Report calls for digitisation of European culture

More investment needed to get collections online, says European Commission report
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Rebecca Atkinson
A report written for the European Commission calls for member states to increase their investment in digitisation and put collections held in museums, archives and libraries online by 2016.

The New Renaissance report from the Comité des Sages (the committee of the wise, a high-level European reflection group) on the digitisation of Europe’s cultural heritage estimates this would cost €100bn but recommends it is paid for out of national budgets.

Other recommendations include EU-wide rules for digitising orphan works and ensuring that works covered by copyright but no longer distributed commercially are brought online.

It wants to see the online portal Europeana – an EU-funded non-profit online library – become the “central reference point for European cultural heritage”.

The Comité des Sages report says: “Member states must ensure that all material digitised with public funding is available on the site [Europeana], and bring all their public domain masterpieces into Europeana by 2016.”

Click here to read the full report (pdf)

According to Nick Poole, chief executive of the Collections Trust, the UK is unusual in that it has no digitisation cultural policy or active investment in place. While the European Commission cannot force member states to follow the report's recommendations, those that do may be more likely to receive funding.

"In the UK, there has not been the funding available for museums that want to go digital, but if we play our cards right, this report could unlock the potential for funding in the future," said Poole.

The department for culture is now working on a response to the report.

Neelie Kroes, European Commission vice-president for the digital agenda, has welcomed the report. She said: “Bringing our museums' and libraries' collections online not only shows Europe's rich history and culture but can also usher in new benefits for education, for innovation and for generating new economic activities. It will put high-quality content on the net for many generations."

The Comité des Sages’ report was produced by Maurice Levy, chief executive of French advertising firm Publicis; Elisabeth Niggermann, director general of the German national library; and Jacques De Decker, general secretary of the Royal Academy of French Language and Literature in Belgium. 

Launched in 2008, Europeana contains more than 15m digitised objects, from maps and photographs to film clips and paintings.

The Museums Association is holding a one-day conference on creating digital content on 15 March.

Click here for event information and to book your place

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