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DigiCULT
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F
rom the stately elegance of the cas-
tle at Fontainebleau to the innovative
design of the recently built Bibliothèque
Nationale de France, from the fine art on
display at the Louvre to the new visuali-
sation techniques being used in Web sites,
from the Ministry of Culture's emphasis
on public access to heritage to the `invis-
ible' research being carried out at the
Institut national de l'audiovisuel,1 mak-
ing the most of culture in France demands
approaches as diverse as the culture itself.
W
hile the articles towards the end of
the section describe the details of
smaller projects, Jean-Pierre Dalbera and
Alain Maulny from the Ministère de la
culture et de la communication demon-
strate the effects of a coherent, nationwide
policy from the top down. Jean-Pierre
Teil of the Archives Nationales agrees that
a pool of resources at the national level
is crucial to best organise regional and
local activities, and both he and Catherine
Dhérent highlight the evolution of the
field of preservation of records in recent
years.
A
long with Daniel Teruggi from INA,
Teil and Dhérent are emphatic that
archivists cannot wait for the `perfect for-
mat' and that, to ensure information is
preserved, action must be taken immedi-
ately, but always with an eye on the future,
ensuring that an appropriate migration
strategy is in place to safeguard the longev-
ity of the data. Specific work on archival
access is presented in the article `Making
Handwritten Archives Documents acces-
sible to the Public with a Document
Image Analysis System' by a team from
IRISA (http://www.irisa.fr/) in collabo-
ration with several different archives from
across France. As shown in the DigiCULT
Report: Technological Landscapes for
Tomorrow's Cultural Economy, pp. 162-
174, `Turning Archival Databases into
Goldmines: The Genealogy Case´, gene-
alogists are driving the demand for fuller
access to public records and other archival
work programme, has firmly placed on
its radar. The User Requirements meet-
ing held in Amsterdam 18-19 March
2004, formulated the PrestoSpace Plan in
response to the `real needs´ assessment of
the users in the field. In closing the del-
egates all agreed that the problems were
`larger than any one sector, viewpoint or
institution´ - which needs to be recognised
with a structure that ensures comprehen-
sive European co-operation.
T
he `Memory of the Netherlands´,
is an initiative to build, manage and
make available the cultural richness of the
Netherlands to a wider audience, based
on a digitisation programme. It first went
`live´ online in May 2003 ­ and is a work
in progress. We therefore feel extreme-
ly fortunate for Paul Doorenbosch's frank
assessment of the first phase. Of particular
interest are the lessons learnt, which mirror
many of the concerns from other large-
scale digitisation initiatives in the cultural
heritage community. A notable challenge
is the development and deployment of
educational applications of digital herit-
age. Closer collaboration between the cul-
tural heritage sector and education sector
reinforces the social value and to a lesser
extent the commercial value of the former.
In the `Memory of the Netherlands´, exe-
cuting the vision involved abandoning the
initial idea to create a separate education
interface in favour of varied applications
designed along specific user requirements,
with the focus on the presentation of the
content.
I
n the ARCHway project from the
University of Kentucky the focus is
on scholarly collaboration. The comput-
ing and humanities communities were
brought together to build and integrate
electronic editing tools in the build-
ing of image-based electronic editions
from cultural material. The toolkit being
material. However without effective anno-
tation of hand written records users may
find themselves overwhelmed by the need
to leaf through a sizeable number of digital
images. The research team at the IRISA/
INRIA laboratory in Rennes, France
presents a family of tools and approaches
developed for a document image analysis
system which is based on automatic anno-
tation of image records. Images not fit for
automatic methods are supported by man-
ual annotation which is managed on a col-
lective annotation platform for the user
community.
C
atherine Lupovici, Director of the
BnF Digital Library, describes her
work in digitising and providing access to
the materials held at the BnF, while the
article from the team at the Conservatoire
National des Arts et Métiers presents the
technical aspects of digital library inter-
faces. In the final interview, Abdelaziz
Abid from the Division de la Société de
l`information at UNESCO describes the
Memory of the World project, its benefits,
and place within the work of UNESCO,
casting an international perspective on
work taking place within France.
T
o encourage the role of digital pres-
ervation in the production and man-
agement of born-digital resources, the
Digital Preservation Coalition has estab-
lished the Pilgrim Trust Conservation
Awards to recognise innovation and
achievement in the area. Adam Rusbridge
takes us through the shortlist which
includes specific tools, programmes and
large-scale initiatives that all seek to
advance the successful preservation of our
digital cultural society. And the winner is...
A
n area of research that has received
particular attention of late is the
preservation of audiovisual resources.
The nature of audiovisual material poses
immediate challenges that the European
Commission PrestoSpace project, an inte-
grated project within the IST sixth frame-
1 The importance of INA's research is highlighted in a
report on Prestospace, also in this issue. INA is the co-ordi-
nator of the Prestospace project.