OpenHeritage: Levelling The European Cultural Playing Field
George Mallen - Managing Director, System Simulation Limited
The European Union is backing an ambitious IT infrastructure programme to improve access to collections held by regional museums and galleries. The aim is to create a platform which will ensure smaller museums have the same level of accessibility as their larger, better known big city cousins, and afford them the added economic benefits that improved accessibility brings. Regional support centres will be created to provide a range of professional support services for the smaller museums, including collections management services and multimedia content development and business links to the tourism, leisure and educational resources in a region.
System Simulation Limited (SSL) is working on the project, set to run Jan 2001 - Dec 2002 with partners who include the National Museum of Scotland, Stichting Museon, and the Cultural Service Centre Austria. The Italian technology group Space SpA are co-ordinating the project. One of the challenges, of course, in a project of this diversity, is to achieve a common understanding of its objectives and potential. We do have previous experience of working on European Framework projects and one of the rewards is the opportunity to develop relationships, both business and technical, with a range of European colleagues.
For SSL it is extremely exciting to see how the technology we've evolved for more localised projects such as the 24 Hour Museum and The British Museum, can be developed to make a real impact on Europe's cultural landscape. At its most basic this is a marketing and access project aimed at stimulating local economies across the European Union, while opening up museum and gallery collections to a world-wide audience.
The challenge faced by all museums, no matter their size, is that of attracting and enthralling each new generation with the relevance of their collections. Through OpenHeritage and its website openheritage.com smaller and regional museums and galleries will be able to benefit from technology which would normally be beyond their grasp, and so underwrite their future.
Initially the major museums, such as Museon in the Hague and the National Museum of Scotland, in collaboration with smaller institutions, such as the Shambellie House Museum of Costume in Scotland and the Genna Maria Museum of Archaeology in Sardinia, will test and approve the technological solutions, the territorial models and infrastructures, and the website which will ultimately become the global portal.
The sheer size and breadth of the on-line collection will bring additional benefits. It will be a magnet for anyone seeking information on European cultural attractions, ensuring far more hits than an individual site could hope for. As a direct result all museums and galleries included in the project will enjoy much higher profiles and a global reach well beyond their normal expectations.
Another very tangible benefit will be the support OpenHeritage will offer museums and galleries with commercial applications enabling them to exploit their digital assets through the educational, business, and media markets.
The technology includes OpenMuseum, a modular software suite from which museums and galleries can select the most appropriate modules for their needs. This ground-breaking collections management solution is based on SSL's MUSIMS collections management offering, with modules from Space's MuseumWare multimedia software.
The objectives of the Open Heritage project are:
Models of Regional Economies: The analysis and development of dynamic, computer models of regional 'cultural economies' aimed at assessing and valorising the qualities and strengths of each regional or local cultural economy.
OpenMuseum: The development of an innovative collections management solution integrated with public access systems enhanced with rich interactive media, based on current best practise and appropriate to smaller museums.
Territorial Service Centres: The deployment of Territorial Service Centres supporting memory institutions through facilities management, customer relationship management, storage, promotion and transaction services (a new model of cultural Application Service Provider (ASP))
Validation: The validation of the model and related technologies and services in significant test beds, through a range of technological and territorial validation activities.
OpenHeritage.com: The launch of a global "openheritage.com" enterprise for the exploitation of European Cultural Heritage assets through an advanced portal encompassing both traditional community features of inclusion and accessibility and business-to-business areas for the trading of rich media assets.
Through Open Heritage, the lesser known museums and galleries across the European Union will be able to access far larger audiences, streamline their collections management and focus their marketing potential to the benefit of their immediate localities. It will integrate them more closely into the world of tourism and leisure, building a future for European Heritage capable of evolving and appealing to present and future generations.
Space S.p.A. Italy
System Simulation Ltd UK
National Museum of Scotland UK
Muse Historique des Tissus de Lyon France
Museo Archeologico "Genna Maria" Italy
Stichting Museon Netherlands
Culture Heritage On Line S.A. L
Centro di Ingegneria Economica e Sociale Italy
Cultural Service Centre Austria Austria
Digital Publishing Japan Japan
Association for Documentation and new Information Technologies