UK told to increase digitisation efforts

Rebecca Atkinson, 01.11.2011
UK urged to develop national strategy for digital preservation
The European Commission has called on the UK and other member states to step up efforts to digitise cultural objects through public-private partnerships and the adoption of national strategies.

Its recommendation on digitisation and digital preservation states that the 27 member states should “pool their resources" in digitising cultural material.

This includes adopting national legislation and strategies to ensure the long-term preservation of digital materials and increasing the number of objects available online through the Europeana website from 19 million to 30 million by 2015.

Targets for each member state have also been set, with the UK called on to digitise 3.9 million objects over the next four years. Germany and France have the highest targets, of 5.4 million and 4.3 million respectively.

Earlier this year, the Comité des Sages (the committee of the wise, a high-level European reflection group) estimated that the cost of digitising Europe’s cultural heritage was €100bn. Click here to read more

The European Commission will contribute €3.7m a year towards this between 2011 and 2013, and suggests public-private partnerships should share the cost to individual countries.

Neelie Kroes, the commission’s vice-president for the digital agenda, said: "Europe has probably the world's greatest cultural heritage. It cannot afford to miss the opportunities offered by digitisation and hence face cultural decline."

Unlike other member states, the UK does not contribute towards Europeana’s running costs and it does not have a national strategy in place to ensure the coordinated digitisation of objects.

Nick Poole, chief executive of the Collections Trust, said the commission's recommendations were an opportunity to change this.

“Without UK buy-in, we are risking political and professional damage, marginalising our role in the digital agenda,” he said. “It also limits the opportunities for cultural institutions to benefit from financial support for digitisation at a time when funding is hard to come by.”

A spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said: “We are aware of the importance of the digitisation work being carried out by Europeana to make Europe’s cultural heritage more widely available.

"Last year, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) worked with the Collections Trust to make over a million objects accessible online on the Culture Grid. We will be working with Arts Council England to consider how this work may be carried forward now that the MLA’s responsibilities have transferred.”

Click here to read the European Commission's recommendation of digitisation and digital preservation

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