Coordinating digitisation in Europe
Progress report of the National Representative Group: coordination
mechanisms for digitisation policies and programmes 2002
National Report: United Kingdom
Policy scenario for digitisation
In the UK, the overall policy directions of the Department for
Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) promote access, learning, social
inclusion and creativity. As a result of this over-arching view,
a number of related developments have taken place, principally
in the establishment of funding programmes for ICT initiatives
to digitisation programmes to promote access and long-term preservation.
Examples include the Heritage Lottery Fund and the New Opportunities
Fund Digitisation of Learning Materials Programme
The most significant policy development in 2002 has been the
establishment of Culture Online by the DCMS, and the announcement
of 20 m of funding for the initiative. A Creative Director has
been appointed, and discussions are proceeding on the development
of technical and management frameworks for the initiative.
Whilst DCMS leads in the Cultural sector, it works closely with
the Department for Education and Skills. Here the Higher Education
and Schools sectors are particularly interested in content from
the Cultural sector, particularly in the National Grid for Learning.
The JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee) has been for many
years funding digital library projects, and is now funding a wide
variety of projects in the cultural heritage sector.
The most significant policy development within DfES has been the
creation of Curriculum Online.
This is a programme to allocate 80m to schools for the purchase
of electronic content, and the development of a portal to enable
teachers to find content from both the public and private sectors
that meets the needs of the national curriculum.
Although both in their initial stages, the DCMS
Culture Online and the DfES Curriculum Online initiatives are
The importance of the cultural sector content industry in encouraging
the development of Broadband services has been recognised by the
Office of the e-Envoy and the Department of Trade and Industry.
A jointly-run Broadband Stakeholder Group has the task of promoting
the adoption of broadband, and a report published in June 2002
identified a number of possible policy development options. The
results of this review are expected in late November 2002.
The Office of the e-Envoy leads on policy for e-Government, and
significant developments include the development of Website Design
Guidelines for Local Authorities and a Website Quality Framework.
In the Museum sector, Resource published a report called Renaissance
in the Regions which identified the structural weakness in local
museums in England. Following this report, the DCMS announced
funding of 100m, some element of which will be for ICT-related
In the Libraries sector, work is being completed on a draft strategic
review of public libraries, which is due to be published during
In the Archives sector, Resource has been asked by DCMS to begin
work on an Archives Task Force, to focus on ways of making archives
more accessible to potential users and map out ways to turn them
more fully to advantage as a rich learning resource available
Terms of reference and National policy profile
The Terms of Reference have been agreed by DCMS and the UK national
profile was published in October 2001, and can be found at http://www.peoplesnetwork.gov.uk/.
The national profile is now out-of-date and will be revised in
the early part of 2003, during a development phase of the People’s
The contact person for the profile is David Dawson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
+44 207 373 1415, mobile +44 780 727259.
Co-ordination of national networks
In the UK, Resource and JISC, with the support of DCMS and DfES,
run a Forum for Network Co-ordination. This meets on a six-monthly
basis, and is open to all interested parties from across the UK.
The meetings focus on sharing experience and policy developments,
and the last two meetings have covered topics including Minerva,
cultural content and Broadband.
Resource also is a lead partner in a cross-sectoral group developing
ideas about a Common Information Environment. JISC, the British
Library, National Health Service, Resource and the e-Science programme
are exploring ways of creating intereoperable services. It has
been agreed that work will focus on two key areas – Health
(building on existing e-Health projects, NHS Direct, digitisation
projects and local health initiatives) and Sense of Place (building
on digitisation projects, and also involving English Heritage
and other key organisations).
Relationships and co-ordination with other national initiatives
in connection with eEurope, e-government, e-learning
Resource works with all other key initiatives, including the
Office of the e-Envoy, the Department for Education and Skills,
Department for Trade & Industry, Department of Health, as
well as with DCMS and its agencies. On a UK-wide level, Resource
co-ordinates a meeting of all the Home Country agencies, and the
Home Country administrations take part in the Forum for Network
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
Resource represents the UK in many international activities,
and the recently launched International Strategy identifies this
as a key activity for the future.
In addition, Resource, CIMI and UKOLN have helped to create the
Cultural Content Forum, in order to take forward the Lund principles,
and information-sharing on an international level. The last meeting
was held in Washington in March 2002, hosted by the Institute
of Museum & Library Services, and the next meeting will be
held in Florence in March 2003, with the assistance of the Italian
Ministry of Culture.
The UK participated actively in the development of the initial
Benchmarking model, and the Benchmark was completed by an initial
set of programmes. This effort proved to be invaluable, opening
up a new dialogue with at least one major funder and programme
manager, and encouraging the recognition that more work needed
to be done on the development of technical standards and guidelines.
While the liaison is still in its early days, there is a real
willingness to spread the experience that has been developed so
far in policy and programme management.
Once concrete results have been obtained, then the UK will be
able to encourage more institutions to take part in benchmarking,
and therefore to help identify and share good practice.
Inventories and resource discovery
In the UK there are a number of inventories, but they have tended
to be managed as simple HTML lists of projects that have been
funded, and there has often been little attempt to bring these
together. However, there are exceptions, and a great interest
in trying to ensure that resources are made more widely available.
At a standards level, the RSLP Collections Description Schema
has met with widespread support, and was used by many projects
in the University sector funded by the Research Support Library
The Research Support Libraries Programme has funded € 23m
of collections descriptions either on the basis of themes or subjects,
such as Theatre collections (http://www.backstage.ac.uk)
or on a geographic basis, such as collections in Northern Ireland
A list of projects is available at http://www.rslp.ac.uk.
In Archives, the ARCHON project (http://www.rchm.gov.uk/archon),
managed by the Historic Manuscripts Commission, lists all archival
collections in the UK. At a more detailed level, this links to
work being undertaken by the Archives Hub for archive collections
held by Universities and by the Public Record Office, where the
A2A project is enabling access to archival finding aids from across
In Museums, the Cornucopia project (http://www.cornucopia.org.uk)
is recording collections-level descriptions, whilst details of
the museums themselves, along with exhibitions and news, are available
through the 24Hour Museum (http://www.24hourmuseum.org.uk).
In Libraries, projects have been brought together at a regional
or at a home country level (http://cairns.lib.gla.ac.uk/),
and work is now starting to identify how special collections in
public libraries can be made available through projects such as
Cornucopia. Currently in development is a portal to projects funded
through the NOF-digitise programme. This will adopt an open standards
approach, and will be launched in the spring of 2003. This could
be a platform for continued development. This development is being
undertaken in parallel with developments in Minerva.
It is likely that a collections description service will be developed
by the JISC, and Resource will be keen to collaborate with the
JISC in this development. JISC, Resource, RSLP and the British
Library are key funders of the Collection Description Focus at
UKOLN which is undertaking the standards-based activity.
In IPR, Resource is trying to encourage the development of a cross-sectoral
focus for IPR expertise and advice. Currently the picture is extremely
fragmented, with overlap and duplication amongst the different
groups, but the key membership of the different groups are the
same experts. Once this process is complete, a clear focus for
IPR expertise in the sectors should emerge. Resource has been
liaising with EMII (the European Museum Information Institute
on IPR issues.
Good practice and skills
Good practice exemplars and guidelines
There are many UK projects that demonstrate good practice. An
initial list of these appear at: http://www.peoplesnetwork.gov.uk/content/best.asp
This includes the IT Challenge Fund, where an extensive set of
evaluation reports have led to the production of a set of guidelines
for the development of ICT projects in museums.
The NOF-digitise programme is backed by a set of mandatory guidelines,
embodied in the NOF-digitise Technical Standards
In addition, this Programme is supported by an extensive Programme
Manual, detailing a vast range of supporting materials that distils
the experience of running and managing digital projects.
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 have been established, and these
In addition, there are a number of Competence centres that are
in the process of formation, exemplified by the range of skills
and expertise developed in Scotland by the National Museums of
and The Multimedia Team (xxxx).
Main digitisation training initiatives for cultural heritage
ICT / digitisation training courses are run by a number of largely
University-based organisations. These include:
In addition, a number of professional cultural sector organisation
and commercial companies offer relevant training courses.
European added value and content framework
Quality and accessibility for Web sites
The Office of the e-Envoy has mandated the Website Design Guidelines
across the whole of the wider public sector, and the Website Quality
Framework is likely to apply across government agencies. As a
result, there is strong policy direction in this area.
However, many institutions are not aware of this, or have yet
to consider how to change their Websites to meet basic accessibility
criteria to ensure that all citizens can use the Website. Whilst
it has been possible to build these requirements into some funding
programmes (such as the NOF-digitise programme), there are others
where there are no technical standards or quality frameworks in
place. There is a need to establish a Quality Framework that can
be recognised as relevant by the cultural sector, and that can
be adopted widely to encourage the redevelopment and upgrading
of Websites throughout the cultural sector.
The issue of digital preservation has long been recognised as
being of key importance. In 2002, the Digital Preservation Coalition
was established, with funding from a number of partners including
Resource, JISC and the Public Record Office. This is a focus for
research and implementation issues in the UK, and the Public Record
Office has been advising Government Departments on Electronic
Research activities on digitisation
The main research activities are undertaken by UKOLN (http://www.ukoln.ac.uk),
and the wider academic sector, where research is largely funded
by the JISC.
The key areas of work undertaken include:
- metadata standards, particularly on metadata for collections
- interoperability – including OAI and SRW and the iMESH
- terminology and the deployment of the semantic Web;
- gateways to resources and subject portals (the EU-funded
- Web preservation (with the Digital Preservation Coalition).
Research is also undertaken by a wide range of other institutions,
- Higher Education Digitisation Service – a partner in MetaE
researching the integration of METS into digitisation workflow;
- University of Strathclyde – feasibility study in
High Level Terminologies.