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DigiCULT
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Info
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participate in the information society is the
lack of staff. A typical small institution will
have fewer than five full-time equivalents,
with only a fraction being professional staff
concerned with the institution's core busi-
ness (e.g. curators, librarians, archivists, ped-
agogues), while the others are support staff
(e.g. administration, security, supervisors,
janitors). A common problem in small insti-
tutions is that the limited number of pro-
fessional staff available may simply be able
to ensure that the institution can provide its
core services, but will not find the time to
track down the necessary funds that would
allow them to finance any ICT venture.
T
he second restricting factor for small
cultural heritage institutions in fol-
lowing up a new technology venture is
the limited financial leeway. A typical small
institution will work on an operation-
al budget that does not exceed
100,000,
while a medium-sized institution may have
up to
1 million at its disposal. Needless to
say, these budgets leave scarcely any room
to finance ICT projects out of the opera-
tional financial resources. Consequently,
institutions that are interested in develop-
ing and realising technology projects need
to look for additional funding elsewhere.
However, for many institutions, applying for
project grants demands stretching already
limited personnel resources not only dur-
ing the planning phase but also during the
implementation phase of a project.
F
urthermore, experience from many ini-
tiatives shows that projects harbour the
risk of `distracting' institutions from their
core business, and imposing new activi-
ties that most often prove to be unsustain-
able beyond the funding period. Critics
further point out that the majority of such
projects favour financing the technologi-
cal infrastructure, i.e. the hard- and soft-
ware equipment, over the development of
the `wetware', i.e. the technical skills of the
human beings (programmers, operators, sys-
tem administrators) `attached' to a computer
system. The cost of ownership for the tech-
nological infrastructure is usually underes-
timated or not even considered. As small
institutions are usually not in the position
to hire dedicated personnel to take care of
their computer infrastructure, there is an
urgent need for ICT training programmes
to train non-technical staff on how to han-
dle new technologies. Finally, developing an
understanding for ICT through such pro-
grammes will help to ensure that the insti-
tutions better utilise the full potential of the
technologies.
Size matters: A classification of herit-
age institutions
In order to establish quantitative reference
points for our discussion, we gathered data
on the varying sizes of heritage institu-
tions. As we did not find a widely used and
empirically based scheme, we compared
available data from statistically relevant sur-
veys and other sources. The table below
summarises the results in a scheme that
may be elaborated further, but is sufficiently
detailed for the present purpose.
We will not discuss this scheme in detail,
but add some short explanations and inter-
esting observations. Our focus here is on
better understanding what distinguishes
small from larger-size institutions quanti-
tatively. Therefore, we did not, for exam-
ple, include a category `very large' or `major'
institutions, which may have an annual
operation budget of over
10 million.
Operation budget:
In the USA and Canada, an opera-
tion budget of less than $100,000 [about
120,000] is very often used to character-
ise small institutions (Alliance for the Arts,
2002
6
; ExhibitsUSA, 2000
7
). The Canadian
Heritage Information Network's surveys
(CHIN 1999
8
, 2004
9
) report that 60% of
the participating institutions fell within this
operation budget category. The National
Audit of Scotland's Museums and Galleries
(Scottish Museums Council, 2002
10
) reports
that the majority of the institutions had an
annual budget of 50,000 [about
75,000]
or less.
Staff in full-time equivalents (FTEs):
The analysis of the UK Museums
Retrospective Statistics (LISU, 2001
11
) for
1999 gives mean numbers of 11 FTEs for
permanent staff (median: 2!) and 2 FTEs for
temporary staff. CHIN (2004) reports that
about 42% of their survey respondents said
their organisation had from 2 to 5 full-time
employees and 36% from 2 to 5 part-
time employees; roughly 38% had either
no or one full-time or part-time employee
(about 75% of members had 6 or more vol-
unteers).
Small
Medium
Large
Annual operational
budget (in
)
< 100,000
100,000- 1 million
> 1 million
Staff in full-time
equivalents (FTEs)
(professional, support);
volunteers not included
< 5 FTEs
5-10 FTEs
> 10 FTEs
Number of collection
objects
< 10,000
10,000-100,000
> 100,000
Number of annual visi-
tors: museums
< 7,000
7,000-30,000
> 30,000
6 Alliance for the Arts (2002), Who pays for the arts? 15 February
2002. Available at: http://www.allianceforarts.org/Who_Pays_report/
who_pays.htm
7 ExhibitsUSA (2000), Museum study on behalf of the National
Endowment for the Humanities, 2 October 2000. Available at: http://
www.usregionalarts.org/docs/research/MAAA-NEH%20Mus%20Rs
ch%20Exec%20Smry.pdf
8 CHIN - Canadian Heritage Information Network (1999),
Information Technology in Canadian Museums. Available at: http://www.
chin.gc.ca/English/Reference_Library/Information_Technology/
9 CHIN - Canadian Heritage Information Network (2004),
CHIN
2004 National Membership Study. Summary Report. Available at: http://
www.chin.gc.ca/English/Members/Reports/Membership_Survey/
index.html
10 Scottish Museums Council (2002), National Audit of Scotland's
Museums and Galleries. Available at: http://www.scottishmuseums.org.
uk/audit/index.asp
11 LISU - Library and Information Statistics Unit at Loughborough
University (2001), UK Museums Retrospective Statistics Projects,
December 2001. Available at: http://www.mla.gov.uk/documents/
ev_domus1.pdf