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Risk as a key theme
In the Expert Round Table on exploitation, risk was a key theme with regard to the
agreed fact, that cultural heritage institutions "cannot easily take risks and do not
understand risk". A great advantage of the commercial over the non-commercial players
therefore is "that they can take risks and they have taken some substantial risks.There will
be continued examination of models and trials (...) until they reach a situation when they
find something that makes money." Institutions seem to really avoid as much as possible
anything that is risky or might fail.What they need to learn these days is "that they have to
take some risks. Not all of them are money-related. A lot of them are ideas-related."
(Graham Turnbull, SCRAN; ERT Edinburgh, July 24, 2001)
This theme is a focus point of the case study on SCRAN in the chapter on new cultural
heritage organisations, of which one function is to reduce various risks for institutions in
the digital world.
Things to keep in mind
In the roundtable discussion some points were highlighted that should be kept in mind
when thinking about commercial services of cultural heritage institutions.These include
all commercial activities need to be checked whether they are appropriate with
regard to the mission of an institution and whether there really is a favourable
balance between the (expected) revenues and the costs of setting up and running a
business line,
the institutions themselves may not be best placed to actually judge what people
would pay for, because in many ways their decisions will be based more on internal
considerations (including e.g. mission, ethos, possible loss of reputation) rather than
what new markets might be there,
what is required by clients, and what they might pay for, often is not for a lot of
material, but "the exact thing", that is specific bits of information, images or other
what people might be more willing to pay for are manipulative facilities, the ability
to interact and actively do something with certain resources, be they scholarly uses,
e-learning or entertainment.
Manipulative facilities might have high market potential
"If you do look into marketing opportunities and opportunities to exploit content, the
possibility of charging the user for services is very closely linked to specialisation.The more
specialised, the more personalised the content, the better the opportunity to actually charge,
and perhaps one very successful way of doing it is giving the user the opportunity to
actually manipulate or interact with the content in correspondence with their own personal
A way of addressing this whole area for most cultural institutions would be to establish,
implement and run special projects, special web services that are in a way parallel to the
core service that the institution will provide anyway. Most of the core business of cultural
institutions is what we could call public service, something that should be free of charge,
and then you have a parallel structure of developing specialised projects or features that
would actually form an object for exploitation."
Pia Vigh, KulturNet Denmark, DigiCULT ERT, Edinburgh, July 24, 2001