background image
DigiCULT
.
Info
10
Number of collection objects:
The CHIN survey (1999) provides detailed
information on collection sizes. About 70%
of the participating institutions had fewer
than 10,000, 25% had 10,000-99,999, and
5% had more than 100,000 objects/
specimens.
Number of annual (museum) visitors:
The UK Museums Retrospective Statistics
(LISU, 2001) found that, based on their
available data, the best option was to define
the institution size by the number of visits,
as shown above.
An illustrative example
The Museum in der Fronfeste, a small regional
museum in Neumarkt am Wallersee in the
State of Salzburg with about 4,600 objects,
typifies a European cultural heritage insti-
tution facing the institutional `trilemma' of
lacking personnel, lacking funds and lack-
ing technical skills. It has a staff of six peo-
ple, most of them employed temporarily
(about three FTEs). Only two of them, the
director/custodian and the archaeologist/
museum pedagogue both functioning in
a double role are professional staff. The
others are responsible for administrative and
care-taking work (accountant, supervisor,
janitor and cleaner). In addition, seven vol-
unteers support the efforts of the museum
staff.
The museum attracts about 3,000 visitors
each year during its six months' opening
period (from May until end of October). In
2003, entrance fees and shop sales account-
ed for about 11 per cent of the operating
budget of
57,444. Another 19 per cent
of this budget was financed by the State of
Salzburg, with the remaining 70 per cent
contributed by the town of Neumarkt am
Wallersee, in recognition of the museum's
role in promoting a local sense of identity.
A
lthough the museum is constrained
by limited financial flexibility, it is
very active and innovative. Thanks to the
enthusiasm of the museum's custodian, this
small institution is successful in attract-
ing grants, especially from the EU-funded
Interreg III programme. Over recent years,
the museum initiated and co-ordinated five
such projects, which totalled
278,000. In
2004, one such project, which developed a
regional cultural trail, was recognised with a
special award by the State of Salzburg.
The ICT infrastructure of the museum
includes three personal computers (1 i-
mac G4 powerbook, 1 Power PC and 1 PC
Windows) for collection management and
administrative tasks.
Recent educational work involving local
schools provided students with the oppor-
tunity to plan and realise their own exhi-
bitions via ICT and the release of an
audio-guide for children on CD-ROM.
Further information (in German) is availa-
ble on the museum's Web site, http://www.
fronfeste.at, which also offers 360-degree
panoramic views of the exhibition rooms
with zooms for some groups of objects and
accompanying short descriptions.
E-READINESS CHECK
W
hy should small cultural heritage
institutions that are obviously not
in the best position to manage the com-
plexity of ICT take the risks? What are the
chief incentives and benefits for small insti-
tutions in adopting advanced technologies?
From the institution's point of view, there
are essentially two arguments for the adop-
tion of ICT: first, employing technolo-
gies may help to cut the internal costs by
streamlining work flows and improving
internal business processes; and, second-
ly, ICT can help to increase an institution's
visibility and presence, and thus attract new
users. There is a certain immediacy with
the latter, as changing expectations from
younger, technology-literate users place
increased pressure on heritage institutions
to be creative, innovative and experimen-
tal in the use of new technologies. An insti-
tution's Web presence will need to mature
beyond the static one-way communication
format of most present-day Web sites.
Before looking at a broad panorama of rel-
evant technologies, we would like to point
out some key issues that heritage institu-
tions will need to consider when assessing
the feasibility of adopting a certain technol-
ogy. We will later make use of this `e-readi-
ness check' when assessing the technologies
present on the panorama.
When is a technology ready for the
institutions?
Our first point relates to the maturity of
a technology, and the key question here
is whether the technology is immediately
applicable. To assess this question, we will
consider the standard model of how tech-
nologies develop and gain a broader level
of use (Moore, 1991
12
): The process starts
once technological research and develop-
ment has reached a functioning and tested
(prototype) solution, which is adopted by
an innovative company in search of a com-
petitive edge. Then, an industry solution
appears which usually targets larger organi-
sations, and finds some early adopters, based
on a more stable and scalable solution.
Next, competing industry solutions appear
which may also target smaller organisations,
and are adopted by a much broader group
of organisations, the so-called `early major-
ity'. Then, the mature and well-serviced
technical solution will find a large, perhaps
industry-wide `late majority'. Finally, even
the most confirmed sceptics will decide to
use it.
T
he recommendation for small institu-
tions, of course, is to wait until there
is a robust `off-the-shelf ' product available,
which adheres to open standards, is easy to
use, well serviced, and is likely to receive
only incremental upgrades. When consid-
ering employing a certain technology, the
institutions should investigate whether there
are examples of comparable institutions that
already use the technology, report favour-
ably on having the technology in place, and
may be asked to give some valuable advice.
12 Geoffrey Moore (1991), Crossing the Chasm. Marketing and
Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Customers (New York:
HarperBusiness).