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P
REFACE
O
ver the past 34 months the DigiCULT
Forum project has provided a technol-
ogy watch mechanism for the cultural
and scientific heritage sector in Europe and beyond.
This was carried out as a support measure within the
Information Society Technologies (IST) priority of
the European Union's Fifth Framework Programme
for Research and Technological Development.
Backed by a network of peer experts, the project
has monitored, discussed and analysed existing and
emerging technologies likely to benefit the cultural
and scientific heritage sector. To promote the results
and encourage early take-up of relevant technolo-
gies, DigiCULT has published seven Thematic Issues
(including this one) and three in-depth Technology
Watch Reports, and presented the DigiCULT.Info e-
journal to a growing database of interested persons
and organisations. All these products can be down-
loaded from the project Web site
http://www.digicult.info.
With the project approaching the end of its IST-
funded phase, we thought it appropriate to carry
out an expedition into the possible future of digit-
al cultural and scientific heritage in the next 10-15
years and beyond. This Thematic Issue summaris-
es the results of this expedition as a roadmap which
is intended as a navigation tool for boards and direc-
tors of heritage organisations and research centres, IT
project managers, and curators of digital collections,
virtual exhibitions and environments. It should pro-
vide them with an overview of innovative informa-
tion and communication technologies (ICT), systems
and applications that may be achieved in the next ten
years or so. It seeks to explain the enabling technol-
ogies that will be used, the breakthroughs that may
occur and the possible impacts that may shape and
re-shape the digital landscape in which heritage insti-
tutions reside.
Actually, it seems likely that their digital surround-
ings may develop much faster than these institu-
tions can adopt and employ. This tool may help them
to discuss and prepare their places in this landscape
in order to become part of it in a conscious and
planned way. This could include opportunities to par-
ticipate in projects that develop `ambient intelligence'
services and applications, allowing them to be among
the first to attract on-site and online visitors with
compelling new cultural experiences. If this naviga-
tion tool is able to help towards these ends, then it
will have fulfilled its function.
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