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DigiCULT 65
G
ETTING
TO
GRIPS
WITH
THE
T
ECHNOLOGIES
:
THE
C
ULTURAL
H
ERITAGE
SECTOR
DILEMMA
A
fter all the hype, advice and guidance, the cul-
tural heritage sector still has difficulty getting to
grips with the opportunities and excitements of the
digital world. That is the conclusion of many of the
sector observers who commented in the DigiCULT
roadmap survey.
They had answers and suggestions aplenty but,
despite some notable achievements among Europe's
museums, libraries and archives, that was their gener-
al belief.
Polish State Archives advisor Kazimierz Schmidt
puts it down to individualism: `A serious hindrance in
making digital resources is not only the lack of stand-
ards but also the natural wish of libraries and archives
to stay independent. It seems that this need to stand
alone is caused by fear of the loss of their existing
positions as important, indispensable institutions of
the culture,' he said, adding `This reluctance to co-
operate in establishing standards stems from think-
ing collections are too exceptional, requiring exacting,
exceptional approaches.'
He summed up, setting the tone: `Perhaps it is time
to say a very unpopular sentence: Trying to support a
local archive without plans to link it to a data center
equals spending money for nothing.'
Gerd-Christian Weniger, Director of the Neander-
thal Museum,
80
in Germany's Nordrhein-Westfalen
region, wrote more briefly: `Cultural institutions are
lacking money and personal capacity for digital reg-
istration of their collections. Many curators do not
understand themselves to be part of a cultural service
for the public.'
Chicago consultant and art historian Angela T.
Spinazzč
81
said it as strongly as any: `As a community,
we have very little shared vision. It is difficult to see
the big picture when most institutions are still gazing
inwards trying to digitize their singular collections.
A more outwardly focused agenda would be bene-
ficial as a means to bridge gaps and bring together
data and information previously generated for institu-
T
ECHNOLOGY
D
EVELOPMENT
AND
I
MPLEMENTATION
FROM
THE
H
ERITAGE
S
ECTOR
'
S
P
ERSPECTIVE
tional purposes into a larger knowledge sphere. Even
collaborative projects often end with closed systems.
We would do well to encourage connectedness and
awareness of a larger context.'
The concern went on and on. A Southern Hem-
isphere commentator thought: `Perhaps rather than
technical blocks there are emotional blocks and con-
trol issues to be resolved.' And another North Amer-
ican wrote: `There is a lack of common goal in this
arena, in part fostered by the commercialization inher-
ent in software and hardware development. What is
needed here is a moral commitment to knowledge
perseverance and, therefore, preservation. When this is
in place, things might be better, not worse.'
Others saw shortages of cultural heritage-trained
technicians and lack of `ownership' of long-term pres-
ervation questions raised by development of digital
technology. Yet another researcher feared apathetic
`lack of pressure from a central body to use standard
vocabulary and little knowledge among the people
doing the work on the ground in sites, museums, etc.'
Project Coordinator for Britain's Milton Keynes
Museum,
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Roger Drage, was sure `seamless access to
all heritage and cultural artifacts through web tech-
nology' could be achieved, adding, `we are already
a long way down this particular road'. However, he
urged: `The limitations aren't technical but conceptual,
legal and cultural in nature.'
Denmark's Dr Pia Borlund, an associate professor
in the Information Studies Department at the Roy-
al School of Library and Information Science in Aal-
borg, was worried on behalf of digital system users
whom she defined as `researchers, pupils, students,
professionals, museum guests, museum people, archi-
vists, etc.'
She wrote: `Potential users are not always interest-
ed in changes such as new information systems. They
know what they have and how to work it. That is
enough for them. In other words, attitude problems of
users and their willingness to participate in user stud-
ies may also be a challenge to overcome.'
A major step to meet this challenge would, she said,
be to get people to work together, to listen to and
learn from each other. She emphasised: `By "people",
80
http://www.
neanderthal.de
81
ATSPIN Consulting.
http://www.atspin.com
82
http://www.mk
museum.org.uk
DCTHI7_271104.indd 65
06.12.2004 8:38:36 Uhr