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Providing access: Culture portals and gateways
Within the last years, many European Member States have developed different
approaches to enable citizens to gain access to cultural heritage resources using ICT, with
greatly varying results. Depending on the approach, government commitment reaches from
setting up physical central access within existing traditional institutions to establishing new
access points, often only in the virtual realm, that offer new services online. One example is
Espaces culture multimédia (ECM), a French initiative that helps citizens to both receive
training in using ICT and gain easier access to cultural heritage resources by setting up
physical access points in regional cultural heritage institutions.
Espaces culture multimédia (ECM)
Since 1998, the Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication has developed the
programme "Espaces Culture Multimédia" (ECM), which aims at making cultural and social
institutions into access points for online multimedia resources for the broad public.The
programme is executed jointly with the Délégation au Développement á l'Action Territoriale
(DDAT) and the Directions Régionales des Affaires Culturelle (DRAC), and, with respect to
the libraries, in cooperation with the Direction du Livre et de la Lecture (DLL).
The programme "Espaces Culture Multimédia" addresses the issue of the "digital divide"
within society, and includes activities of awareness raising, basic training in the use of
computers, the Internet and multimedia, and projects which foster the broad use of the new
Furthermore, the Ministry of Culture supports the artistic dimension of the new media
and the set up of centres of excellence in this field which also serve as providers of cultural
content for the Internet.Therefore, the ECM are not only public access points for online
multimedia resources but also centres where new cultural forms and practices are developed
and experimented with.
The funding of ECM can be up to 50 percent of the total costs, but not more than
200.000 Francs annually. As of 2001, more than 130 "Espaces culture multimédia" have been
established throughout France, including for example 52 libraries, 29 cultural centres of
cities, 12 cinemas and audiovisual centres, or 9 art centres and schools.The broad range of
institutions involved supports inter- and multi-disciplinary approaches and exchanges. In
2001, the number of ECM will expand and give priority to the areas of professional
training and production of cultural multimedia resources.The ministry also has invited the
local governments to make the public access to the Internet via the libraries one of their
priorities for the period until 2003.
The evaluation of the ECM programme includes seven thematic studies which include
many illustrative examples as for example "Partenaires institutionnels et usages collectifs"
(12/1999) and "Ateliers de création et de pratiques artistiques" (05/2000).
The seven studies are available at:
Source: Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication, 2001
Another commonly used strategy to join up cultural resources at a national level is to
build portals or common gateways to provide a single point of access to digital cultural
heritage resources.There is a range of examples throughout Europe for these kinds of
central access points, yet these national initiatives vary considerably with regard to the scope
and depth of information that is offered. Publicly supported single points of access differ
with regards to: