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V I I . 7
Th e ke y ro l e o f n e w c u l t u ra l h e r i t a g e
o r g a n i s a t i o n s i n t h e d i g i t a l e n v i ro n m e n t
"Cultural organisations are learning that their presence and authority in the real world is not
automatically translated into the virtual world." (QUEST, 2000: p. 26)
Unlocking the value of the cultural heritage sector into the Information Society will
demand huge efforts and investments in building new organisations that support existing
institutions in coming to terms with different issues that determine success or failure in the
digital environment.
To link up with new cultural heritage organisations and infrastructures, i.e. cultural
networks and portals is an option for all institutions in the sector. Particularly for smaller
institutions this can reduce the barriers to entry and provide a wide range of opportunities:
from being present in events calendars or news tickers up to participating with their
collections in major digitisation initiatives (depending on the aims and models of the
support organisation).
In the discussions on the digital economy the concept of disintermediation (i.e. the
elimination of anything that stands between producers and users of products and services)
figures prominently, yet, to bring cultural heritage into this economy will demand exactly
building intermediaries that were missing in the old economy.
New cultural heritage organisations are extremely valuable in bringing cultural heritage
to certain interest groups (e.g. scholars, learners, tourists) and the public at large. Basic
indicators for the success of cultural heritage in the Information Society will be how many
of such organisations exist and how heavily they are used.Therefore, beside the traditional
memory institutions, these organisations are a main focus of the DigiCULT-study.
This chapter addresses the major roles new cultural heritage organisations play in:
developing and making accessible digital collections,
building protected virtual environments for users of cultural heritage resources,
supporting smaller institutions to become visible and part of the digital world
Illustrative examples for this are provided with a short case study on AMICO, an
overview of different types of cultural networks, and an extended case study on SCRAN.
Developing and making accessible digital collections
The question with regard to the collections of cultural heritage institutions is how these
treasures can be unlocked into the information and knowledge society.To do this in a
sustainable fashion might cost considerably more than smaller or medium sized institutions
can afford; and there is the question of whether or not the public purse can afford to finance
a digital trial and error approach and unsustainable ventures in the cultural heritage sector.
If it is an objective of cultural policy to make cultural resources of many institutions
available, supportive infrastructures will be needed, i.e. digitisation centres providing
consultancy and project management, digitisation equipment and skilled staff, digital
collection management, support in creating products or offering online services and
long-term preservation (including migration or emulation).
The model for this approach could be a complete splitting of functions:The supportive