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I X . 6 .
N e w t o o l s i n t h e b o x
"Consumers are not interested in records associated with a cultural object.They are actually
interested in how that object links to their lives and problems in their lives."
Jennifer Trant, AMICO (DigiCULT Interview, August 8, 2001)
Simply providing information of where to find cultural heritage objects or giving access
to digitised objects themselves may be of interest to scholarly users or highly knowledgeable
communities, but is it sufficient to also attract new user groups and broader audiences?
What we can observe at present, especially in the library and archive sector, is that
services are particularly targeted at the academic community, but are not necessarily
meaningful to other audiences. For example, comprehensive thesauri or indexes to support
resource discovery are mostly used by experts who understand the meaning and intricate
differences between terminology.Yet, for teachers and the educational community such
terminology is inappropriate it does not represent terms used within the educational
domain.
For memory institutions to reach broader audiences they need to move beyond resource
discovery and offer services that also relate to people's lives.This means using one's core
competencies, i.e. the knowledge and expertise of curators, librarians and archivists on
holdings and collections, to build knowledge-rich multimedia information resources that
provide explanation and guidance as well as additional context. In addition, it also implies
providing users with the tools to build their own significant stories. Both approaches suggest
that memory institutions need to move beyond the level of offering simple resource
discovery services. And they need new tools and systems that support their effort to truly
unlock the value of the cultural heritage resources they are taking care of.
Discovery is the beginning, not the end: Requirements for new tools
The next step beyond resource discovery could be building meaningful context around
cultural heritage resources, based on the expert knowledge memory institutions hold about
their collections.This can be achieved by linking objects, building clusters of cultural
resources, putting objects in relation to others, creating context and gluing everything
together through creative stories and narratives.Traditionally, this has been the domain of
museums in crafting exhibitions on particular themes.
What the Internet has to offer is a new dimension regarding the way in which these
meaningful environments are created, namely collaboratively, in co-operation with others.
From a technological point of view, this means not only providing systems that are
interoperable, but offering the tools to better translate the knowledge of individual experts
into virtual environment.What it comes down to, is not just integrating systems, but
integrating people."Interoperability has led to more fluid interchange of data. But we also
need standards and tools that promote "interworkability" in order to build and sustain
online culture." (Fink, Ronchi, 2001)
Taking this collaborative approach one step further means going beyond integrating
institutional knowledge and letting individuals participate.This might include bringing in
other experts, historians, scientists and other scholars, but also interested users who want to
personalise the cultural content offered. For such a system to work, it must be highly
interactive and allow users to manipulate objects, aggregate their own collections, annotate
them, and enter metadata to describe the object from an individual perspective. Interested
groups of individuals should be able to get together to discuss their shared interest or create
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IX TECHNOLOGY