Handbook for quality in cultural Web sites
Improving quality for citizens
Preface and background
The web has promoted an increasing proliferation of on-line cultural
applications. Almost every cultural institution or initiative today
wants to be on the web, and to promote itself, to disseminate its
content, and its activities through the Internet.
Quality must be ensured for the delivery of cultural content.
Yet quality is a very broad, generic and sometimes subjective concept.
Therefore the goal of quality framework is to break down quality
into a series of criteria which are specific to cultural web sites.
A quality framework in this domain can only be developed at a multinational
level, involving cultural institutions and actors from different
national cultures and acting from various professional backgrounds.
The framework is an evolving structure, which needs to be extended
and improved along the time as experience and case studies are carried
on. The framework can evolve only as a result of European co-operation.
As such, the MINERVA project provides a perfect environment where
such a framework can be developed.
Genesis of the European Quality Criteria
European Quality Criteria have their origin in the Lund Principles
adopted on 4 April 2001, where the European Commission was invited
to collaborate with Member States, in particular to "Optimise
the value and develop shared visions of European content, by developing
criteria and a framework for an EU collaboration plan for digital
cultural and scientific content, together with appropriate implementation
means...( ) through identifying added value conditions for European
This reflection continued, during the Belgian Presidency of the
European Union, in a wide-ranging debate of experts on the theme
of the Culture and the Knowledge Society to lead to the Resolution
" Culture and the Knowledge Society " adopted during the
European Council of Culture Ministers the 5th November 2001. The
Resolution more specifically invites the Commission and Member States
to encourage "quality-initiatives" in cultural web sites.
The first European document on quality criteria for cultural web
sites, the Brussels Quality Framework, which originated in the Principles
adopted at Lund, was presented during the first meeting of the National
Representatives Group held in Brussels on the 11th December 2001.
Its aim was to make quality more objective, applicable and measurable.
The Minerva Quality Working Group
Starting from the conclusions of this discussion document, in the
frame of the activities carried out by the Minerva Quality Working
Group, some steps have been gone through, with the pitfalls that
a similar process usually meets.
The working group defined "10 Principles", guide the
development of cultural access points that celebrate European cultural
diversity by providing high quality access for all to digital cultural
content. The working group will carry on in the coming months to
draft the explanations of these principles.
The Minerva Quality Working group worked on the present Handbook
for Quality of cultural Websites and into this Working Group, a
genuine, highly motivated European Editorial Committee has been
set up. This to the benefit of the work's activities.
Handbook for quality in cultural Websites: improving quality
The Handbook for quality of Cultural web sites should be considered
as a working document, in need of further developed.
This Handbook is not only a working document but also a "work
in progress" ; this work is carried out in the context of all
Minerva Work Packages, of the documents that they produce, and of
the principles and guidelines they formulate.
It creates a FRAMEWORK that can guide the process of formulating
quality issues on the CULTURAL level.
In other words; the structure is now there and the complex task
of giving it cultural relevance can now start. This job should be
a collaborative effort, lead by the European Editorial Committee,
but very likely with the solicited input of other experts who are
This Handbook needs also to accommodate a range of conditions that
may differ substantially from member state to member state. Specific
concerns of all European communities will be included during the
course of the on-going substantive and editorial revision and are
expected to be published during the course of the Irish Presidency
of the European Union.
Arduous labour is still necessary, but it is certain that a very
important result has already been achieved: the debate on such a
relevant theme has started, with the full awareness that the way
to achieve an exhaustive Handbook, ready for adoption at a European
level, is not easy, but necessary.