Coordinating digitisation in Europe
Progress report of the National Representative Group: coordination
mechanisms for digitisation policies and programmes 2002
Ministry of Education, Culture and Science,
Directorate for Cultural Heritage
National Report: The Netherlands
Policy scenario for digitisation
In the Netherlands, the national government as well as the main
nationally funded bodies such as the National Archives, the Koninklijke
Bibliotheek, Nation Library of the Netherlands, and the Netherlands
Digital Heritage Association, create the guiding policies on the
digitisation of cultural heritage. Although local authorities
may propose slightly deviating policy scenarios, many of these
stem directly from the national policy directions and programmes.
See for detailed policy profile and main initiatives at http://www.cultuurtechnologie.net.
One and a half-year on since the formation of the NRG and the
adoption of the Lund Principles by the Ministry of Culture, considerable
progress has been made on several fronts, national as well as
regional. Many digitisation projects have started up with funding
from the 2001-2004 National Policy Document on Culture, the Mondriaan
Foundation, the Knowledge Network, the Electronic Superhighway
Action Plan and other sources. Together they represent a first
step towards an integrated system of electronic access to the
Dutch cultural heritage.
For the year 2003 and on, heritage institutions involved in digitisation
are expected to shift their focus from the individual use of digitised
collections to the idea of flexible applications in new knowledge
conglomerates. In any event, current trends in archives, libraries,
museums and the historic site sector all point in this direction.
Technological innovation in particular is radically changing the
way work is organised in and between institutions and impacting
on traditional working methods and structures.
The position of heritage institutions in the non-profit sector
is also changing, as are communication structures and expectations.
And this extends beyond the boundaries of institutions. Heritage
institutions have become part of wider knowledge networks and
networks for knowledge transfer, and it is the Ministry of Culture’s
task to enable the institutions to secure a prominent place within
these networks. At present only few heritage institutions have
yet the expertise to offer larger-scale, content-driven digital
access to their collections and information. Heritage institutions
are not yet sufficiently equipped to improve access to their electronic
systems. Many of them are unable to recognise or identify the
place of digitisation within their institution as a whole.
To improve matters, digitisation should be integrated more closely
into the information management within institutions. Only then
will they be able to offer high quality electronic access to their
collections and expertise. Digitisation determines the service
that an archive, museum or library offers the public and therefore,
ideally, digitisation is an integral part of the institution’s
- To assure investments in digital heritage resources make a
real contribution to the knowledge infrastructure.
- To offer more efficient support so that institutions can streamline
their digitisation projects and integrate them into other work
- To enable institutions to apply appropriate procedures and
standards. Therefore, clearer frameworks and appropriate conditions
- Institutes applying for grants will in the near future be
required to apply prescribed procedures and standards.
- Obliging institutes to apply standards and procedures will
initially entail extra expense. More structural budget is a
necessary foundation to achieve this the proper application.
- To address the question of copyright where digitisation leads
to new uses and more frequent reuse.
- To promote digital preservation philosophy and practice
- To take account of what is happening internationally and tie
in with similar projects.
- To promote best practice examples in the Netherlands to any
audience nationally and internationally by presentation through
the Web (http://www.cultuurtechnologie.net).
All of these goals were brought together and well founded in
a policy document on the Digitisation of Cultural Heritage Information
that was sent to the parliament on May 27 2002
(see for full text at http://www.cultuurtechnologie.net/policy27may2002.htm).
A national policy profile is published at http://www.cultuurtechnologie.net/profile.htm
Adoption of terms of reference
The Ministry of Culture formally endorsed the Terms of Reference
In effect, it has committed itself to the Lund principles and
the mission of the NRG to monitor progress regarding the objectives
A National Steering Group for implementing the Lund-principles
was established end 2001. Participators are the National Archives,
the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, the Netherlands Digital Heritage
Association, and the Ministry of Culture (chair).
Within the Ministry of Culture, a working group responsible for
eCulture, is the main co-ordinating body for all policy concerning
ICT and culture, digitisation of heritage, eCulture & education,
Examples of national co-operation
Dutch digitisation policy states that the consistency of digitisation
efforts should be enhanced by the adherence to clearly defined
standards. The definition and dissemination of these standards
is the responsibility of the major heritage institutions in the
Netherlands (National Archives, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, major
museums, National Institute for Cultural Heritage (ICN), Institute
for Image and Sound (NIBG), National Archaeological Service (ROB),
National Service for the Monuments (RdMz) and the Netherlands
Digital Heritage Association (DEN).
A working group of these institutions and of other leading heritage
organisations in the Netherlands established an XML-scheme, based
on the Dublin Core, for the exchange of contextual cultural heritage
information. At present this working group is occupied with a
pilot project investigating the possibilities of the Open Archives
Initiative Protocol combined with the XML-standard in an information
service providing access to different Dutch heritage resources
on the Web.
Another working group introduces the Encoded Archival Description
standard into the Dutch heritage community. In this working group,
participators are the organisations mentioned above as well as
the major university libraries.
Examples of international co-operation
The National Archives is one of the four co-ordinating institutions
of ERPANET, a European project (funded by the European Commission)
to improve and disseminate knowledge about the digital storage
of cultural heritage and scientific and academic material. Other
institutions are The Humanities Technology and Information Institute
(HATII, University of Glasgow, the main contractor), the Institute
for Archival and Library Science (Università degli Studi
di Urbino) and the Schweizerisches Bundesarchiv. Activities are
training seminars, workshops (most recently in Urbino, Oct. 2002),
publications and special tools and other products.
See for details http://www.erpanet.org.
The TANAP-programme (Towards A New Age of Partnership) intends
to create better access to the Dutch East India Company (VOC)
archives held around the world. The programme contains a research
programme and an archives project. The archives project is conducted
by the National Archives. Part of the project is the digitisation
of finding-tools. Already 9 finding-tools, encoded in EAD, are
available. Co-operation includes national and other archival institutions
in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and South Africa. See for details
See more examples of co-operation activities at http://www.cultuurtechnologie.net.
The implementation of a framework (as prepared by the NRG and
adopted by the Minerva Network) for the qualitative analysis of
digitisation initiatives through benchmarking, is being supported
by a Web-tool for self-assessment and a Website for the publication
of cumulative benchmark results and European comparison (see:
http://www.cultuurtechnologie.net/ benchmarking). The website
targets an international audience by providing all information
in English. Up till now (December 2002) 6 projects have been analysed.
Extending the effort towards a quantitative analysis will be a
The Ministry of Culture recognises the importance of a benchmark,
at the onset of initiatives as well
as after completion. Benchmark indicators can be used as a point
of reference for institutions
confronted with the task of proposing, defining, or planning a
digitisation initiative. It can be used
as “quality-filter” for proposals by organisations
that have the task to financially support initiatives as well,
thus enhancing quality and fostering good practice.
Inventories and resource discovery
Main national inventories and theme-related projects
Web guide to culture
Co-ordination: Netherlands Digital Heritage
- a general guide and a cultural agenda for heritage institutions
in co-operation with Netherlands tourist organisations;
- an informative intermediate layer with short introductions
and presentations and information about parts of collections;
- a metadatabase, to open up information on heritage on the
level of digitised sources. Audience: education, cultural tourism,
professional specialists and also a broad public. Participants:
archives, libraries, museums, built heritage, visual artist,
theatres, orchestras, theatre, dance and opera companies, tourism,
schools, research institutes.
Memory of the Netherlands
Funding: Government, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, Participants (museums,
archives, and monuments).
Co-ordination: Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague.
- large-scale digitisation of cultural heritage collections
and providing access to them;
- building applications for secondary education on at least
- guaranteeing the possible re-use of images in all kind of
applications and publications;
- building of a robust infrastructure for access;
- promoting co-operation between heritage organisations;
- dissemination of acquired knowledge between the participating
Audience: general; secondary education; researchers.
Participants: about 40 institutions for cultural heritage in the
Access to persons (TOP)
Co-ordination: Association for records management and the archives
- the development of a digital “shell” for uniform
access to genealogical and other data on persons in archives.
Will be active in September 2003.
Participants: Municipal Archive Delft, Regional Centre for History
Bergen op Zoom, the Netherlands Central Office for Genealogy,
National Archives, State Archives Agency.
Integral Digital List of Archives (IDA)
Co-ordination: Association for records management
and the archives (DIVA).
- creating a common “list of archives” of as many
archival institutions in the Netherlands as possible.
A prototype for a pilot is available, but still under discussion;
Participants: International Institute for Social History, the
International Information Centre and Archives for the Women’s
Movement, the Municipal Archives of Amsterdam and Dordrecht, and
the National Archives.
The Living Environment
Co-ordination: Association for records management and the archives
Goals: based on the Land Registry maps of 1832 a lot of information
on any place which in the Netherlands can be found with the nowadays
zip code, will be made available on Internet: building plans,
maps, photographs, &c.
Participants: National Archives, the regional state archives and
regional centres for history.
Study: Napster-service for historical information
A feasibility study funded by the government will make clear the
technical possibilities and the organisational and economic conditions
in an Internet environment
for the conversion and peer-to-peer exchange between historical
information from non-professional historians to professional cultural
heritage institutions. The results will be published in spring
Good practice and skills
A range of institutions is involved in the dissemination of
good practice and skills in ICT and the digitisation process.
Involved are the major heritage institutions in the Netherlands
(National Archives, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, major museums, National
Collections Institute, Institute for Images and Sound, National
Archaeological Service, National Service for the Monuments and
the Netherlands Digital Heritage Association. Main sites for help
en support already available in The Netherlands:
the site of a major project of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, offers
guidelines for digitisation projects;
the site of DEN, some info on standards and technologies;
the site of the official ICT-section of the Dutch Museum Association
(NMV), offers a wide range of information on ICT-related topics
in the museum sector;
the site where a special competence centre of the National Archives
and the Ministry for Internal Affairs offers information on digital
The National Archives plays an active role in the further development
of EAD as an international standard. Besides that, it will actively
promote the knowledge and the use of EAD in the Netherlands by
2003. The “best practices guidelines” for the use
of EAD version 2002 were made available. In 2003 part of the Website
of the National Archives will serve as knowledge centre for the
use of EAD in the Netherlands.
Memory of the Netherlands
This programme delivers published (hardcopy and Website) guidelines
on all aspects of the digitisation process: digital quality, metadata,
project management, planning and control. Workshops will be organised.
Dissemination of acquired knowledge between the participating
institutions is one of the main goals.
Competence centres for the digitisation of heritage
There are no formal criteria for evaluating competence centres
and therefore no criteria on which to nominate such centres.
However, a number of advisory centres do exist, and these include:
Digitisation of museum collections
Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage - ICN (http://www.icn.nl)
Netherlands Institute for Art History - RKD (http://www.rkd.nl)
Digitisation of audio-visual heritage
Netherlands Institute for Image and Sound - NIBG (http://www.nibg.nl)
Digitisation of library collections
Koninklijke Bibliotheek - KB (http://www.kb.nl)
Netherlands Association of Public Libraries - NBLC (http://www.nblc.nl)
Digitisation of information on built & archaeological
Netherlands Dept. for Conservation - RdMz (http://www.monumentenzorg.nl)
National Service for Archaeological Research - ROB (http://www.archis.nl)
Digitisation of heritage in general
Netherlands Association for Digital Heritage - DEN (http://www.den.nl)
Digitisation training initiatives for cultural heritage
ICT / digitisation training courses are run by a number of largely
University-based organisations and umbrella organisations like
the Netherlands Museum Association (http://www.museumvereniging.nl);
the Association for records management and the archives (http://www.divakoepel.nl),
and the Netherlands Association for Digital Heritage (http://www.den.nl).
European added value and content framework
Quality and accessibility for Web sites
There is a need to rethink the Brussels Quality Framework. It
should be made more suitable for appropriate and recognisable
use in the cultural sector. Therefore, a clearer reference should
be made to the specific character of cultural Websites and their
Present strategies and actions to promote the Brussels Quality
Framework and to stimulate its application are:
- Dissemination and publicity of the framework to encourage
the redevelopment and upgrading of Websites throughout the cultural
- Introduction in the preparatory and evaluatory phases of government
sponsored digitisation initiatives.
Dutch heritage institutions in general lack procedures to prevent
digital information from becoming inaccessible in the course of
time. This often happens when intermediate products (the individual
objects catalogued in the system) become inaccessible or, even
worse, when they are destroyed and therefore unavailable for new
projects once the end product (the Website, for instance) has
disappeared. But information can also become inaccessible or unusable
if the medium carrying it deteriorates or the technology on which
it depends becomes obsolete. A protocol was recently introduced
to protect digital originals covered by the Public Records Act.
It prescribes a number of general procedures and standards for
preserving digital records and ensuring that they remain accessible.
Its purpose is similar to that of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek’s
Dutch Electronic Publications Archive, which fulfils the Koninklijke
Bibliotheek’s statutory obligation to preserve electronic
publications. Although neither the protocol nor the Electronic
Publications Archive is concerned with digitised heritage sources,
they might serve as examples of ways of prolonging the accessibility
of digital copies without having to keep digitising the originals.
In the context of the Dutch Electronic Publications Archive,
official agreement was made between
the Royal Library and Elsevier Science Publishers concerning the
storage and preservation of Elseviers’ electronic publications.
The Koninklijke Bibliotheek offers customers (libraries, &c)
a guaranteed access
to the (international) electronic publications, even after an
unexpected demise of the publisher. The Koninklijke Bibliotheek
contracted IBM-Holland for a close research and development co-operation
in relation to the system and technology required. For more info
(in Dutch) see http://www.kb.nl/kb/resources/frameset_kb.html?/kb/menu/ken-arch.html.
Research activities on digitisation
A consortium of heritage institutions, businesses and computer
science research departments at major universities is currently
defining a large R&D investment programme. This programme,
called “A Production Line for the Digitisation of Cultural
Heritage”, will be submitted in a colossal national investment
initiative that is designed to boost the competitiveness and harness
the strength of the national knowledge infrastructure. The aim
of this programme is to develop know-how and tools to facilitate
digitisation on a large scale, access and preservation of cultural
heritage, and to develop a suitable business-model that guarantees
co-ordinated and standardised procedures, now and in the future.
In the the programme some key components of the digitisation process
from enrichment to delivery of information to the user are identified
and targeted as problematic and in need of fundamental research.
These components are:
- semantic enrichment
- semantic interoperability
- context awareness
- indexing and searching
- multimedial presentation and visualisation
- digital durability
The central metaphor, “Production Line”, is an excellent
visualisation and organising principle of the many interdependencies
of the constituent parts. Different conglomerates of institutions
and enterprises will be grouped around these topics. The Netherlands
Organisation for Scientific Research NWO acts as organising and
co-ordinating partner of this programme; this eminent organisation
has put the first step to enter the national investment initiative
with a programme that largely revolves around the humanities.
The initial consortium will design a programme that will give
opportunities of collaboration to a core-group of institutions
and business partners, but will also be open for tenders with
partners outside the initial group. The Expression of Interest,
proposed by the consortium to the Ministry of Economic Affairs
of the Netherlands, was met with interest and enthusiasm. The
consortium is now in the stage of developing a final proposal.
Priorities for future strategies
Suggestions for future developments include:
Inventories, discovery of digitised content:
providing exchange between and central access to distributed national
Memory of the Netherlands, to create a European Memory Database.
Quality, IPR en DRM:
there is a need for exploitation based on digital information,
offering flexible and personalised services to individual users.
Besides a well-functioning payment mechanism, proper attention
should be given to the protection and exploitation of the right
to use this digital information.
digitisation in the Netherlands is strongly linked to contextualisation.
As digitisation hardly ever occurs in its own right, indicators
to identify and quantify the amount of effort and funds spent
on contextualisation are needed
NL-presidency 2004 (tentative):
Preparing EU-wide agreement between the main national libraries
on establishing certified deposit systems for the preservation
and access of the born-digital scientific information of publishers.