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as Throsby (1999) remarks, a cultural resources can also be described through cultural value
characteristics that are not economic, including:
aesthetic value: beauty, harmony,
spiritual value: understanding, enlightenment, insight,
social value: connection with others, sense of identity,
historical value: connection with the past,
symbolic value: a repository or conveyor of meaning.
It is especially these other cultural value characteristics that are communicated by cultural
heritage resources. Reducing the value of cultural heritage to its economic value as it is
currently the trend within national government, means to only consider one part of what
might influence the individual's choices.Thus, the suggestion that individual judgements
about the value of particular cultural objects are converted to a common, economic
denominator, cannot be sustained. Indeed, as McGuigan remarks, such a reduction would be
deeply flawed."The notion that a cultural product is as valuable as its price in the market-
place, determined by the choices of the `sovereign consumer' and by the laws of supply and
demand, is currently a prevalent one, albeit deeply flawed. Its fundamental flaw is the
reduction of all value, which is so manifestly various and contestable, to a one-dimensional
and economistic logic, the logic of `the free market'." (McGuigan, 1996, p. 31, quoted in
Throsby, 1999)
What governments need to understand is that the value of cultural heritage resources
and the benefit that is gained in building and maintaining digital cultural heritage
repositories goes beyond the economic value. In fact, it is these other cultural value
characteristics and the "intellectual exploitation" that are the true value of cultural
heritage.This does not mean to totally ignore market opportunities, but it implies to
maintain a realistic view on the exploitability of cultural heritage resources and the
return on investment.
As the primary funders of cultural heritage institutions, national governments should
be very aware that what they are financing goes far beyond the economic value, but is a
cornerstone of establishing a society's cultural identity. Consequently, a cultural vision
should pay attention to first, the societal benefit and only secondly, to commercial
The commercial potential of cultural heritage
With the digital media, and in particular the Internet, the expectation that cultural
heritage organisations like archives, libraries, and museums, can somehow become players in
commercial markets and "valorise" their holdings (with some favourite candidates as in
particular images) have become a priority.Yet, for institutions that are driven by a mission
that usually includes to make information available for education and academic research, it
seems to be a paradox that, at the moment, when the marginal costs for reproduction and
delivery of information are tending towards zero, they are asked to charge for it.
Although there are already many experienced voices that meanwhile report back from
the commercial "front", that there is no or surely no short and easy way to be successful, the
pressure on cultural heritage institutions to "go commercial" remains high.
The ability of cultural heritage institutions becoming players in the commercial arena
will be discussed in detail in Chapter "Exploitation:Valorising cultural heritage resources".
For the moment, commercial issues will only be covered in so much as it directly concerns
national cultural heritage policy.