent schools, adult education, popular adult education, post-secondary education, universities and university colleges, research, study support and student social issues.

Cultural institutions in Sweden
The archival sector can roughly be divided into public archives (state archives and archives of local governments and county councils) and private archives (archives of companies, societies, unions, etc). The National Archives and the Regional Archives (http://www.ra.se) are state archives under the heading of the Ministry of Culture.
The library sector is divided into free public libraries, scientific libraries, and university libraries. Scientific and university libraries, including the Royal Library (http://www.kb.se), fall under the Ministry of Education and Science. The Royal Library is both a national library and a scientific library. Central public museums are a responsibility of the Ministry of Culture and organised as authorities or foundations. Today there are ten national public museum authorities and four national museums that are run as foundations. The task of the national museums is to collect, collate and disseminate knowledge of their particular subject field.
Under the Ministry of Culture, the National Council for Cultural Affairs (http://www.kulturradet.se) handles certain matters regarding free public libraries and public museums at regional level. The Council is responsible for implementing national cultural policy determined by the government and parliament. It also carries out studies and compiles statistics concerning the cultural sphere.
The National Heritage Board (http://www.raa.se) is the central state authority for matters concerning cultural heritage and cultural environment. The Board falls under the heading of the Ministry of Culture and is, together with the county administration and the county museums, responsible for the use and preservation of the cultural heritage.
The National Archives of Recorded Sound and Moving Images (http://www.ljudochbildarkivet.se) collects the Swedish output of audiovisual media: broadcast radio and TV, film, video, records, CDs, multimedia etc. Since 1979 these media are delivered as legal deposit. This authority falls, like the Royal Library, under the Ministry of Education and Science.
The Swedish Film Institute (http://www.sfi.se) is a foundation whose operations are regulated by an agreement between the Swedish State (Ministry of Culture) and the film industry. Its tasks are to support the production of Swedish films of high merit, promote the distribution and exhibition of quality film, preserve films and materials of interests to cinematic and cultural history, and promote Swedish cinematic culture internationally.
The Swedish National Collections of Music (http://www.smus.se) is a central government body for music under the heading of the Ministry of Culture. The fundamental responsibilities are to document, collect, maintain, preserve, describe and keep alive the musical heritage and thereby enhance the interest in music, musicology, and long term accumulation of knowledge. The Swedish National Collections of Music keep documentation and collections available for education, research and other studies through loans, programmes, exhibitions, and publications.

National initiatives for action
In October 2001, the Government instructed the Royal Library, the National Council for Cultural Affairs, and the National Archives to describe steps that have been taken concerning co-operation in the area of ALM, as well between the different sectors as within each one of them. The Government also asked for an evaluation of earlier achievements and lessons learned both at national and international level. This initiative from the Government has its roots in a request from the Swedish Parliament’s Committee on Culture Affairs for an analysis of the conditions for a higher degree of co-operation between the ALM institutions.
From an administrative perspective the Swedish ICT Commission (http://www.itkommissionen.se) earlier that year, in a letter to the Government about the need for measures to develop society’s information infrastructure, recommended that the cultural heritage institutions “should be tasked with devising a strategy for the ongoing digitisation of information in archives, libraries and museums, in a form that will facilitate simultaneous searching and closer interaction.”
A report on the ALM task was given to the Ministry of Culture in March 2002 and has since then been circulated for comments to nearly one hundred institutions. In this report the cultural authorities mentioned above propose:

  • a national framework on guidelines, recommendations, and standards common to all ALM sectors;
  • a national plan for digitisation;
  • a national plan for collecting digital material;
  • a national plan for long-term preservation of digital material;
  • a national database on names (individuals, families, institutions, organisations etc.);
  • research and educational activities directed towards the ALM sectors;
  • a co-ordinating ALM administration built up step by step.

In 2001, the Government called one of Sweden’s County Governors to conduct an inquiry on archival matters, one being the long-term preservation of digital material. In his report to the Minister of Culture in September 2002, the Governor highlights the urgent need for actions to preserve digital information and proposes measures to take. The Governar also emphasized that the question is of fundamental significance not only for the possibility of preserving today’s cultural heritage but also for the introduction of e-government in the Swedish public administration.
This archival report will be circulated for comments during the coming winter.

Expected outcomes
During 2003 the Government is expected to take some formal decisions based on both the ALM report and the archival report. It can be expected that the Government will underline the importance of improving the accessibility of cultural heritage information in such a way that new user groups can get best possible benefit out of it. One of the main points will probably be how to improve the co-ordination and interaction between the ALM institutions.

Terms of reference and National policy profile

Terms of reference
The Ministry of Culture appoints the national representative for Sweden and has also accepted the terms of reference for the National Representative Group. The national representative reports regularly to an informal working group at the ministry in accordance with the Swedish regulations for official experts in the European Commission.

National policy profile
The leading cultural institutions in Sweden have hardly more than started systematic digitisation of their holdings, and smaller institutions are, if they have started, often focusing on limited ad hoc projects. Almost every ALM institution has with more or less eagerness tried to form its own policy, often based on short term and urgent needs, and today it makes no sense to talk about a National Policy Profile for Sweden. After the adoption of the Lund Principles attempts have been made to form one, but it has not been possible to cover all diversities. However, this situation has made it obvious that there is a need for increased co-ordination in digitisation. Consequently, proposals have been made in that direction, for example in the ALM report mentioned earlier.
The Ministry of Culture has (preliminarily) taken the position that a Swedish National policy profile should serve the purpose of an entry point on the Web, where individuals and institutions interested in digitisation can get an broad overview of the situation in Sweden. The policy profile should also point to information publicly available concerning on-going digitisation programmes, competence centres, officially adopted guidelines, role models etc. It is also (preliminarily) decided that this entry point shall be under the administration of CultureNet Sweden.


Co-operation activities

Co-ordination of national networks

At the moment no formal Swedish network for the co-ordination of digitisation exists on national level. Before any decision is made, it is necessary to analyse the comments on the ALM report and the archival report that are under circulation. The national representative is for the moment using the reference group of an ALM-project called “Image databases and digitisation - a platform for ALM collaboration” as an informal national network. This joint project involves the Royal Library, the National Archives, the National Museum of Fine Arts, and the National Heritage Board, and its reference group covers many of Sweden’s leading cultural institutions.

Relationships and co-ordination with other national initiatives in connection with eEurope, e-government, e-learning

National networks
There are several formal and informal national networks of interest for NRG initiatives. Examples at national level are:

  • Kulturnät Sverige/CultureNet Sweden (http://www.kultur.nu), initiated by the Swedish government to increase access to Swedish culture through the Internet and since January 2000 a permanent responsibility for the National Council for Cultural Affairs. The Website of CultureNet Sweden is the official and national gateway to all Swedish cultural resources on the Internet.
  • “Fotosekretariatet”, a special secretariat at the National Museum of Cultural History (http://www.nordm.se) that since 1993 has the task to stimulate co-ordination and exchange of good practices concerning preservation of photo material connected to cultural history. The work of this secretariat is lead by a board representing archives, museums, libraries, and the Swedish professional association for photographers.
  • “Produktrådet” (The National Archives advisory board on archival products), representing end users of archival material like scientists, university and high school teachers, genealogists etc. The Board has for example approved the strategy for digitisation used by the state archives since mid-90s.
  • The Immigrant Institute (http://www.immi.se), a non-governmental organisation which aims is to be a research and documentation centre about immigrants and refugees, with an archive, a library and a museum. Languages: Swedish, English, Spanish.

Regional networks
Examples of networks at regional level of interest for NRG are:

  • “Kulturarv Östergötland” (Cultural heritage in the county of Östergötland; http://www.kulturnat-östergotland.com). Language: Swedish.
  • “Kulturnät Gävleborg” (Culture net Gävleborg; http://www.gpunkt.com). Language: Swedish.
  • “Kultur Öresund” (A calendar on culture in the region of Öresund; http://www.kultunaut.dk). One of their working areas is benchmarking. Languages: Swedish and Danish.
  • Dalarna´s Culture. Unity out of diversity (http://www.knd.nu). Languages: Swedish, English, German.
  • “Nordliga Dimensionens Folktraditionsnätverk 2000” (A project with the aim to enhance the conditions for inhabitants in the Barents region to protect and inform about their culture, http://www.folktradition.net). Languages: Swedish, Finnish, Russian.

Research community
The research community has sometimes formed institutions and activities that are related to the cultural institutions. Examples of that are:

  • Swedish Social Science Data Service (SSD; http://www.ssd.gu.se), a data archive for machine-readable data in the social sciences and humanities, placed at the University of Gothenburg. The main task for SSD is to increase the availability of machine-readable data for research within Swedish historical and social science disciplines.
  • The Demographic Database (DDB; http:// www.ddb.umu.se), a special unit at the University of Umeå producing and making accessible databases on historical information found mainly in church books from the 18th and 19th centuries. DDB started in 1973 under the heading of the National Archives.
Co-ordination with other European Union initiatives

Each minister in the Swedish government is responsible for handling European Union related matters in his or hers ministry. Swedish contacts with the union are co-ordinated by a special under-secretary of State at the Prime Minister’s Office. National initiatives in connection with eEurope, eGovernment, and e-learning are therefore continuously co-ordinated as a part of the normal routine.

European and international co-operation

All major cultural institutions take part in international co-operation and networks within their own area of responsibility. In many cases these activities contain elements of digitisation normally focusing on their respective sector. The Ministry of Culture does not intend to merge these co-operation and networks with the work of the NRG. It seems more important to build a common platform for exchange of information between interested parties.



The benchmarking model has been distributed through the informal national network used by the Swedish national representative (e.g. the reference group in the ALM-project called “Image databases and digitisation - a platform for ALM collaboration”).
The absence of co-ordinated policies and programmes on digitisation in Sweden (see above) has resulted in a situation where attempts to implement benchmarking only cover projects. The general opinion of these projects is that benchmarking as such could be a useful tool, but the same set of indicators cannot be used to measure both projects aiming at practicable solutions and policies and programmes describing objectives and achievements in general terms.
It must also be clarified if the benchmarking model is meant to be used:

  • to collect data on sector and/or national level, or
  • by the individual programmes and projects to improve their practices by measuring themselves, or
  • both for data collection and self-measuring.

Another observation is that the benchmarking model has changed too often to give comparable data over time.
It is important that benchmarking is implemented in such a way that it can serve as a tool for both co-ordinating and improving practices within as well as between Member States.


Inventories and resource discovery

Available inventories

In 1999 CultureNet Sweden made an inventory on digitising projects in archives, libraries and museums. About 200 different kinds of projects were found - some very small, others very big. This first attempt will serve as a base for a national inventory database of on-going projects within the Minerva-project.
The National Archives has developed a national archival database (NAD) which is published both on CD-ROM and on the Internet (http://www.nad.ra.se).
The Internet version contains today information of archival fonds in state archives, including the National Registry of Private Archives, but will in the near future also include information of archival fonds in libraries and museums. From the Internet version it is possible to reach the National Archives Internet shop and order microfiche copies, books etc. This service will also cover digital images.
An example of a more specialised archival inventory is the Guide to Archival Sources on the Holocaust, Holocaust-Era Assets, and Related Issues in the National Archives of Sweden (http://www.ra.se/EN/holocaust1.html).
In the cultural environment sector there are several inventories connected to cultural heritage. One is “Kulturmiljöbild” (Images of Swedish Heritage), a vast database with digitalised pictures of historical sites from all over the country (buildings, ancient monuments, World Heritage Sites, cities and factories of importance to Swedish cultural history, http://www.raa.se/kmb/indexe.asp).
Maps from early 17th century until now are available to access and order on the homepage of the Swedish land survey authority (http://www.lantmateriet.se).
The National Archives of Recorded Sound and Moving Images has put a number of databases on Internet, among them “Swedish national discography”, “Swedish national film- and videography”, and “Swedish folk music”.

Metadata and interoperability for resource inventories

The Royal Library and the National Archives have decided about common rules for authorities (individuals, institutions, families, places, administrative boundaries etc.) and data elements in archival inventories. Therefore, it will soon be possible to do cross-over searching between the National Archival Database (NAD) and the National Library Database (LIBRIS).


Good practice and skills

Good practice exemplars and guidelines

There are no standards or national guidelines in use for the moment. The project “Image databases and digitisation - a platform for ALM co-operation”, mentioned earlier, has as a general goal to develop standards and guidelines in digital imaging.
Some cultural institutions have on-going projects that can serve as role models. Knowledge in digitisation is also spread through contacts and co-operation with international organisations like the International Council on Archives (ICA), the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), the International Council of Museums (ICOM) etc.
Some of these organisations have decided about standards for their respective professions like ICA´s ISAD (G) (General International Standard on Archival Description) and IFLA´s ISBD (International Standard on Bibliographic Description).

Competence centres

There are no formally appointed competence centres on digitising in Sweden and no criteria to select such centres. All institutions working with digitisation have to some extent special competences in digitising their own material, for example:

  • Royal Library
    Digitisation of printed material and preservation of Web content;
  • National Archives
    Digitisation of archival material, long-term preservation of archival material in digital form, and databases on archival content;
  • The Swedish land
    Digitisation and presentation of maps on the Web survey authority;
  • The National Heritage Board
    Databases on cultural heritage;
  • The National Archives of Recorded Sound and Moving IMAGES
    Preservation of recorded sound and moving images and databases on these issues
Main digitisation training initiatives for cultural heritage institutions

There are no organised digitisation training courses on national level, but in-house courses on ICT/digitisation are conducted by several cultural institutions. However, in 1997 - 98 a special foundation for the development of knowledge and competences (KK-stiftelsen) financed joint ICT courses (Web design, digitisation, preservation) for archivists, librarians and museum employees.
The University of Uppsala has a special department for ALM studies. Besides their ordinary programmes they carry out courses on the Internet (e-learning) about ICT in archives, libraries and museums.
Teaching digitisation on theoretical level is normally
a part of university programmes on archival science, library science and museum studies.


European added value and content framework

Quality and accessibility for Web sites

Questions on quality are closely related to benchmarking and good practices. Quality is also an important aspect of the cultural institution’s mission to support society with knowledge and to give conditions for citizens to participate in culture activities. Therefore, the adoption of the Brussels Quality Framework is an important issue. Plans are made to form a working group with the task to develop quality criteria for Swedish digitised cultural resources that are available on the Internet.
Another important issue is to follow the Content Accessibility Guidelines of the World Wide Web Consortium/Web Accessibility Initiative (W3C/WAI) concerning how to make Web content accessible to people with disabilities.

Long-term sustainability

In Sweden, governmental electronic records have been continuously transferred to the National Archives
for the last thirty years. State agencies are required to transfer their records in hardware and software independent formats together with documentation containing both metadata (data on data) and contextual information. Since mid -1990s a rapidly growing part of the records in public administration
are in an electronic form, and normally integrated in huge systems or networks based on on-line communication. Therefore, the archival report (see chapter 1) propose a new solution for preserving digital content in archives built on (1) Open Archival Information System (the OAIS model) and (2) XML-related standards.
The earliest time for a decision about changing the strategy is next year when the report has been circulated for comments.
There are other proposals too in the archival reports: The National Archives should in co-operation with universities start up technical research regarding long-term preservation of electronic records.
The National Archives should also, together with public archival institutions on regional and local level,
make an inventory of older IT-systems in the public administration and what is left of them in order to make it possible to decide about their preservation or appraisal.
The Royal Library has acquired, described, preserved and made available all Swedish printed publications since the 17th century. Nowadays many documents are published only in digital form and the number of items increases rapidly. Therefore, the Royal Library has started a project with the aim to collect, preserve and make available Swedish documents from the Internet. This lays the foundation of a collection of the Swedish electronic publishing.
The National Archives of Recorded Sound and Moving Images are doing a continuous work in preserving their holdings in digital form.


Research activities on digitisation

The National Archives plans together with Luleå University of Technology (http://www.luth.se)
to start a joint research unit in the beginning of 2003. The aim is to create a scientific environment connected to the university that can serve as a research and competence centre on digital preservation for institutions and agencies, both public and private, in Sweden or elsewhere.

Copyright Minerva Project 2004-01, last revision 2004-01-16, edited by Minerva Editorial Board.
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