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Path: Home | Publications | Quality criteria  |  Table of contents  | Chapter 3


Handbook for quality in cultural Web sites
Improving quality for citizens

3 Minerva quality framework for Cultural Web Applications

3.1 Considerations

3.2 Goals of the Cultural Web Application: definitions

  3.2.1 Presentation of the identity of the Cultural Entity
  3.2.2 Transparency on the activities of the Cultural Entity
  3.2.3 Transparency on the mission of the Cultural Web Application
  3.2.4 Efficiency in the sector networks
  3.2.5 Presentation of standards and regulations of the sector
  3.2.6 Spreading of cultural content
  3.2.7 Support of cultural tourism
  3.2.8 Offer of educational services
  3.2.9 Offer of services of scientific research
  3.2.10 Offer of services to specialists in the sector
  3.2.11 Offer of services of reservation and acquisition of goods
  3.2.12 Promotion of Web communities in the sector

3.3 Specific description of the Cultural Web Application according to Cultural Entity categories

  3.3.1 Archives
  3.3.2 Libraries
  3.3.3 Cultural heritage diffused on territory
  3.3.4 Museums
  3.3.5 Institutes for administration and safeguarding
  3.3.6 Centres for research and education
  3.3.7 Cultural projects
  3.3.8 Temporary exhibitions

3.1 Considerations

Besides the need to consider general issues of quality applicable to all Web Applications, (cfr chap. 2) the mission of the Cultural Web Application requires that attention should be paid to specific quality criteria.
In adherence with the general Principles and Recommendations (cf. chap. 1), there follows a list of the main objectives of a Cultural Web Application. For each case, specific characteristics for correct and efficient treatment of contents and organisation are defined.

The quality of content is reached when the goals of Cultural Entity and the on-line strategies of communications are clear, bearing in mind that these goals are the direct result of interaction between the goals of the Cultural Entity and the goals of the users.


3.2 Goals of the Cultural Web Application: definitions


3.2.1 Presentation of the identity of the Cultural Entity

The ability to pin-point and communicate those constitutional elements, which have, through time, contributed, to forming the unique features of a Cultural Entity, as they are defined within the entity and are perceived from the outside.

The identity of a Cultural Entity is given by its cultural content, the historical context of its education, the place in which it is contained, its mission and organisational function, and its internal and external relations.

Cultural content is to be considered the body of cultural and scientific heritage which the entity conserves, safeguards, administrates, and exploits, represented in the historical context of its education and gathered in homogeneous collections etc..

The place is to be considered its architectural location, and plays a significant contribution to the identification of a CE.

The mission and the consequential organisation of work and services, is an aspect of internal and external relations between the community and the CE.

Presentation of the identity means, therefore, a harmony between the various components taken as singular aspects but belonging to a complex whole. Finally, identity is also defined by specific material or immaterial aspects which, through time, have favoured or determined recognition of CE in the “world”.


3.2.2 Transparency on the activities of the Cultural Entity

To publish any information which is part of the realisation of the mission of a Cultural Entity.

In their various forms, Web Applications are useful tools for information on the activity (programmes, projects, funding, procedures, realisation phases, results) which is constant and updated and plays a part in achieving the goals of a CE.


3.2.3 Transparency on the mission of the Cultural Web Application

To guarantee users access to sufficiently complete information on the Web Application, i.e. on its objectives, responsibilities and competencies, strategies for maintenance and updating and technological strategies.

Information for application users is essential for three reasons:

  • Its public origin carries an obligation for transparency on choices made concerning formation and maintenance;
  • the application must be a point of reference and stimulus in the field of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), a role which all pubic entities must play;
  • belonging to sector networks (both public and cultural) implies obligation to collaborate and exchange experiences in organisational and technological strategies.

In a sector such as ICT, where innovation is fast and strongly influenced by the market, diffusion of the use of efficient standards, good practices and specific solutions, is the key to guaranteeing efficient development of the Society of Information and Knowledge.


3.2.4 Efficiency in the sector networks

To stimulate the definition of common areas through collaboration and production of “highly specialised” content. To study techniques for further accessibility (or knowledge) of databases which are preferably multi-lingual and may differ in structure but are all available on the Web.

To encourage the use of descriptive tools for existing databases and for each archive through descriptive metadata.

Sharing and promotion of the results, cohesion and collaboration with other similar on-line cultural projects (both current and concluded), putting Web references (data-banks, thesauri, linkopedie) into common use, all occur through the activation of thematic networks and portals (cf. 3.4.7)

Co-ordination based on co-operative participation (i.e. between equals and aimed at achieving a common objective) is the fundamental basis for the creation of sector networks.

Each site should activate a section which, via internal and external links, includes links to parallel resources available (those with the same objectives).

Thus relations between parallel institutions in different nations should be promoted.

Sharing common informative heritage is a fundamental aim, to be pursued through knowledge of the content of the data-bases and through sharing all information relative to accessibility (local and remote) of same said data-bases.

The definition of a single criterion and of a single language for administration of the databases is not a primary aim in that the definition of standard is as yet unclear.
In conclusion, the primary aim is to hold in common, general information through institution of a multi-lingual lexis and a set of specific metadata for describing the databases.


3.2.5 Presentation of standards and regulations of the sector

In the field of a CWA, it would be advisable to have updated references to the basic regulations in the cultural sector and on the mission of the CE, with the added value of an institutional picture of the cultural activity.
In the case of portals or Web sites for cultural entities at a regional or national level, it would be good practice to offer users as complete a picture as possible of the standards and regulations in use in that particular cultural sector.

Depending on the complete picture of the objectives of the application and of the mission of the CE with relation to users, various levels of services dedicated to standards and regulations can be identified:

  • the minimum required level is a list of references to international, regional and local jurisdiction. It would advisable for this list to be annotated and have links to data-banks available on the Web;
  • the second level could be an updated list of the regulations, organised chronologically or according to topic or type of regulation, with links to external data-banks or directly to the text of the regulation;
  • the third level consists of data-banks structured on the basis of recognised standards for legislative descriptions, in which it is possible to find the details of the regulations through words in the titles, the headings or the text of the articles:

In the latter case inter-operability of data with other data banks at national level, or international topics could be conceived. It might also be opportune to provide on-line data with the text of given legislation as an additional, perhaps commercial service, for professionals or specialists.


3.2.6 Spreading of cultural content

To render information and the cultural, scientific, juridical, administrative and economic contents which are created and conserved by Cultural Entities, available to all citizens. This should be done within respect of privacy and IPR regulations, with the aim of promoting the move towards a digital economy based on knowledge and cultural growth.

Access to, and valorisation of the contents and information in the cultural sector developed in the Society of Information and Knowledge, constitutes a civil and democratic value. To this can be added an indirect but noteworthy importance for the economy and for employment.

Aspects, which can give maximum valence to information in the possession of a CE, must be considered and developed through the institution of minimum norms common to all EU countries.


3.2.7 Support of cultural tourism

To plan and provide services of information and high added value to sustain activities aiming to increment sustainable qualitative and quantitative valorisation of the cultural heritage, in synergy with territorial values and the valorisation of cultural heritage in the field of tourism.

In the economic and social scene that has formed over recent years, cultural tourism is becoming extremely important. This type of tourism is becoming a mass phenomenon and the direct and indirect benefits it produces are ever more evident.
These effects benefit not only the cultural field, but also generate a series of “positive offshoots” in the economic and social fabric that gravitates around cultural resources.
The availability of informative services and high added value are thus necessary in order to support and increase these tendencies.


3.2.8 Offer of educational services

Together with the values of preservation and valorisation, exploitation of the cultural heritage is one of the primary aims of a Cultural Entity. To this end, it is important that a CWA provide multimedia and inter-active didactic support aimed at transmitting the interpretation and historical reconstruction of the “context” from whence it gains the significance of its cultural heritage.

Elaboration of didactic services must be based on a study of user needs in order to identify profiles for which to activate didactic proposals. In particular the following themes should be considered:

  • presentation of the heritage from the historical/critical point of view;
  • suitability of the communication for the user profile;
  • guide to consulting collections and documents;
  • interfaces which are suitable for the disabled (e.g. the visually impaired);
  • Increasing inter-activity in reply to the demand for auto training (e.g. through personalised paths and comparison).

Didactic Web itineraries between similar or related sites should be created, thus encouraging connections between cultural heritage and the territory. The creation of electronic magazines for diffusion of news and comments largely connected with the sector of the cultural Entity, is a relevant didactic Web service that a CE can offer.


3.2.9 Offer of services of scientific research

To provide services destined mainly to researchers consulting scientific documentation and using tools to establish a periodic or occasional information flow that is, nevertheless, complete with essential information.

Access to library catalogues, archive inventories, Museum catalogues (if available on the Web) are one of the most useful services.

A Web site of a Cultural Entity can provide services for scientific research by rendering the CE’s existing data banks usable and accessible.

The Web itself was born of the necessity to render hypertextual and multimedia reports available to a vast community of researchers.

This goal is usually linked with the need to communicate in a synthetic but highly specialised language that is often comprehensible only within a specific scientific community.

Answers to interrogatives can be expressed in standard, pre-established codes.

Using the IPR principles, it will be necessary to distinguish between material freely available for consultation, and that rendered accessible to researchers under express authorisation. To this end, there should be an administrative system able to discriminate between functions and concessions to users according to the widest possible variations.

There should be areas for up and down loading files, access to data bases (according to authorisation conceded) and results should be saveable directly onto the user’s computer (e.g. via e-mail).

Clear programming language and light (possibly dynamic) pages should be used in order to allow rapid access to databases. Search operations should generally be traced and saved.

Limits on the use of data and its ownership should be clearly expressed.

Discussion fora on specific topics may develop. The possibility to access data archives or bibliographies of institutions represents an extremely important and useful added value.


3.2.10 Offer of services to specialists in the sector

Differentiated on the basis of the categories of the CE, services will be aimed at specialists who operate in each sector of cultural and scientific heritage and to specialists who are interested in using information run by the CE.

To make available those services which support specialist activities such as research on data-banks, catalogues, file downloads, information relevant to work (public vocational exams, information on jobs, employment and mobility), registers, sector regulations, information on institutes for safeguarding, reserving services of the CE, diary of events (chronology of events, courses, seminars, didactic activities).

These services can be supplied on demand or through various enrolments. They may furthermore be reserved for authorised users, in respect of IPR criteria.

3.2.11 Offer of services of reservation and acquisition of goods

Provide the possibility to establish secure transactions, both commercial and non, guaranteeing users access to specific services provided by the cultural institutes (reservations) and via the Web (acquisition of goods and “downloading” of digital resources.)

The services which area offered via the Web are:

  1. transactional – effected entirely on-line (free and commercial downloads of digital resources such as reproductions of objects, documents or monuments, or publications and research tools covered by copyright);
  2. finalised to using traditional services in the seat of the cultural structure: booking tickets for museums, exhibitions, monuments, parks or sites, booking participation in particular events such as conferences, guides tours, lessons, presentations, etc. or booking consultations of materials in reading rooms of libraries and archives after consulting specific informative systems.

3.2.12 Promotion of Web communities in the sector

To establish strategies aimed at reaching specific user categories, at involving users and attracting their patronage through interactive tools on the CWA.

To establish a system of analysis and audience feedback with intent to optimise the services offered.

This objective includes all the actions necessary for the affirmation of an added European value.

The community of users can be implemented through activating precise strategies that must be agreed on the basis of the mission and objectives of the CWA. Methods could be: sending press releases to media centres, forums and sector mailing list, activities to promote and collaborate with other similar Web Applications.

Patronage can be attracted using various instruments such as registration, newsletters, mailing lists and discussion fora. Results obtained of information on the community of users should be constantly monitored in order to evaluate the adequacy of the services offered and new perspectives for development.



3.3 Specific description of the Cultural Web Application according to Cultural Entity categories

In recognition and respect of the intrinsic complexity of the cultural and scientific heritage, of the its specificities and in particular of the nature of Cultural Entities – in their diverse organisational, institutional and private forms – thematic aspects of the categories were further defined.

3.3.1 Archives

The archive sector was among the first to perceive the importance of the Web as a tool of communication of the existence, specific role and the contents preserved by these institutes, which connect juridical and administrative fields with culture and are therefore visible both to civil and political society.

The first archive portals go back as far as the dawn of the WWW and Unesco soon created a world level portal especially dedicated to the sector. There is still great need for the widest possible co-operation in archives, particularly concerning definition and diffusion of descriptive standards. In addition, good practices in strategies and techniques of the digitization of documentary heritage should be shared.

Through individual archive sites, of multi-institutional informative systems, and thematic or territorial data banks or portals, the Web has quickly become a particularly effective tool.

Archives and the goals of a CWA

Goal n. 1 (Presentation of the identity of the CE): Compared with other cultural sectors, presentation of identity for archives at times need to “emerge” from the strictly local environment in which they are often tied due to the strong territorial connotations of the documents they conserve.

The identity of institutes of conservation of documents is given primarily by logistical factors (seat, responsibility, opening times for the public, modes of access and characteristics of the services offered), and also by origin, characteristics, consistence and the possibility of access to the heritage which is conserved.

Goal n. 2 (Transparency on the activities of the CE): The activity of archives centres on service to the public, specialist assistance in creating research paths, and borrowing and/or analogical or digital copying of items.

The work of safeguarding and valorising archives consists in making inventories and, where necessary, re-ordering of series, activities which require serious study of the history of the originators.

In some nations, public archives also have the function of safeguarding and of consultation on conservation, re-ordering and organisation of documents and registers for public and private bodies.

Finally, alongside these activities are didactic and specialist vocational training, organisation of documentary exhibitions and participation in cultural projects.

In Goal n. 3 (Transparency on the mission of the CWA) technical/scientific choices, especially concerning heritage information services, play a central role: archive description, the application of standards and the use of particular software, are at the centre of debate in the sector and render the spread of good practices necessary. As far as the long term conservation of digital contents is concerned, informative transparency becomes even more urgent, considering the real risks and the obligation to hand down the cultural heritage to posterity.

Goal n. 4 (An efficient role in the sector network): National and international co-operation over good practices in strategies and techniques of digitization of the heritage, particularly for the diffusion of descriptive standards, are of great importance in this sector. The active presence in existing networks of development of new spaces for orientation, debate and research, are objectives which an archive can efficiently pursue via Web tools.

Goal n. 5 (Present the standards and regulations of the sector): Considering that documentary heritage has a double historical and juridical value, following an ideal of continuity between past, present and future, the presentation of regional or national regulations on the formation, conservation, access and reproduction of documents and of official documents on descriptive standards represents a fundamental service in archive Web sites.

For the 6th Goal (Spread cultural contents), the main channels of cultural diffusion via archives through the Web are a more or less detailed presentation of the archival heritage and the processing of thematic paths to navigate it (e.g. the history of the territory, the history of emigration, life in convents, life in the Court, the birth of industry, etc.)

Goal n. 7 (Support cultural tourism): Cultural tourism organised by archives is, as a rule, achieved in strict connection and co-operation with other institutes or cultural projects of the same city or geographical area, on the occasion of particular events such as exhibitions, conferences, cycles of guided tours, or even the fact of archives being often housed in historical buildings.

For Goal n. 8 (Offer educational services) the didactic activity of archives is generally on certain themes:

  • To show the dynamics of the formation of the documentary heritage and present tools available for efficient research:
  • examine historiographic themes via guided path through documents;
  • vocational training for specialists in description and management of archives on the basis of traditional disciplines and also of international standards. (ISAD, ISAAR, EAD etc.)

Concerning Goal n. 9 (Offer of services for scientific research), support for scientific research is more typical of archiving services, which are destined above all to specialists in historical research who are able to navigate the complexity of documentary systems.

The creation and offer of archives and data-banks usually implies scientific respect of its complexity, i.e. the dynamic interconnection between series of documents, their creators and the research tools which they describe. This service can be accompanied by services for consultation and distance research.

For Goal n. 10, (Offer of services to specialists in the sector), specialists who turn to the world of archives, either through traditional channels or through the Web receive these following services:

  • for cultural entities interested in running their own archives; training services or consultation
  • for services which carry out research for third parties under payment (genealogical, anagraphic, legal), the archives can – through special access modes – offer all the necessary data.

For Goal n. 11 (Offer of services of reservation and acquisition of goods) services which pre-suppose Web transactions with controls on the identity of the user can satisfy three main needs:

  • book consultation of items in archives in the study room, choosing via consultation of analytical data-banks;
  • consult and/or download search tools with copyrights;
  • reserve and/or buy digital reproductions of publications or archive documents.

This latter service could be both on-demand, as is the case for traditional reproduction services, or limited to given archive series that have already been digitally copied.

In the Goal n. 12 (Promotion of Web communities in the sector), archives often serve the function of bringing together experts with similar research interests and who can thus meet in the study rooms.

This, and promotion of debate and diffusion of good practices and standards, can be efficiently run through the creation of a Web community with the simplest tools.

Archives and Web users

Distant users who could be interested in information and archive services, depending on the objectives of the application are principally, people interested in public administration and culture and the use of new technology for public services and topics related to production, authenticity and preservation of documents.

Specialist or professional users, are interested in more specific research, in exchanging experiences and good practices in organising archives and registers.

However, the users of archives are not only archivists: they are often university students, teachers and school students, university professors, people interested in specialist training on organising archives, building a curriculum to set up in the sector market or to gain knowledge and skills necessary for an entity or company.

In addition there are amateurs interested in history, tour operators interested in collecting news for creating tours, services which undergo paid research for third parties (genealogical or anagraphic)

Policies of digitization in archives and the Web

In archives, the connection between development strategies and maintenance of Web Applications, and the digitization of the heritage, is very strong. For at least the last decade, information technologies have been used for creating search engines whose importance is clear from Web publication of information systems dedicated to the documentary heritage.

Furthermore, archives must be prepared to receive, preserve and valorise documentary registers produced in digital form, where on-line access is foreseen.
Finally, copying of documents with digital techniques has definitively substituted microfilm:
If activated with opportune strategies of long-term preservation of digital resources offer on the Web of data banks and of high-quality reproductions of documents seems to be a strong point of networked archive systems.

3.3.2 Libraries

“A public library is an organisation established, supported and funded by the community, either through local, regional or national government or through some other form of community organisation. It provides access to knowledge, information and works of the imagination through a range of resources and services and is equally available to all members of the community regardless of race, nationality, age, gender, religion, language, disability, economic and employment status and educational attainment.”
(IFLA/Unesco, 2001)

This definition of public libraries goes beyond specific definitions particular to each nation and touches on the real objectives of a “ cultural entity”. Indeed, the primary goal of a library is to offer resources and services for the diffusion, archiving and conservation of all types of culture and expression, without boundaries of appurtenance to organisation or administration, and without having physical location in one or another country. Documentation centres are intended as belonging to this category.

Libraries and the goals of a CWA

On-line libraries should obviously supply all the services that traditional libraries already offer, and the characteristics of their Web Applications should be common to all Cultural Web Applications, characteristics of quality that it would be opportune to differentiate from commercial characteristics.

Besides offering the usual services, the fundamental goals of On-line libraries are to knock down barriers and thus reach a vaster area of users. Thanks to new technologies, on-line libraries increase their main activity: the circulation of knowledge. In order to exploit information to the full, to spread it through various Web possibilities and to become a privileged supplier of content, the library must be able to gather and organise information carefully.

Traditional paper information must therefore go alongside various types of sources, which are for the moment considered non-conventional, such as audiovisual, multimedia, digital, etc. On-line libraries tend therefore, to become a sort of “electronic door” open to the world of information, of whatever type, offering constantly updated material and information of all types.

We thus have a VRD (Virtual reference desk), broadening loan services, supplying copies of documents, offering works in electronic full-text, supporting permanent education.

In particular, the Web is an important vehicle in training programmes, thus contributing to cultural development in the broadest sense.

The 1st Goal (Presentation of the identity of the CE) can be attained through a description of the history of the institution and its role on the territory, together with historical-bibliographical information on the items in the collection, a physical description of the seat, information and description of reading rooms and catalogues, be they manuscripts, prints or on-line.

The 2nd Goal (Transparency on the activity of the CE) is achieved by publishing the access modes to the library, its regulations and the opening hours of the library, hours and modality for distribution services, loan services, both local and inter-library loan, and the possibility to order loans from the Web site, bibliographic information (reference) and whether there is an indirect bibliographic service (via letter, fax, e-mail, on-line)

There must be some indication of the general organisation of the various offices, with a description of their functions, their referents, lists and descriptions of any specific projects underway, as well as valorisation of current novelties, together with information on activities the library may run (shows, conferences, courses etc.)

The 3rd Goal (Transparency on the mission of the CWA) plays a secondary role in the sector of CWA’s for libraries as it is clear from the very function of the institution.

The 4th (Efficiency in the sector network) can be realised by actively participating in Inter Library Loan services. Involvement in wide range cultural projects (both national and otherwise) can strengthen this goal.

The 5th Goal (Presentation of standards and regulations of the sector) is not applicable to the CWA’s of libraries in that the standards and regulations of libraries are given by other entities.

The 6th Goal (Spread cultural content) is attainable through a description of shows, conferences and various cultural activities in the institute, as well as publication of articles and material from the scientific community and the offer of full electronic texts.

The 7th Goal (Support cultural tourism) can be attained via Web pages dedicated to local territory, with precise indications as to local libraries, with place and opening times, as well as the presence of pages in other languages in order to attract foreign users.

The 8th Goal (Offer of educational services) is important in that it is often neglected by the CE, and is realisable through didactic on-line projects, with literacy programmes in the informatics sector and in the specific librarian sector.

The 9th Goal (Offer of services for scientific research) is basic for libraries and is amply met by the presence of on-line catalogues such as OPAC (On-line Public Access Catalog) which make it possible to search in bibliographic databases. Recent resource discovery systems have been offering more advanced features, such as the integration of multiple bibliographic databases by specialised gateways (MetaOPAC), and also full text search of digital or digitized contents (indexing the content repositories).

Furthermore, researchers can be aided by the presence of specific Web pages dedicated to bibliographic on-line searches (Virtual Reference Desk). An on-line bibliographic information service (reference) will crown this goal.

The 10th Goal (Offer of services to specialists in the sector) can be achieved by supplying specific instruments, such as Library and information science and their translation, together with specialist networks (Intranet), where specialists can find specific information on their daily work.
Finally, it could be useful to be able to download administrative documents and publications with descriptions of public bids for contracts.

The 11th Goal (Offer of services for reservation and acquisition of goods) can be met through an on-line loan service, together with the possibility to request photographic reproductions, photocopies and reservations for access to the reserved sections of the library.

The 12th Goal (Promotion of Web communities in the sector) can be realised by effecting forums and mailing lists which deal with technical problems typically encountered in the library environment, with the creation of topically specific networks, as outlined above in Goal n. 10 for newsletters.

Libraries and Web users

Considering the basic premise that access to information and knowledge is a fundamental right of the individual, on-line libraries must reach all locations, offering library and information services, providing material for supporting study, research and learning. The on-line library must provide appropriate interactive means for making these services usable. The VRD Reference service is therefore fundamental.

Library Web sites must therefore contain services, information and generic material, together with technical information and material.

Within the informative and cultural function, the services must be accessible to all types of user and also take into account different needs according to age: pinpointing therefore, groupings of users to which the network of different but co-operative services can refer.

Besides the eventual creation of a sub-sectioned information network, in the relationship with users, Web Applications can also aid the progress of computer/on-line literacy, which is by now an indispensable vehicle for best exploiting knowledge and overcoming the digital divide.

Policies of digitization in libraries and the Web

Web Applications are the natural destination of projects for the digitization of various types of documents, being they manuscripts, printed documents, prints, maps, music, manifestos, etc.

Through tools of information retrieval such as OPAC (On Line Public Access Catalog), various data bases can be consulted via primary functions:

  1. Searching and finding works
  2. selecting various typologies
  3. Locating and receiving search results in various formats (digital format, full electronic text, photocopies, photographs, loans, etc.)

In order to spread information on current events and and to harmonise procedures, libraries are commended to share technical information and cooperate in digitization projects

Within the framework of libraries it would be hoped to create international standards and metadata for management and conservation of electronic archives, the lack of which produces scarce inter-operability between the various results and sharp increase in costs.


The Public Library Service: IFLA/Unesco Guidelines for Development / [International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions] Prepared by a working group chaired by Philip Gill on behalf of the Section of Public Libraries. Munchen: Saur, 2001.
EBLIDA guidelines on library legislation and policy in Europe / Council for Cultural Co-operation, Culture Committee. Council of Europe, 2000.

3.3.3 Cultural heritage diffused on territory

This category includes fixed location archaeological, architectural and naturalistic territorial heritage.

They are dealt with together, not only because they share the feature of being “on territory” and are often so important as to have become part of the historical, cultural and scientific identity of the territory of their location, but also because they are interconnected throughout the course of their formation and anthropic landscaping.

The oldest European park goes back to Sweden in 1909. The twentieth century saw a specialisation and increasing specification in the realisation of parks and reserves which often included differing values which were present in the location: environmental, historical/cultural, traditional and the emerging sciences of archaeology and urbanistic-architecture.

This led to the composition of complex landscapes and the most advanced examples of “abstract parks” such as for example, the “park of literature” which is clearly anchored to a defined territory, or “areas of cultural tourism” which have clearly defined homogeneous areas and valorise important historic/cultural, environmental, ethno-gastronomic elements, merging them into a new concept of sustainable development.

From the point of view of the potential of a Web Application, the subject is vast and articulated. It includes traditionally archaeological Monuments, buildings and on-site historical/artistic heritage, entities which are often connected with local museums, libraries and archives which play a central role in territorial records. The category also embraces Parks and archaeological areas which are delegated to institutional management, usually public, or of public interest, and also specific projects such as stratigraphic and thematic surveys of the territory, seen as complex unique specimens with anthropic and naturalstic or landscape values.

In its broadest definition, the spread of information and knowledge of cultural and scientific values, and cultural emergence across the territory, takes on a determining role, not only in a general educational sense leading to awareness and growth in the public, but also as a vital tool for planning development and models of sustainable and economically productive urban, naturalistic and environmental planning.

Considering these factors, it is clear that there are varied and numerous creators of Web Applications in this field.

They go from Cultural Entities, in particular, not only to Insitutions dedicated to safeguarding and valorising heritage, or to institutes, bodies and organisms for scientific research and training, but also – and ever increasingly – to Cultural Entities (local bodies, foundations, associations, etc.) which, in the widest sense of tutelage and exploitation of heritage, are today the “leaders” operating in the field and which play a considerable role in the spread of culture and in actively involving the population.

Such differing entities can often meet through a common Project dedicated to the study of a specific territorial theme or which sustains an activity of cultural tourism.

Territorial cultural heritage and the goals of a CWA

The obviously multidisciplinary nature of the subject has been noted and it may lead to different applications in each case. A Monument or an Archaeological Park, rather than an Ancient Route/Itinerary, are taken as parts of a vast whole within a process of historical, cultural, and above all territorial contextualisation.

A Cultural Entity which is responsible for the safeguarding and valorisation of the territorial cultural heritage can use a Web Application as an efficient instrument of support for its activity, both to render internal inter-operability more efficient (judicial enquiries, projects, activities of research and itemisation), and also with respect to services offered to the outside (carrying out processes of authorisation, consultations, etc.)

Of note, is the way applications co-ordinated thus far in this sector, are still in experimental vein, both in terms of the need for organic planning, and for the need for financial investment in the field of technological innovations.

There are notable examples of quality applications which are, however, sectorial, for instance the fields of virtual reconstructions of archaeological heritage, of records of important restoration work or development of specific themes often related to temporary events or exhibitions.

However, a leap in quality in the sector would consist of planning Web Applications which effectively assume the role of everyday tools in the fulfilment of the institutional missions.

“Graduality” in loading the application is certainly one element of quality. It should follow a project plan leading progressively from a wide horizontal base extended to all the functions and then expand, going deeper into each topic.

If we analyse the specific objectives CWA’s, the first aim (presentation of the identity of the CE) takes on a secondary role in this sector, since the central interest of the application is cultural heritage on territory.

It is however important to stress the juridical situation of the heritage, its administrative ties with the Cultural Entity to which it answers.

In any case, the presentation of the identity of an archaeological site, a monument or a park can be obtained describing the history of its formation and its identity as a cultural heritage.

The 2nd Goal (Transparency on the activities of the CE) can be achieved by dedicating a part of the Web Application to precise information and updates on the activity of the administration, preservation, restoration and valorisation of the heritage in question.

From the point of view of spreading information on the as yet specialist activities which involve the archaeological, architectural and historical-artistic heritage, Web Applications centring on the (sometimes real-time) description of restoration works, have been particularly successful.

Enterprises of this kind are particularly interesting for the spread of innovative techniques and methodology which further on-line exchanges of skills and knowledge, creating Web communities and thus easing the growth of know-how.

The 3rd Goal (Transparency on the mission of the CWA) can be achieved by giving a clear definition (of architecture and paths) of the three general areas (A, B and C) described below in Aim n. 6 which deals with the spread of culture.

The contribution of experience in cataloguing in the sectors of territorial heritage will be particularly useful in this sense.

In order to realise the 4th Goal (An efficient role in the sector network), it is necessary to initiate Web research activity on the existence of Web networks, establishing useful contacts for active and deliberate involvement of the Web Application in these networks.

Attention to the use of common language (actively contributing, where appropriate, to the definition of shared thesauri) and inter-operative systems, are both fundamental elements.

Theoretical processing should be designated to an interdisciplinary work-group (archaeologists, architects, art historians and informatics and Web experts.)

The 5th Goal (Present standards and regulations of the sector) probably plays a secondary role in this sector, since it is the CWA of the CE which will manage the territorial heritage in order to realise this goal.

It is however, important to guarantee links between the presentation of the territorial heritage, non only of the standards and regulations in the administrative-juridical district where the heritage is located, but the totality of the norms which, at various administrative levels, regulate the territory which houses the heritage.

Data on European and international norms and standards may also be useful reference points.

The 6th Goal (Spread cultural contents) is a primary and central aim for Web Applications of territorial heritage. Three general levels can be defined:

  1. Provide information for basic knowledge

    Attention to this point is of primary importance, especially on the part of territorial institutions and bodies which often constitute the first and only level of cognitive approach to territorial heritage.
    Basic Web Applications should be constructed with the aim of giving across the board access to “registers or files ” which are common to all categories and which include at least the following information:
    name, location, top-level description, time-line, ownership, form or management.
    Accuracy and completeness at this level of information are fundamental in a service Web Application, which may be used in various sectors, both of public utility (consider for example territorial planning, tourism etc.) and as a basis for further work.
    The advantage of this type of approach is that of supplying a complete and essential corpus of information on the territorial heritage in question, in a relatively short time.

  2. Supply information and advanced documentation for educational and didactic activities and for supporting for cultural tourism

    The fields in this level are vast and diversified. This will lead to thematic and critical analysis and also advanced virtual processing.
    The general objective in this level must be attention to the cultural quality of the product and must always be founded, and transparently so, on coherent scientific documentation (maps, surveys, photographs etc.)
    In particular for virtual processing (e.g. reconstruction of archaeological remains or of the life phases in a given historical building) it is a fundamental for the quality of the application that the various levels of reconstruction be explicit:

    1. ascertained level on the basis of available documentation;
    2. supposed level presented on the basis of clues or comparisons with other ascertained cases;
    3. un-ascertained level based on documentary and critical evidence, i.e. free interpretation.
  3. Provide access to complex and georeferent data banks on the historical formation, scientific research, planning and territorial management.

    As in other sectors that are much more advanced than scientific research, the field of research in cultural heritage must develop a systematic use of Web Applications, creating communities for exchange and topical study and also for the activity of scientific training.
    Furthermore, it is the responsibility of cultural Web creators to ensure the inter-operability of data banks, carrying out qualitative and quantitative checks on the descriptive and critical documentation of monuments and territorial complexes. Updating from the point of view of the state of conservation of the heritage is also important. Where possible, precise geo-referential elements should be given in territorial information systems and topical networks should be sought and joined.
    The diffusion of this data is of notable importance also for those applications concerned with risk and conservation of territorial heritage (safety, catastrophes, monitoring for conservation of constitutive material etc.)

For realisation of the 7th Goal (Support cultural tourism) it is of central importance to activate a synergy of forces which in this case would see the CE working together with cultural territorial and economic entities in the sector.

This goal can be realised on the part of the CE by co-ordination information flow present on the same Web Application (for each monument etc. there is a table of identification with basic data, locality, opening times, costs, booking, guided tours, temporary exhibitions, other events, services of e-commerce etc.) with other Internet channels of information specific to the sector of tourism.

The 8th Goal (Offer of educational services) is very significant in field of territorial heritage because of its fundamental role in establishing a privileged relationship with various levels of scholastic education.

Co-ordination between teachers and experts in the subject is vital, in order to create didactic paths which are suitable for the various scholastic phases and which respect both didactic programmes and use appropriate language.

It cannot be stressed enough that didactic services must be accessible also to “weak” users and the disabled.

A quality approach to territorial heritage must needs pay great attention to the contextualisation of the heritage, from the point of view of the territory of appurtenance, of existing references to homogenous themes and finally, of chronological position.

Another element of quality in processing didactic Web Applications is clarity in virtual reconstructions, whose rules were outlined in Goal 6b. Inter-activity in without doubt a factor of quality in as much as in allows the school student to build a direct relationship with a world – that of CE to which the territorial heritage is entrusted – which is usually perceived as abstract and distant.

The 9th Goal (Offer of services for scientific research) has been in part discussed under the 6th (Spread cultural contents) at point C.

Making existing data banks available and the activity of rationalising available documentation for realising new inter-operative products, are the basis for realising this goal.

To achieve quality however, it is necessary to take great care in planning the search/query system and the links with other complex data systems. In this sense, the ability of the CE to co-ordinate with other entities active in scientific research – such as universities and centres for specialist research in the various sectors – promoting productive synergy for competitive quality of the product, and the economic profile, are particularly relevant.

In the field of cultural heritage, for obvious security and copyright reasons, it is necessary to provide a system of controlled access (password) and availability of material in various resolutions (low resolution for material that is not available for direct download).

The 10th Goal (Offer of services to specialists in the sector) is particularly useful for giving users access to all the data on territorial heritage which is necessary for correct planning for intervention on the territory, from the restoration of a building, to the planning of new buildings, studies to place large infrastructures (roads, railways etc.) to the predisposition of territorial and urbanistic plans.

It is clear that direct research in Web Applications on the fundamental cognitive data of archaeological, architectural, naturalistic, territorial heritage, and of the ties weighing on them, the general and specific existing regulations, at least in the initial phases of research, constitute an essential service. Completeness and validity of continuous updates in this respect, are important elements of quality.

Another element of quality is that of offering the possibility to download the data necessary for carrying out construction work and urban planning.

Providing basic indications (good practices) for realising restoration work on the territorial heritage (modes of intervention, methodology, sustainable techniques, choice of traditional material etc.) would be a useful service.

Naturally, a further useful service is the publication of pubic bid for contracts, for jobs in the territorial heritage and, later, the results of the above (in this way the goal of transparency on the activity is also realised)

The 11th Goal (Offer of services for reservation and acquisition) was treated together with goals 1 and 7.

The 12th Goal (Promote Web communities in the sector) is, in a certain sense, parallel with the other goals, as for example, those mentioned in the section on education, scientific research and services to specialists.

New instruments, under course of development and affirmation in the Web, e.g. fora, blogs and newsletters, are all valid for giving added value to the interactivity of the Web applicaiton.

Territorial cultural heritage and Web users

Having accepted the definition of Web user in this manual (cf. p. )during the discussion of the goals, certain interesting categories of users emerged. Among these are:

Professionals in the sector

(archaeologists, architects, art historians, historians, topographers, urban planners, geologists, etc.) who operate both within CE creators of Web Applications or in the university environment, or in centres for specialised research, or academics/researchers. These are critical, competent and demanding users.

Territorial managers and professional in the sector

(administrators of territorial Entities, urban planners, engineers, Architects, restorers, Surveyors, geologists, companies in the sector). These are specialist users who require provision of data, and in particular of ccomplete, updated ad reliable identification of juridical-administrative heritage.

Those in the field of scholastic education

(Teachers at various levels, didactic experts, animators, communicators).

This group of users needs help orienting the subject which is often complex and technical. The language (in the various meanings of the Web Application) must be clearly co-ordinated and codified.


3.3.4 Museums

“A museum is a non-profit making, permanent institution in the service of society and of its development, and open to the public, which acquires, conserves, researches, communicates and exhibits, for purposes of study, education and enjoyment, material evidence of people and their environment”.

While accepting this ICOM definition, it is important to stress that museums, in their entirety, constitute a varied and articulated universe; vast because of the many histories of formation, diverse contents, collections and compositions. They are “abstract” representations of the societies that generated them and it is for this, more than in other sectors, that museums can be considered a unifying symbol of the diversities of the cultures of their States and Regions.

On the other hand it has been observed that the Museum itself is often a means of cultural communication, with its own codes and language which have developed through time and experimentation.

While it is true that museums were born as collection of art and antiquity.

In the courts of the 16th and 17th century in Italy and Europe; creations of the princes who desired to thus represent (and communicate) their power to visitors. Thence, from the 19th century in particular, museums were open to all citizens, fully adopting the public function of conservation of cultural heritage and education that are still their role today. In this respect, the definition of “public” must be considered in its widest sense in that, alongside museums of public ownership and administration, there are foundations, private or combined institutes which also fulfil the public function of diffusion of culture.

This diversity is particularly present in Europe but can also be found in the rest of the world.

The nature itself of museums is not uniform and while this is not the place for a detailed examination, it is nevertheless important to make certain distinctions because of the implications under the profile of Web Application and various types of users.

Indeed, alongside the museums of (inter)national importance, above all those formed of historical collections, which are often the seat of important exhibitions and ever more the goal of mass tourism (the Louvre, the British Museum, the Uffizi Galleries) there are also recent additions such as the Guggenheim Museum of Bilbao, which are museums created “ex novo” and almost replicas of their overseas counterparts, with essentially economic ends.

Besides these relevant examples however, there is a rich network of territorial museums which hold the function of memory in social dialogue; reference points to understand the history of a city or a region, the facts and personalities which have contributed to the cultural formation of that social reality.

These are “local” museums, “where “local” is taken to mean rooted in the territory, which are often very large and representative, with particularities of a historical, archaeological, artistic, scientific, natural historic, anthropological, industrial archaeological nature and thousands more, such as museums of the motor car, wine, umbrellas, trains, dolls, chocolate etc.

This brief and essential overview of the various types of museums, while not at all exhaustive, aims to highlight the many characteristics of museums which yet have fundamental moments of unification in their mission as place of conservation of memory and of education.

Museums and the goals of the CWA

Given the above, it is necessary to clarify what role can be played by a Web Application in order to support (and develop) the activity of a museum.

In most cases, at least during the long experimental phases, the Web tool has been used mainly as a means of information – a shop window – thus denying its vocation in favour of commercial models.

Growing awareness of the potentials of the Web, together with greater knowledge of the professional advantages (in directors, conservers, researchers etc.) means that quality of cultural contents is a fundamental pre-requisite for developing a Web Application today.

In a word, we must move from a “shop-window” Web site, to a thesaurus which, fully reflecting the identity of the museum, is present as a place of information but also as a tool – both internal and external – for the spread, consultation, research, education on the contents of the museum.

Theories of learning and in particular of the cognitive matrix, find new place in discussion about the Web, not only as a means of communication for museums, but also as a real tool for “meaning making”.

In the sector of museums then, the image of a multimedia application as an added, final communicative element which aims exclusively at the transmission of information is inadequate, despite the fact the service of offering information is by no means a secondary one.

In its on-line version, the multimedia application tends therefore, to become an ever more important integration, not just for traditional services (reservations, ticket sales, catalogues etc.) but also for fulfilling the essential educational functions of the museum. These functions are ever more stressed in the museological debate and museums are coming to be considered permanent educational centres.

It is its capacity for interaction and the possibility of constructing and adapting to different styles which renders the multimedia tool so suited to new museographic directions.

In this context, as said above, there is a growing tendency to see the Web as a medium diversified form the institution: a privileged cognitive tool which, while maintaining close links with the identity of the institution, finds its own integrated position in the wide community of Web networks.

A direct analysis of the specific goals for Cultural Web Application sees Goal n. 1 (Presentation of the identity of the CE) as very relevant.

Visiting the Web site of a museum prior to visiting the “real” museum often reveals a profound lack of harmony between the virtual and the real.

An element of quality therefore, is the ability to present the total nature of the museum, its very essence, its “feel” and “smell”.

The chapter on the goals attempts to pinpoint the meaning of the identity of a CE. In the case of museums, alongside the history of its formation, a description of its content and its container, its changes (acquisitions, equipment etc.) it is important to recount not only the relationship of the museum with its physical location, but also the way it is and has, over time, been perceived by the public.

The 2nd Goal (Transparency on the activity of the CE) can be achieved by dedication a part of the CWA to precise and updated information on the activity of the museum, not only that aimed at the outside (shows, guided tours, didactic programmes, publications, conferences, events of various types etc.) but also those activities aimed at the care of collections (studies of the collections and material, participation in specific national and international research programmes, cataloguing, participation in scientific conferences, etc.)

Brief mention must be made of extremely positive experiences of the use of the Web tool, such as on-line representation of restoration activities on particular objects. This resulted in the creation of specialist and lay Web communities. A quality requisite to attain this goal, is certainly the activation of on-line contacts (e-mail, newsletters, and forums) which give an interactive character to the Web Application.

The 3rd Goal (Transparency on the mission of the CWA) can be realised by clear definition (of architecture and paths) of the areas of interest of the application. A quality Web Application must also publish references to the administrative and editorial staff with references to different sectors.

The 4th Goal (Efficiency in the sector network) is extremely important in the case of museums. To create of participate in thematic networks on various levels (for example to establish connections between museums present in the same geographical area, or between museums with similar contents but geographically distant) is a clear element of quality in a Web Application.

Furthermore, the WA of a museum can play an efficient role in different networks. Take, for example, the aspects of support for cultural tourism, for school circuits, for research and for universities, where the museum with its particular characteristics (its experience, its contents, its laboratories) can bring and active contribution quality, thus allowing full affirmation not only of its cultural role, but also of a social role.

The 5th Goal (Presentation of the standards and regulations in the sector) probably plays a secondary role in the sector. It is however, not redundant for the CWA to provide precise and updated information on the regulations in force within the institution, activating links with the appropriate judicial bodies. The Museum can decide to activate, via the Web Application, diffusion (and discussion) of experimental texts on new standards for administration or on the prime application of standards in the sector.

The 6th Goal (Spread cultural content) is obviously central for the Web Application of a museum. Various levels can be identified:

  1. Supply information for a basic knowledge of the Museum

    This is necessarily an approach of a general nature but which extends to every significant part of the institution. A sort of “register” which includes at least the indispensable data for representing the identity: location, history of its formation, description of the contents organised by sector, collections etc., indication of permanent and temporary activities (c.f. goal 2), of active services to the public (c.f. goal 11).
    This part is the base of the general construction of the CWA. its completeness, in the sense of extension, is an element of quality of the application.

  2. Supply advanced information and documentation on training and didactic activities and on support for cultural tourism

    The relevant fields for this level are vast and diversified, requiring thematic and critical analysis and also advanced virtual elaboration.
    In the case of museums this means making selected data bases available (see respect of IPR p. ), and also the realisation of specialised applications for training and museal education.
    If attempts to copy the museum through virtual path is not seen as suitable, perhaps because of high costs, the Web tool – in its virtual role – can be profitably used for specific projects of divulgation, especially for particular applications which guarantee access to the museum to the widest possible range of the disable public.
    In any case, virtual reconstruction of objects or complexes that are incomplete (for example archaeological heritage and also on-going sections of scientific museums) it is a fundamental for the quality of the application that the various levels of reconstruction be explicit:

    • Ascertained level on the basis of available documentation;
    • Supposed level presented on the basis of clues or comparisons with other ascertained cases;
    • Un-ascertained level based on documentary and critical evidence, ie. free interpretation.
  3. Provide access to complex and data banks for training and scientific research

    The museum is not only a place for conservation of memory, education and knowledge but also (and perhaps above all) a centre for research; an active pole in the scientific university community.
    In this area the Web Application can play a central role, that of a thesaurus of the contents of the museum, of the infinite possible links which each conserved item can virtually institute with other cultural areas.
    Creators of cultural Web Application must organise and render operative existing data banks, using organic programmes of digitization of cultural contents.
    Furthermore, the availability on line (in respect of copyright and IPR) at least of inventories of historical archives, photographs, drawings etc. is a useful external service and also important for internal work.

To realise the 7th Goal (Support cultural tourism) the activation of a synergy of forces where the museum participates fully in initiatives of other bodies, cultural territorial entities and economic bodies, is of central importance. To this end see goal n. 1 and 6 point A.

The 8th Goal (Offer of educational services) is a quality requisite for the Web Application of a museum.

Co-ordination between teachers and experts in the subject is vital, in order to create didactic paths which are suitable for the various scholastic phases and which respect both didactic programmes and use appropriate language.

A quality approach to museums, in the didactic field, must consider creating thematic paths with deeper analysis appropriate to the study programmes of different age groups but must also be open to a wider audience; so called weak or disabled users, thus exploiting every potential offered by the Web tool.

Another requisite for quality is inter-activity in didactic services, where users themselves can build paths following pre-determined models.

The 9th Goal (Offer of services for scientific research) was treated in part under goal 6 (Spread Cultural content) in point C. Availability of existing data banks, the activity of rationalisation of the documentation available and the realisation of new interoperative products are the basic actions for fulfilling this goal.

To achieve quality however, it is necessary to take great care in planning the search/query system and the links with other complex data systems.

In this sense, the ability of the Museum to co-ordinate with other entities active in scientific research –such as universities and specialist research centres in various sectors promoting productive synergy for competitive quality of the product, and the economic profile, is particularly relevant. Particularly in the area of images, but also of catalogues copyright and IPR must be respected. This can be done by providing a system of controlled access and availability of material in various resolutions (low resolution for material that is not available for direct download).

The 10th Goal (Offer of services to specialists in the sector) has implications for the sector of museums, especially if we consider the institution under the profile of administration. The museum must be managed, equipped, maintained, restored both in terms on content and container.

A complete CWA must therefore put aside space for these functions, providing information on planned activities, on public bids for work, on outsourcing of various work and services, on planned stages of realisation etc. but must also offer on-line material which is useful for participating in bids for work.

In addition, there must be monitoring of al the technical activities, offering the possibility of on-line informative exchange on techniques and useful products etc. so contributing to a growth of know-how in the various sectors in the world of museums.

The 11th Goal (Offer of services of reservation and acquisition) is necessary for the CWA of a museum. See also the aspects of goals 1 and 7 above.

The 12th Goal (Promote Web communities in the sector) is among the most innovative, especially considering recent developments, for example blogs, together with the growth of thematic forums. The sector of museums is particularly suited to specific experiences.

For example the possibility of virtual comparison of objects (all the works of a painter) through high digital resolution, which are situated in different locations, has been experimented with the works of Caravaggio.

Active participation in thematic portals on the part of a Cultural Entity, such as a museum, for example the experience of a portal Euromuse , is necessary to control the quality of information which would otherwise be left completely in the hands of private entities.

Museums and their Web users

Having accepted the definition of Web user in this manual during the discussion of the goals, certain interesting categories of users emerged. Among these are:

  • sector professionals: (conservers, experts, restorers, cultural and tourist guides) who operate both within CE creators of Web Applications or are external (universities, researchers, experts, specialists, restorers, tourist guides)
  • educational professionals: (teachers at various levels, didactic experts, animators, and communicators) This group of users must be oriented in the material that is complex and technical. The language of the diverse parts of the Web Application must be clearly co-ordinated and codified.

3.3.5 Institutes for administration and safeguarding

This category includes all levels of administration of the cultural heritage:

from central state and regional offices (Ministries, General Management) which are concerned mainly with directing and co-ordinating policies, strategies and spending programmes, to territorial offices and institutes with technical-scientific administrative roles in the territorial heritage. This includes museums, libraries and archives.

Web aspects directly pertaining to territorial cultural heritage, to museums, archives and to libraries, are dealt within separate chapters (cf. 3.3.3, 3.3.4, 3.3.1, 3.3.2) This chapter will concentrate on the question of using a Web Application as a useful tool for realising the institutional mission of bodies for administration and safeguarding.

Because of the vast area with which we are concerned – the States of the European Union – and to which this manual is addressed, there needs be generalisation in dealing with the subject since the sector of pubic organisation and administration shows many national specificities. Nevertheless, at the European level, a shared cultural heritage in terms of contents, history of conceptual development and common paths towards current juridical-administrative definitions, together with familiarity achieved through dialogue between European Cultural Entities, are factors which allow tracing of a common scheme of communication via the Web tool.

Indeed, the very definition of a shared communicative platform for sector Public Administration, both at various national levels (State, Region, Local Community, City) and at the European level of Member States and Associated States, is an essential presupposition for a network of contacts that is open to new functionality and to sharing experiences to the end of affirming the added European value.

It should be stressed that a Cultural Web Application must be taken to be an instrument, not only for communication – information and diffusion – but also a work tool in the prospect of technological innovation in pubic administrations. We are concerned therefore with introducing and developing, through careful vocational training, new systems for internal and external relationships in the work process.

Briefly, these are phenomena which the introduction of the Web tool has produced and will yet produce in the world of work and in particular in that of public administrations:

  • Firstly, a new transparency which generates rotation of competencies, opening up to external relations and the creation of technical, administrative and juridical communities.
  • Next there is the emergence of “life training” which, because of wide accessibility to information, documentation, juridical and administrative sources, means that staff are able to undertake auto training in competencies and produces a much higher quality result. The Web also introduces new procedures in activities and actions: take for example the introduction of information protocol, administration of data banks, archives etc.
  • Finally, wider participation in a common platform on the part of Pubic Cultural Entities is definitely an important option in the scene of development of a European cultural community which further valorises the richness of the heritage, highlighting specifies and diversity

Institutes for administration and safeguarding of cultural heritage and the goals of the CWA

Official Web sites of Public Administrations are, by now, essential reference points for the pubic and they tend ever more to be presented as sites for information and services. Sites of central administration (Ministries of Culture) rightly take on the role of portal for all the related and subordinate offices.

Effective harmonisation between all Web Applications is therefore a general element of quality and must be linked appropriately with the need for composite architecture and coherence in system format while guaranteeing independent planning of the various sites.

Inter-operability of Web Applications of the various CE’s is another factor of quality, both from the technological point of view, and in architecture/structure, so that the various Web activities (particularly Intranet) can be efficiently administered. Consider the vast flux of actions of programming, administration and monitoring of spending in the various sectors of the activity.

The 1st Goal (Presentation of the identity of the CE) plays a central role; in as much as its fulfilment guarantees a correct identification of the Entity. A quality application must therefore, express the institutional mission clearly and completely (referring to competencies in material and territory), give its hierarchical position within the administrative system of appurtenance, its institutional history, its location and any other information which may be useful for contact.

The 2nd Goal (Transparency on the activity of the CE) is also highly relevant.

The Web Application must, in synthesis, completely represent every sector of activity, related offices and services rendered. Particular attention must be given to presentation of processes for realising activities, be they administrative (e.g. allocation of funding, procedures for public bids, etc.) or technical-scientific (the realisation of restoration work, catalogues etc.), or cultural diffusion (publications, events etc.).

A quality Web site must be able to give a “live” representation of activities, paying particular attention to aspects of inter-activity with other branches of the sector (other institutions, scientific communities, professional, specialists) convinced of the usefulness of adopting innovative modalities in the work process from the planning stage right through to the conclusion and diffusion of results.

The 3rd Goal (Transparency on the mission of the CWA) should be considered, in the case of this type of CE, above all for the need to distinguish between an informative and service Web Application, which must be complete and updated in every aspect of the activity (c.f. n. 2 above) and a thematic and possibly temporary Application, referring for example to an exhibition, a specific project or an on-line training activity. In these latter cases the finality and duration of the application should be obvious and links must be established to collocate the application in the total context of activities of the CE.

The 4th Goal (Efficiency in the sector network) is important insofar as its fulfilment depends on the visibility of the Web Application. The mission of the CWA must therefore be carefully evaluated in order to place it most advantageously in the right thematic networks and so actively foster its promotion and development.

The 5th Goal (Presentation of standards and regulations in the sector) is extremely important for the Web Application of a CE that is dedicated to administration and safeguarding. Elements of quality are clarity of layout – which can be achieved with efficient organisation of information and a rational choice of links – and continuous updating of information. Introduction of thematic research and a new sector could be particularly useful.

The 6th Goal (Spread cultural content) can, in a certain sense, be considered a necessary presupposition for the very existence of the Web Application in this category. Indeed, the Web Application of an Institute for Administration and Safeguarding has the very goal of spreading cultural contents and not of producing them. Its collocation within the communication system is as a collector, organiser and diffuser of cultural products produced by other CE’s, either dependent on it or otherwise. It is a sort of observatory of production, of relevant and significant activity, a sorting house for cultural activities, besides being a portal for information. These should be its quality characteristics.

Considering the above, the 7th Goal (Support cultural tourism) is naturally connected and is strategic under the political and economic profile but also in order to affirm a new sustainable model of “consuming” the cultural heritage.

Indeed, diffusion via Internet has enormously facilitated the auto-preparation of users who ever more frequently plan trips, itineraries and tours using information on cultural heritage, its accessibility and its essential meaning that is published on the Web. Institutes for administration and safeguarding must take on the responsibility for guaranteeing the quality of such on-line information.

The 8th (Offer of educational services), 9th (Offer of services for scientific research), 10th (Offer of services to specialists in the sector) and 11th (Offer of services for reservation and acquisition) Goals are only indirectly relevant to the CE’s “Institutes for administration and safeguarding”. In this sense the categories “Territorial cultural heritage”, “Museums” and “Archives” can be referred to as each sector presents its own specificities.

The 12th Goal (Promote Web communities in the sector) can, on the other hand, be considered particularly significant for a CWA in this category.

Institutes of administration and safeguarding (e.g. the Ministry of Culture, General Administration, or a Department for Monuments) have great interest in activating sector Web communities that can realise on-line training, increase competence and offer continuous in-service training in the diverse sectors of the activities and the institutional mission.


3.3.6 Centres for research and education

The Web itself is originated as a research centre. Creation of Web systems for exchange of information and visualisation of documents in hypertext is the need to which T. Berneres Lee of CERN – the main European scientific organisation – tries to meet through a communication tool which harmonises existing standards (networks, data transmission, hypertext, multimedia).

Exchange of scientific information starts from the RFC (Request for Comment) which has characterised Internet since its birth. This need has made and makes the Web, the main container for grey literature of scientific subjects. Academic circles are those that immediately adopted this tool and rendered it popular.

Centres for research, training (didactic courses run both for education and for professional re-qualification) and production can be integrated or otherwise into a single autonomous entity (either pubic or private). A single entity can have one or more CWA’s.

In the cultural sector there are numerous examples where teaching, research activities (e.g. on the process of deterioration of material), elaboration of methods of conservation, and generally all activities of scientific and technical consultancy, are run by a single entity.

Many European nations are central in the field of research and training in the conservation of cultural heritage. In Italy the Central Institute of Restoration is of note.

Centres for research and education and the goals of a CWA

The 1st Goal (Presentation of the identity of the CE): The CWA must clearly present all participants, institutions, companies, cultural entities.

The 2nd Goal (Transparency on the activity of the CE) is no different from the goals expressed under other criteria.

The 3rd Goal (Transparency on the mission of the CWA) is no different from the goals expressed under other criteria.

The 4th Goal (Efficiency in the sector network):

Sharing and promotion of any results attained, adherence to and collaboration with other similar on-line centres for research and education – either in progress or concluded – sharing reference Web tools (data banks, thesauri, linkopedie) occurs through participation and creation of networks and thematic portals.

The 5th Goal (Presentation of standards and regulations in the sector) is realisable only if it is a specified goal of the centre for research and education, unless the Research Centre is involved in establishing standards. In this case goals 4,6,9 and 10 would be necessary and priority.

The 6th Goal (Spread cultural contents) is linked with the 4th goal. User groups that use the contents of a Web Application of a centre for research and education in various ways can be identified. In this case a study should be carried out in order to adapt language and type of information and services to the selected user profile, respecting norms on privacy and copyright of contents.

The 7th Goal (Support cultural tourism) is only realisable if it is a specified goal of the centre for research and education.

In the case of training centres, the 8th Goal (Offer of educational services) is fundamental.

Choosing modes of using internet and the computer, in general, and to affirming training programmes developed using methods such as e-learning forces a critical reconsideration of traditional didactic methods and puts possession of adequate instruments at the centre of the argument.

Depending on the priority mission and the position of research in the Centre, services of training and professional re-qualification can be directed both internally and externally to the institution, taking into consideration the problems related to validation of users, establishing access levels to services etc.

The 9th Goal (Offer of services of scientific research):

The Web site of a centre for research and education can provide services for scientific research above all by rendering internal data banks accessible.

For reasons of data security there may be reserved access to this data.
Possible services are:

  • data analysis (search and visualise data according to pre-established parameters such as chronology, key-words etc.),
  • registration of criteria for selected research;
  • downloads or e-mail forwarding of research results;
  • enrolment to a service which, after a certain time spell, automatically sends updates of the data base;
  • availability of high definition images.

The 10th Goal (Offer of services to specialists in the sector) coincides with the 9th goal.

The 11th Goal (Offer of services for reservation and acquisition) is realisable only is it is a goal specified by the centre for research and education.

The 12th Goal (Promote Web communities in the sector) suggests the offer of informative and interactive services aimed at communication and participation of users (including also the staff of the centre for research and education) with results obtained.

Among these: the realisation of forums, newsletters and Web bulletins on the cultural and scientific characteristics of the centre for research and education, directed to particular user profile groups.

In order to sensitise and involve the community it would be opportune to adopt strategies for diffusion (press releases, enrolment to mailing lists and reference forums) that are managed by individuals culturally competent in all the interactive activities of communication and exchange, including mail channels.

(the definition of the goals refers widely to the contents expressed in the criteria for Cultural Communities).

Centres for research and education and Web users

Centres for research training and production are characterised by heavy request for information on the part of users.

The definition of identity usually represents a “a priori” and, apart from the need to represent its activity, there will be extensive request for detailed and highly specialised content.

Users differ notably according to the specific function of the site and also according to the community of reference.

The CWA should provide services destined mainly to the research community using consultation of scientific documentation (in standard pre-determined formats) and tools to establish a periodic or occasional communicative flux which is however complete in essential informational content.

Access to library catalogues and archives (if through Web tools) is one of the services that is most useful and in greatest demand. Forums for discussion of specific themes could be created.

The aim of increasing the range of communicative tools usually grows as a result of communication through a “community” language that may often be comprehensible only within the specific scientific reference community.

Policies of digitization in Centres for research and education and the Web

A Web site dedicated to a centre for research and education generally involves making a vast quantity of material available (pull or push mode). This material may be roughly drafted but is always presented in standard file format. Particular attention must be paid to indexing and thus to public traceability of the material via use of Lexis, thesauri etc. which are integrated into the data bases which are made available.

The very characteristics of the scientific community push towards a technical refinement of synchronous (chat) and asynchronous (forums, newsletters) communication and the evolution of possibly open-source platforms in this area.

In academic and similar institutions there is a solid tradition in favour of adopting free software and technical solutions.

Web references: (European projects)

DIGICULT - Digital Culture

ERPANET - Electronic Resource Preservation and Access Network

LABSTECH Laboratories on Science and Technology for the conservation of European Cultural heritage

CURRIC Curriculum development

DELOS - Network of Excellence for Digital Libraries


3.3.7 Cultural projects

The implementation of a Web site is often one of the outcomes of a cultural project and related to the vocation of the Project, it aims to improve and strengthen strategies for creation and diffusion of cultural contents.

The Web tool means that networked users can be informed of the characteristics and goals of the project (external communication) and certain aspects of the Project can be administered via reserved Web space (internal communication).

Sharing information developed in the context of a given cultural Project leads to development and cultural growth in the Society of Information and Knowledge.

Publishing a selection of resources and documents is useful both for running the Project itself and also for contacting and involving similar enterprises. It augments the visibility of the Project and gives it its own prospective within the “Society of Information and Knowledge”.

Appropriate planning of external communication strategies helps promote a clear understanding of the Project through cohesion, subsidiarity, co-operation and pluralism. Web sites of Cultural Projects should have an explicit link with current cultural developments and tendencies in the society; should belong to portals and networks; should be tools for innovation and spread of culture; should be accessible both to specialist communities and to a wide range of users.

Reserved access points can be a useful professional tool and encourage internal communication of all the activities involved in the Project. These can be realised with the option of viewing and downloading updated material, presenting an annotated agenda with deadlines of the activities of the Project that is accessible on line to all participants of the Project.

A cultural Project may create Web-based data banks. In this case, complying with the norms for preservation of privacy of contents, the CWA becomes not only a tool for communication, but also of the realisation of the Project itself.

In order to optimise external communication, it is suggested that particular attention be given to press releases sent to on-line media centres giving information on the activities and results of the Project.

Cultural projects and the goals of a CWA

An analysis of the specific goals of the CWA, in the case of a cultural Project, involves both the CE and any existing private partners participating in the Project.

The 1st Goal, (Presentation of the identity of the CE) can be achieved by supplying indications on the finality (described in terms of cultural requirements which society has imposed), the goals (documenting the aims of the Project), and the organisation of the Project. The CWA must also clearly present all the participants, be they institutions, Companies, public or private Bodies.

The 2nd Goal (Transparency on the activity of the CE) requires indication of the Project calendar, publication of the agenda and information on economic and funding aspects. The finality of the Project must be connected with the activity of the CE or bodies involved in the project, indicating the referents of the CE’s, the time and modes of integration between the results of the Project and the activity of the CE’s and/or bodies concerned.

Th 3rd Goal (Transparency on the mission of the CWA) requires presentation of the technological characteristics of the Application, its purpose with respect to the Project and also the tools it offers for realisation of the goals of the Project.
Frequency of updating should also be stated.

The 4th Goal (Efficiency in the sector network) is fundamental for pursuit of the goals and finalities of cultural Project. Sharing and promotion of results, cohesion and collaboration with other similar cultural on-line Projects (current or concluded), sharing of reference Web tools (data banks, thesauri, linkopedie) occurs through participation in or creation of networks and thematic portals. This goal is one of the main horizons for the Society of Information and Knowledge.

The 5th Goal (Presentation of the standards and regulations of the sector) is realisable only if it is a specific aim of the cultural Project.

The 6th Goal (Spread cultural contents) is connected with the 4th Goal, sharing the cultural character of the society of Information and Knowledge.

User groups that use the contents of a Web Application of a cultural Project in various ways can be identified. A study should be carried out in order to adapt language and type of information and services to the selected user profile, respecting norms on privacy and copyright of contents.

The 7th Goal (Support cultural tourism) is only realisable if it is a specified goal of the cultural Project.

The 8th Goal (Offer of educational services) is only realisable if it is a specified goal of the cultural Project.

The 9th Goal (Offer of services for scientific research) is linked with the 6th Goal. A Web site dedicated to a cultural project can offer services for scientific research, rendering internal data banks accessible.
For reasons of data security there may be reserved access to this data.
Possible services are:

  • data analysis (search and visualise data according to pre-established parameters such as chronology, key-words etc.),
  • registration of criteria for selected research;
  • downloads or e-mail forwarding of research results;
  • enrolment to a service which, after a certain time spell, automatically sends updates of the data base;
  • availability of high definition images.

The 10th Goal (Offer of services to specialists in the sector) coincides with the 9th goal.

The 11th Goal (Offer of services for reservation and acquisition) is relevant when the services listed under the 9th goal (in common with the 10th) involve economic transactions. In this case however, we are concerned with downloads and enrolments under payment.

The 12th Goal (Promote Web communities in the sector) suggests the offer of informative and interactive services aimed at communication and participation of users with results obtained. Among these are the realisation of forums, newsletters and Web bulletins, directed to particular user profile groups connected with the cultural and scientific characteristics of the Project

In order to sensitise and involve the community it would be opportune to adopt strategies for diffusion (press releases, enrolment to mailing lists and reference forums) managed by individuals who are culturally competent in all the interactive activities of communication and exchange, including mail channels.

Cultural projects and Web user

Interaction between entity and user occurs both through offering interactive tools as channels for “contacts” or “communities” in answer to mail requests, creating forums, mailing lists and Web bulletins which aim to spread and share the results reached in the Project.

Considering that a cultural Project may involve both public and private partners, the Web site can be an open place that encourages exchange, co-operation, involvement and participation of other public and/or private entities.

Policies of digitization in cultural projects and the Web

The relationship between the Web Application and digitization projects is direct and priorital compared with other channels of communication. Considering that the Society of Information and Knowledge is based on digitization of programmes of cultural content, it is clear that Internet constitutes an important opening for cultural Projects.

In the planning phases of a digital Project, critical choice of which material to treat and publish is important.

Criteria for selection of material depends on the goals of the Project, on technological and financial limits, on copyright and IPR and also on the existence of other digital projects in the same sector. Access to material is a further factor to consider.

  • The state of conservation of the originals, their traceability and availability in digital form;
  • implement a policy of preservation of originals when they are in a critical state of conservation and availability to the public is not appropriate, by rendering digital versions accessible;
  • appropriacy of the source of the material with respect to on-line use;
  • costs of digitization

are among the fundamental criteria for selection of material for digitization.

To protect copyright, images could have invisible watermarks.

A CE with specific aims in a given cultural Project must consider aspects of inter-operability and data re-use.

Indeed, heritage and activities connected with digitization are dependent on rapidly evolving technologies and account should be taken therefore of organisation of data, use of advanced technological standards and practices aimed at the conservation of culture and the digital heritage. Metadata should be used appropriately so that searches for material/objects belonging to various digital collections is possible. The description of a given place or artist for example, should use controlled lexis. These are the elements that allow a digital Project to be logically connected with similar Projects, thus activating cross sectional consultation and navigation. They further guarantee migration of digital data from one technological standard to another.

In the transferral of digital items (master files) to on-line use, file compression and use of thumbnail images should be considered. Users should have the option of saving files in various versions, resolutions, formats and sizes.

Data banks and information processed within a Project may be exploited by different groups of users: general users and registered or authorised users.

The first group has access to all public services and data banks which are offered by within the Project, while the second group can access information and data banks – reserved and otherwise – through a procedure of recognition and authentication. These users then have the option of visualising data and then using it directly on-line. This means that in planning the on-line service, different user profiles must be identified and grouped according to the level of authorisation conceded.


3.3.8 Temporary exhibitions

That of exhibitions is probably one of the sectors where Web Applications have so far found the most space. This is largely due to the “shop window” function which a Web site - which has been deliberately designed for publicity – can easily perform considering it technological characteristics.

Web sites are often instruments of marketing which, co-ordinated with others, aim to bring the largest possible number of visitors to the exhibition. Realisation of these “instant Web sites” are often entrusted directly to professional creators outside the CE and activated directed by mixed “consortiums” (CE’s, sponsors etc.) which are promoting the exhibition.

Another type of Web Application connected to temporary exhibitions is the possibility of creating a path of technological tools for support and extended study that is interactive with the public and can also be followed from home. The decision to use such apparatus will depend of the type of exhibition, its aims and its resources.

The most recent work in the sector of preservation of cultural Web sites shows that “instant Web sites” themselves can become the permanent content of a Web archive. Examples of this are active in many parts of the world: in the specific sector of cultural exhibitions the city of Siena, in Italy is currently effecting archiving of Web sites of exhibitions of recent years.

Temporary exhibitions and the goals of the Web

Having fixed general parameters prior to examining the specific goals of CWA’s in this sector, it is important to emphasise that a quality CWA of a temporary exhibition must be realised in more than one language. This is in order to ensure maximum possible diffusion.

The 1st goal (Presentation of the identity of the CE) plays a central role in the case of cultural exhibitions, since the CWA must place the temporary event in the context of the permanent reality which produce it. An exhibition often results from scientific research carried out by one or more CE’s involved in a common project. The following aspects however, must be clear:

  • the identity of the authors;
  • the cultural project from which it stems;
  • the finality or aims;
  • the cultural entities that are have collaborated.

The 2nd goal (Transparency on the activity of the CE) mainly concerns clarity of information regarding the organisational, administrative and economic aspects that have allowed the realisation of the temporary exhibition.

The 3rd goal (Transparency of the mission of the CWA) is achieved through planning a Web Application where areas of information and further thematic study are clearly distinguishable from advertising zones (sponsors) or business connected with cultural exhibitions with a large economic investment.

The 4th goal (Efficiency in the sector network) is clearly of great relevance for the mission of information is the very nature of the Web Application of an exhibition. In this case the sector networks are those which divulge information, press agencies, search engines and circuits for tourist promotion etc.

The 5th goal (Presentation of standards and regulations in the sector) is not relevant for this category.

The 6th goal (Spread cultural contents) is central for the CWA of an exhibition. As was said above in the introduction, depending on available resources and on which characteristics of the exhibition the Web Application will represent, various level of complexity can be accepted.

  1. Supply basic information and orientation
    This level is obligatory for all Web Applications and must include a register of the exhibition with: full details of the contents of the exhibition (subject, curators, promoters etc.), the place of the exhibition (including geographical co-ordinates and means for reaching the location), the opening period (including eventual extensions), opening times, length of the visit, cost of tickets and concessions, services available (booking, on-line booking, guided tours, multimedia, catalogues, disabled access, bookshop, café, cloakroom, car park), associated events (conferences, slide shows, external event connected with the exhibition).
  2. Supply information and documentation in advance
    This gives the visitor the chance to prepare culturally before the visit and to seek further information afterwards. To this end the Web Application should provide Web path which illustrate the main sections of the exhibition and supply basic information on the material and most important topics, paying particular attention to use of language. Links with relevant Web thesauri could also be created.
  3. Supply didactic instruments
    On the basis of its identity and the specific project which conceived it, an exhibition can be a place for education. Through the Web Application (which may even be presented within the exhibition) the exhibition can provide a specific didactic reading of its contents. This should be realised in collaboration with the curators of the exhibition and didactic experts, paying particular attention to various age groups and also to so called weak and disabled users.
  4. Supply virtual reconstructions
    Considering them as a means of communication, a temporary exhibition can promote virtual constructions that are often elements of attraction and are symbolic of the path of a visit.
    In the case of virtual reconstructions of objects of complexes, it is vital that the levels of reconstruction be explicit:
    • Ascertained level on the basis of available documentation;
    • Supposed level presented on the basis of clues or comparisons with other ascertained cases;
    • Un-ascertained level based on documentary and critical evidence, i.e. free interpretation.

For the 7th Goal (Support cultural tourism), it is important to institute a synergy of forces where the promoters of the exhibition, public territorial entities and economic bodies in the sector of tourism, work together to create suitable activities. Besides what was described under goals 1 and 6 point A, special “tourist packages” connected to the exhibition can be promoted via the Web Application.

The 8th Goal (Offer of educational services) is definitely a quality requisite for a Web Application in this sector.

Sector experts and teachers of different school levels must collaborate to create didactic paths appropriate to different needs, which respect the education programmes and use suitable language.

See point C of the 6th goal. Another requisite for quality is the inter-activity of didactic services, where users themselves can build an application following predetermined paths.

The 9th Goal (Offer of services for scientific research). In the case of the Web Application of a temporary exhibition it is of central importance to provide links to relevant cultural sites. The search and query systems and links with existing data banks must be carefully planned.

The 10th Goal (Offer of services to specialists in the sector) is not relevant to this category.

The 11th Goal (Offer of services for reservation and acquisition) should be considered in the case of a CWA of an exhibition. See goals 1 and 7 above.

The 12th Goal (Promote Web communities in the sector): cultural entities that promote an exhibition must take active participation in thematic portals. This is necessary for quality control of information that is otherwise left entirely in the hands of private entities. A recent example is Euromuse.

Temporary exhibitions and Web users

The definition given in this manual is fully applicable to the case of Web Applications of temporary exhibitions. Besides staff and specialists in the sector, users are a vast heterogeneous group to which it is difficult to give a sharply defined profile.

For this reason the sector of temporary exhibitions is one where project and planning is difficult and modes of expression, architecture, form and language must be chosen with care. Every part of the Web Application must be attentively monitored and calibrated for the culturally and technologically weaker users.



Copyright Minerva Project 2003-11, last revision 2003-11-23, edited by Minerva Editorial Board.
URL: www.minervaeurope.org/publications/qualitycriteria1_2draft/cap3.htm
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