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Developing methodologies for digitisation
"I could see that unless we started from above discussing what should be digitised - what are the
objectives, what are our responsibilities and what are not - then you could spend a lot of money on
small projects everywhere and commit the Danish sin, as I call it: a little bit of everything, for
everybody, everywhere."
Erland Kolding Nielsen,The Royal Library, DigiCULT Interview, June 28, 2001
At present, European Member States take different approaches towards digitisation, based
on their governmental structure and different funding mechanism they apply. Spain, for
example, although a federal state implements a central approach to digitisation, with the
Ministry of Culture setting the priorities. France takes a similar approach with clear
priorities set by the Ministry of Culture as the central authority, and cultural institutions
following a strict digitisation policy.
Other national governments in Europe, however, have not yet defined any digitisation
policy, and hence decisions on what to digitise are left to the archives, libraries and museums
themselves. In those cases, selection criteria for digitisation are not always transparent, which
is one reason why digitisation has happened more or less ad hoc and accidentally, without
any prior planning or a clear notion of future use. Such an approach bears the high risk of
wasting resources as work might be duplicated, or of materials being digitised without
complying to any compatible standard.Therefore, national governments should approach
digitisation plans in a systematic and methodological manner, and develop sound models and
guidelines as well as evaluation criteria to measure the impact of their actions.
Developing models
The experts participating in the DigiCULT study see the task of providing models,
guidelines and examples of best practice for digitisation as a primary responsibility for
national governments. Developing methodologies and guidelines is necessary to ensure a
resource-efficient, comprehensive approach to digitisation offering a mechanism through
which informed decisions can be made. Such a methodology should provide a model for
setting digitisation priorities based on:
user-focused selection of material;
future conservation requirements and preservation needs;
public access and future use;
appropriateness of content for digitisation and privileged domains (some collections
are not suitable to be digitised);
the requirement of scalability, to be also an appropriate model for small institutions
with less resources.
Of course, these models, guidelines and best practice cases need to be actively promoted
and made widely accessible to be adopted and adapted by cultural heritage institutions.