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I
NTRODUCTION
AND
O
VERVIEW
By John Pereira
F
UNCTION
AND
FOCUS
D
igiCULT, as a support measure within the In-
formation Society Technologies (IST) Pro-
gramme, provides a technology watch mechanism for
the cultural and scientific heritage sector. Backed by
a network of peer experts, the project monitors, dis-
cusses and analyses existing and emerging technolo-
gies likely to benefit the sector.
To promote the results and encourage early take-
up of relevant technologies, DigiCULT has put in
place a rigorous publication agenda of seven Themat-
ic Issues, three in-depth Technology Watch Reports,
as well as the DigiCULT.Info e-journal, pushed to
a growing database of interested persons and organ-
isations on a regular basis. All DigiCULT products
can be downloaded from the project Website http://
www.digicult.info as they become available. The
opportunity to subscribe to DigiCULT.Info is also
provided here.
While the DigiCULT Technology Watch Reports
address primarily technological issues, the Themat-
ic Issues focus more on the organisational, policy and
economic aspects of the technologies under consid-
eration. They are based on the expert round tables
organised by the DigiCULT Forum secretariat.
In addition to the Forum discussion, they provide
opinions of other experts in the form of articles
and interviews, case studies, short descriptions of
related projects, together with a selection of relevant
literature.
T
OPIC
AND
CHALLENGE
T
his sixth Thematic Issue concentrates on the
question of how resource discovery technolo-
gies can ensure that the high value, authoritative her-
itage information placed on the Internet is effectively
found, retrieved, and presented to information seek-
ers. In an effort to circumnavigate the expansive area
of interesting technologies, this Thematic Issue will
focus on user-driven approaches in heritage resource
discovery. But before leaving the open savannah for
the user trails, it is important to note that, overall, the
expansion of the Web has favoured the emergence of
new search applications, usage patterns, and interac-
tion paradigms. These developments will have, and in
fact are already shown to have, a strong impact on the
users' expectations of the technological applications,
interfaces and additional tools offered in the herit-
age sector.
Tailoring heritage online services to users' imme-
diate needs is essential. According to a New York
Times article `Old Search Engine, the Library, Tries
to Fit into a Google World' (June 21, 2004), a sur-
vey of 1,233 students across the USA, `concluded that
electronic resources have become the main tool for
information gathering, particularly among undergrad-
uates'. This explains part of the recent development
that major (American) library information centres
co-operate with Google, Yahoo and other powerful
search engines for indexing their catalogues.
A big issue in fact is how to deal with the mas-
sive information resources of the so called `Deep Web'
that today are missed by search engines, and include
also content-rich, mostly publicly funded databases
of libraries, archives and museums. If, as some experts
suggest, Google or a consortium of major search
engines would be allowed to index these resources
and take on more of the role of a `universal service'
provider, is there scope for unbiased, non-commer-
cial driven information presentation? And what is the
heritage sector's response?
O
VERVIEW
S
etting the scene for this Thematic Issue, the posi-
tion paper first concentrates on the issues raised
by most information seekers' choice of powerful
search engines over trying to find out and mine may-
be more valuable `Deep Web' databases. Then it pro-
vides a look at current and future resource discovery
technologies from the perspective of the academic
and educational user. While academic users already
DigiCULT 5