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infrastructure organisation manages the digital resources of many institutions, while the
institutions (together with scholarly communities) provide for their "outsourced" digital
collections primarily what is their key domain and the highest value they can bring into the
Information Society: the knowledge and expertise related to the digitised objects, descrip-
tions (e.g. metadata), contextualisation, explanations, interpretations, and stories, that really
involve potential users.This seems to be the appropriate variant for smaller institutions,
because it is unlikely that a knowledge transfer model would work for them, because they
lack the necessary resources (skilled IT staff and equipment) to manage digitised resources,
implement and further develop necessary additional features (e.g. for e-learning), and in
particular to secure long-term preservation of the resources. A blue-print for this model is
SCRAN (see case study in this chapter).
Where can the institutions grow?
In the digital environment, institutions need to re-evaluate their mission, not to give it
away (and run out of business). Following the trend in the business world, cultural institu-
tions should think about outsourcing certain tasks that are not central to their core business,
i.e. activities that are only supportive in fulfilling their core functions. Sorting out
institutional activities that are only supportive and looking for efficient and cost-effective
external solutions is an important strategic element. And as such it has not only its
advantages, but also its risks.
The risk lies in outsourcing supportive functions that have the potential to further
develop the intellectual capital and build new assets of the institution. Outsourcing
therefore should not involve things that would be major areas where the institution can
"grow", i.e. areas for the development of new, future-oriented competencies. Developing
and constantly updating a technological infrastructure is not a core function of a museum
or archive; but providing knowledge and expertise related to the content of digitised
resources (e.g. providing rich documentation) clearly is one.
Due to many factors including limited budgets, technological instability, shortage of ICT
personnel, outsourcing technical functions clearly seems to be an option, if not a must, for
cultural institutions.The optimal scenario would be the sharing of a technical support
organisation with other institutions within or across the sector. In this scenario, the
supportive organisation is managed by a trusted consortium and is based on agreed upon
technologies, applications, standards & procedures, and financing mechanisms.
Beside technical support functions, the organisation could also focus on goals and
activities the individual institutions cannot accomplish themselves because they lack the
necessary expertise (e.g. negotiation of services of third parties, rights clearance,
management of licenses, certification).Which competencies should be kept or nourished
within the individual institutions, should be observed and decided upon on the basis of best
practice and lessons learned in the cultural heritage sector.
Building supportive infrastructures
The OpenHeritage project
OpenHeritage is an IST-research project (2001-2002) funded under the Fifth Framework
Programme aiming to create an IT infrastructure and services to improve access to infor-
mation resources and collections held by regional museums and galleries. For a detailed
description, see Scali et al., 2001. <>
The RegNet project Cultural heritage in regional networks