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DigiCULT
.
Info
32
IRELAND
An introduction to digitisation of cul-
tural heritage material in the Republic
of Ireland
C
ultural Heritage in Ireland is
the responsibility of three main
Government departments:
The Department of Arts, Sports and
Tourism (http://www.arts-sport-
tourism.gov.ie/), through its Cultural

Institution Division, provides the legal
and policy framework and the Exchequer
funding for the operation of Ireland's
national cultural institutions. It pro-
motes the development of these institu-
tions through many initiatives including
digitisation programmes.
The Department of Environment,
Heritage and Local Government (http://
www.environ.ie), which has responsibility
for the natural and built heritage.
The Department of Education (http://
www.education.ie), which has responsi-
bility for academic libraries including
third-level institutions.
I
n 1999 the Branching Out report
32
pro-
duced a number of recommendations for
cultural heritage policy in the library sec-
tor, including substantial coverage of digiti-
sation aspects. The three main departments
above provided the membership of the
Branching Out Steering Committee, which
is responsible for the implementation of the
recommendations of the report. In 2002
the Committee established the Cultural
Heritage Panel, a body with the brief to
examine and produce recommendations for
a national funding programme in the area
of digitisation and digital preservation.
A
s indicated by the slower-than-
expected take-up of new delivery
mechanisms such as ADSL and Wireless
Broadband, Irish Internet use appears to
have reached a plateau. It is reasonable to
assume that the people interested in the
Internet for its own sake are already online,
and that this market has reached near-satu-
ration. This also implies that a significant
proportion of people do not consider the
Internet as relevant. Therefore, the crea-
tion of cultural content that is local in
nature is viewed as an important stimulus
to attract new users to the online medium.
The widespread digitisation of local cultur-
al content will provide this relevant online
material and will have a significant impact
on the national take-up of the Information
Society.
T
o achieve these aims, the Cultural
Heritage Panel established the
Cultural Heritage Project (described
below), a six-month pilot project man-
aged by An Chomhairle Leabharlanna (The
Library Council, http://www.librarycoun-
cil.ie), an advisory body on public library
policy and development to national and
local government. Pintail Ltd (http://www.
pintailservices.com) and Digital Media
Centre of Dublin Institute of Technology
(http://www.dmc.dit.ie/) provided the
technical partnership for the project. The
Cultural Heritage Project sought to estab-
lish national nodes of expertise in the digi-
tisation of diverse forms of cultural content,
`a national thematic network', and data-
bases relevant to digitisation. The project
team also sought to produce best practice
guidelines in the area of digitisation and a
set of recommendations to be published in
the project team's final report for a national
digitisation funding programme.
T
he national digitisation strategy is
being implemented by a nation-
al digitisation programme a network of
autonomous digitisation projects on the
history and culture of their area with links
to a programme portal, which will present
aspects of the history and culture of Ireland.
A
s a contribution to the Irish
Presidency, Ireland is co-operating
with Italy on a mid-term assessment of the
`Coordinating Digitisation in Europe' ini-
tiative. The assessment is managed by an
assessment steering group, compromised of
representatives of the previous (Italian), cur-
rent (Irish) and subsequent (Netherlands)
presidencies of the European Commission.
The focus of the assessment and analysis
will be on concrete results, which have a
demonstrable impact on the cultural land-
scape and which underline the effect of the
work of the initiative on the development
of eContent and the contribution of cul-
tural heritage to eEurope. The draft report
was circulated for discussion at the NRG
33
meeting in Parma (November 2003).
Projects in brief:
Cultural Heritage Project
T
he objectives of the Cultural Heritage
Project Phase I were to create a por-
tal, showcase and resource of digitised
material from the local history collections
of the public libraries and local museums
and archives across Ireland, and to create a
level of digitisation expertise within these
institutions. It was intended that this project
would also facilitate greater access to the
collections housed in these institutions,
both online and in terms of an increase in
actual visits to the libraries, museums and
archives. Finally it was envisaged that, by
populating the site with such relevant local
material, a greater degree of Internet take-
up in Ireland would be encouraged.
32 For more information, see http://www.librarycouncil.ie/public/
branching.shtml
33 The NRG is made up of officially nominated experts from each
member state, and was established jointly by the Member States and
by the Commission within the framework of the eEurope Action
Plan, supported by the MINERVA project (http://www.minervaeu-
rope.org).