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Need for additional funding
Going commercial and offering in a commercial way information services, surrogates of
objects, or products causes additional costs that need to be covered.Yet, most cultural
heritage institutions will not be able to finance commercial ventures out of their regular
budget, especially not within the next years where budget most likely will remain stagnate
or even decrease.Therefore, if it is a goal of cultural policy to enable cultural heritage
institutions to commercially "valorise" the treasures they are taking care of, there is a need
for considerable additional funding. In addition, as experience has shown so far, in order for
projects to get up and running to the point where they become sustainable, more funds are
needed over longer time periods which usually exceed "normal" project periods of 3-4 years.
Commercial success stories are rare
Some European governments over the past five years invested substantially in the cultural
heritage sector, one of the most prominent examples being funding opportunities for cul-
tural heritage projects through the U.K. Lottery and New Opportunities Funds.Yet, even
with well-funded projects that aimed at "valorisation" of their resources,"big time"
commerce has never been the objective. Even if some of those projects have successfully
establish a commercial channel that provides them with additional income, it has become
quite clear today, that financial profits will not be a major outcome.
Overall, examples of commercial success in the cultural heritage sector involving
memory institutions directly are rare. Concluding from prominent success stories such as
SCRAN, one notes, that even those services needed and still need extensive investment,
only to achieve some return on investment. More realistically, what might be achieved is a
coverage of the running costs, yet, only after enormous amounts of public money has been
invested to establish the infrastructure, digitise a critical mass of cultural resources from
many institutions, and market intensively the services and products. In addition, as in the
case of SCRAN, it is also not the end user who directly pays for the service but again
public institutions, in this case schools in the region, who are the "paymasters" of the service.
Considering all this, national governments should rethink the expectations they have
concerning the commercial potential of cultural heritage institutions. Instead, they should
keep in mind that what they are paying for goes far beyond the commercial value of
cultural heritage resources.
The DigiCULT navigator to sustainable cultural heritage
Reducing the value of cultural heritage to its economic level, as is currently the trend
within many national governments, means only considering one part of what constitutes the
value of cultural heritage and what ultimately might influence the individual choices of
citizens as primary users of cultural heritage resources.What needs to be understood by
national governments is that the value of cultural heritage and the benefit that is gained in
building and maintaining digital cultural heritage repositories goes beyond the economic value.
As primary financiers of cultural heritage institutions, national governments need to be
aware that what they are funding is the intellectual value that constitutes a cornerstone in a
society's national identity.Thus, the authorisation to invest large sums into the valorisation
of cultural heritage must derive from an overall objective in the public interest namely to
unlock the value of cultural heritage for regional development, quality of life, education and
life long learning, and to stimulate the cultural industries, i.e. tourism, publishing and
broadcasting.This should be considered when the demand for a commercial exploitation of
cultural heritage resources is put on memory institutions.