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I I . 1
Th e d i g i t a l p ro m i s e
In the emerging knowledge society, there will be an increasing demand for high
quality, enriched digital content as life-long learning is no longer a buzz word and
continuous education has already become a must. Cultural heritage institutions are in a
prime position to deliver the kind of unique learning resources that are needed at all
educational levels.
Information and communication technologies will play a major role to create and deliver
these new contents, which goes far beyond the current stage of providing access to infor-
mation about cultural heritage objects. In the future, users of cultural resources will be able
to enjoy new interactive cultural heritage services and products that relate to their personal
lives.They will be able to manipulate digital artefacts online and participate in communities
of interest.They will be supported by intelligent tools and agents that help them to locate
the desired information to create their own stories. In addition, deeply immersive
environments will make museum visitors dwell on in amazement in view of virtual worlds
they could not experience anywhere than in the digital realm.
According to David Bearman, AMICO, USA, offering highly interactive and rich
environments will become a competitive factor within the cultural heritage community."
In the future, we will expect that you can manipulate digital images in many ways, turn
them around, look at the bottom, etc.Those resources that you cannot manipulate, will be
perceived as second rate. (...) Moreover, the museums they come from will be perceived as
second rate." (DigiCULT Interview, August 8, 2001)
As such, cultural heritage institutions can utilise information and communication
technologies (ICT) as effective instruments to direct public interest back to the original
objects in their trust, by providing contextual information, enlightened with narratives and
visualisations with computer-aided renderings and displays. As experience has shown,
appropriate use of ICT does increase the interest in the original collection, and cultural
heritage institutions should not leave this opportunity unused to add value to their
Yet, technology alone will not suffice to meet the growing user expectations. Equally
important, it will require the knowledge and the intellectual "capital" that rests within the
cultural heritage institutions themselves to create these kinds of new and highly desired
content that increase the usage of cultural heritage material.Thus, European cultural
heritage institutions not only hold the key to a treasure chest of unique resources, they also
have the potential to turn the key to unlock the true value of our rich cultural heritage.
At present, however, these high promises are not yet fulfilled.
I I . 2
Wh y t h i s s t u d y a n d f o r w h o m ?
Today, archives, libraries and museums all over Europe face similar challenges as they try
to take advantage of the enormous potential the use of information and communication
technologies promises for memory institutions.These challenges are not only technical in
nature, but affect cultural heritage institutions at their very core:
How do new technologies affect the core business and how can they be best
integrated into the current workflow?
Which new technologies can be expected and how can cultural heritage institutions
avoid to jump on the wrong technological bandwagon?