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DigiCULT
.
Info
8
A
SSESSING
THE
READINESS
OF
SMALL
HERITAGE
INSTITUTIONS
FOR
E
-
CULTURE
TECHNOLOGIES
G
UNTRAM
G
ESER
,
S
ALZBURG
R
ESEARCH
, A
USTRIA
(
HTTP
://
WWW
.
SALZBURGRESEARCH
.
AT
)
ABSTRACT
A
s we progress towards a knowledge-
based information society, a digit-
al culture is emerging. This e-culture will
be based on technologies that enhance
the creation, management and provision
of attractive cultural content and engag-
ing interactions on a variety of platforms.
This article addresses the endeavours of
small heritage institutions to prepare them-
selves for e-culture, while facing the `tri-
lemma' of lacking human resources, lacking
funds, lacking technical skills. It concen-
trates on the question: Which current and
emerging technologies are most likely to
find a broader adoption by large, medium
and small institutions? It provides a classi-
fication of these sizes based on empirical
data, and points out key issues that herit-
age institutions will need to consider when
assessing the feasibility of adopting a cer-
tain technology. Based on this `e-readiness
check', the paper assesses 20 technologies
especially from the perspective of small-
er institutions. These technologies have
been monitored in the DigiCULT Forum
project, and include, for example, virtual
reality, agents and avatars, digital asset man-
agement, mobile technologies, RFID tech-
nology, customer relationship management,
virtual community and collaboration tech-
nologies. Although some of the technolo-
gies may be used by smaller institutions, the
article concludes that these institutions may
only become `e-ready' for, and benefit from,
most of the technologies within a frame-
work of larger cultural heritage initiatives.
In such initiatives, funded mechanisms such
as cultural networks/service centres enable
smaller institutions to keep their costs and
risks manageable while not being excluded
from new technological developments.
READY FOR E-CULTURE?
I
n recent years, substantial progress has
been made in the access to digitised and
born-digital resources held by cultural her-
itage organisations. As we progress towards
a knowledge-based information society,
a digital culture is emerging. This culture
will be based on technologies that enhance
the creation, management and provision
of attractive cultural content and engag-
ing interactions on a variety of platforms.
This includes, to name but a few end-user
oriented technologies, new displays and
human interfaces, mobile access to heritage
information, location-based services, virtual
communities, 3D games and learning envi-
ronments, agents and avatars, and Semantic
Web applications. Yet, there is a grow-
ing risk that small cultural heritage institu-
tions will be left behind as the main focus
of information and communication tech-
nology (ICT) development in the heritage
sector concentrates on medium to larger
institutions. The reasons for this unfavour-
able development are not primarily tech-
nological in nature but organisational. They
can be summarised as the institutional `tri-
lemma' of lacking human resources, lacking
funds, lacking technical skills, which will
be discussed below. A much broader per-
spective is given in the DigiCULT Report
(2002)
4
, which addresses key issues of polit-
ical frameworks, organisational change,
exploitation, and existing and emerging
technologies. Valuable further recommenda-
tions that concentrate mainly on improve-
ments for smaller institutions may be found
in a recent report on an eEurope agenda for
local services by the PULMAN Network of
Excellence (PULMAN, 2003)
5
.
The `trilemma' of small CH institu-
tions: lack of human resources, lack of
funds, lack of technical skills
Frequently, small cultural heritage institu-
tions function as shoestring operations that
exist and live on due only to the enthusi-
asm, endurance and creativity of key indi-
viduals who manage them. These cultural
enthusiasts spend not only their leisure time
but often also their own funds to keep the
institution running and to provide similar
services to the local community to those
provided by larger institutions. Yet, when it
comes to making use and taking advantage
of new technologies, these organisations
reach their limits especially with regard to
qualified personnel and funding resources.
T
he most pressing factor that hampers
small institutions in their efforts to
Dr Guntram Geser, MTM
G
.Geser
,

2004
4 DigiCULT (2002): The DigiCULT Report. Technological
Landscapes for tomorrow's cultural economy Unlocking the value
of cultural heritage, available for download at: http://www.
digicult.info/pages/report.php
5 PULMAN (2003), Public Libraries, Museums and Archives:
the eEurope Agenda for Local Services. Final Report of the
PULMAN Network of Excellence. Edited by Rob Davies
(Luxembourg: European Commission, Directorate-General
Information).