Europeana and cultural digitisation are of “vital importance” says Council of Europe

The Council of the European Union has come out in strong support for the digitisation and online accessibility of Europe’s cultural material, and for Europeana as the common multilingual access point to Europe’s digital cultural heritage.

The council has concluded that it is of “vital importance” that the long-term viability of Europeana, which was launched in 2008, is ensured and that it continues to be developed as a valuable resource for the creative industries, notably by improving the quality and variety of the digitised cultural material (including text, audiovisual, museum objects and archival records) held within it.

While recognising the efforts of member states and the valuable work already achieved by Europeana, the council has concluded that further steps are needed to turn Europe’s cultural heritage into a lasting asset in the digital age.

It has underlined key areas that must be focused on in order to bring out the richness of Europe’s cultural heritage in the online environment:

  • Cooperative effort around content quality
  • Continued work on technical standards for digitisation and metadata
  • Vision to avoid a 20th century black hole in content and making more in-copyright material available in Europeana
  • Promotion of voluntary agreements on the digitisation of out-of-commerce works
  • Full respect for intellectual property rights

The council asks member states to continue to consolidate strategies and targets for the digitisation of cultural material and to continue to support, develop and raise awareness of Europeana among the general public. It has set out a roadmap for work for 2012-2015 which covers areas including digitisation strategies, funding, copyright, the development of Europeana and ensuring long-term digital preservation.

The SCA believes that the council’s conclusions highlight the need to invest in digitisation – only 15% of our cultural heritage has been digitised so far – and the imperative of making copyright work in a digital age. It is also essential to explore new business models based on opening up content, and exploit the power of open, whether data, licences or standards.

These are all areas where the SCA has led the way in both research and practical training for practitioners in the field.

The JISC-led SCA fully supports Europeana and has made the UK’s first direct award towards the endeavour through the Europeana 1914-18 initiative.  JISC funded the first project of this sort in 2008 with the University of Oxford’s Great War Archive and has funded Europeana to support the UK collection day at the Museum of Lancashire in 2012. As a result of these initiatives, extraordinary real-life stories from the first world war have come to light and will be shared online.

Since the start of the digitisation programme in 2002, JISC has invested over  £30m in digitisation and content enhancement and is now celebrating a ‘decade of digitisation’.

The SCA calls on other organisations to show their support for the principles set out in the Council of Europe’s paper.

Read the Council of Europe’s conclusions in full: Council conclusions on the digitisation and online accessibility of cultural material and digital preservation