holders can buy into such shared and heavily marketed themes, enabling cultural heritage
institutions then to selectively "mine" and digitise the respective parts of their collections.
Such a "shared themes approach" would be very helpful in the digitisation and valori-
sation of cultural heritage resources: First of all it must be highlighted that commercial
players on the image market themselves do not digitise and cannot exploit successfully all
material they have.As Hans Petschar,Austrian National Library, has observed "most of the
commercial picture archives and photo agencies have 90 % of their collections in non-
digitised form; 5 - 10 % of their holdings make the money and the other stuff they just do
not touch". (DigiCULT ERT, Berlin, July 5, 2001) Therefore, cultural heritage institutions
that decide to play according to the same rules, i.e. only looking towards parts of their
collections that might somehow be commercially relevant, would have to completely change
their mission and the focus of their work. For example: Potential customers "do not just walk
through the door", the personnel of the institution would really have to completely re-focus
its work on marketing and selling the material to the most relevant customers.
Furthermore, cultural heritage collections do not lend themselves easily to commercial
exploitation. For example, out of a historic image archive only a tiny fraction of the
holdings (perhaps 5 percent) might be of any commercial relevance if available in digital
form online. And this fraction cannot be easily determined.There is a thinking, that first a
"critical mass" of digital cultural heritage collections should be produced from which
customers could find what they are looking for.This approach seems to influence many
cultural heritage institutions towards mass-digitisation of their holdings, yet, these
investments are unlikely to pay off.
Heritage Images - Bringing special collections online together
Heritage Images is a new online picture library, distilled from the collections of the
founding partners: British Library, Guildhall Art Gallery, Science Museum, National
Museum of Photography Film & Television, National Monuments Record of English
Heritage, National Railway Museum and the Corporation of London Libraries (most
recently photographs from the Royal Photographic Society have been added). Cultural
heritage sources brought into this venture are special collections of photographs, pictures,
manuscripts, artworks and engravings. Heritage Images targets the publishing and other
media industries and aims at bringing to them an unusual set of material for illustrations.
Images from Britain
"Images from Britain" might serve as an example of an online image bank venture that so
far has not been able to take off. It was planned as a commercial venture of the Public
Records Office (UK) together with the marketing partner Cardington plc (London,
<http://www.cardington.co.uk>), and the online store (that is online) was developed by
the web company The Brain Station.
The "Images from Britain" web site was launched in April 2000, and displays the intention
to target primarily newspapers and magazines searching for good historical illustrations.Yet,
the web site presents only 100 images, grouped under the following categories: America,
crime, empire, famous people, festivals, historic milestones, monarchy, places, science &
industry, social history, sport, transport, warfare. According to Paul Johnson, Image Library
Manager, (e-mail, Sept 10, 2001) it is now "a test site" as "further funding has not been
forthcoming, and the site is `dormant' until decisions are made on how to progress".