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Online digitisation of cultural heritage

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Online digitisation of cultural heritage

The Commission makes a number of recommendations aimed at promoting the digitisation and online accessibility of cultural material and digital preservation. It points out that the new information technologies must benefit the collective memory. The Commission therefore recommends that Member States take measures to implement the digitisation strategy in order to make better use, through the Internet, of the economic and naturally cultural potential of Europe's cultural heritage.


Commission Recommendation 2006/585/EC of 24 August 2006 on the digitisation and online accessibility of cultural material and digital preservation [Official Journal L 236, 31 August 2006].


The online digitisation of cultural material has become a key objective at European level. The Commission stresses the economic and cultural potential of Europe's cultural heritage. The Commission has also made digital libraries a key aspect of the i2010 initiative.

The digital medium provides access to European cultural material which includes print (books, journals, newspapers), photographs, cinematographic heritage, museum objects, archival documents and audiovisual material.

The main advantages of online digitisation of cultural material are that it:

  • makes that material broadly accessible to a large proportion of the population in the European Union (EU);
  • makes the EU's multilingual and diverse heritage clearly visible;
  • preserves that collective memory long-term for the benefit of future generations.

The need for coordination among Member States

This access requires a coordinated digitisation effort. Numerous digitisation initiatives are currently being taken in the Member States. The Commission recommends concerted action by the Member States in order to digitise their cultural heritage. The aim of such coordination is to avoid duplication of effort and to achieve greater coherence in the selection of material.

Europe's cultural material must be digitised, made available and preserved in strict compliance with intellectual property rights. However, no clear and comprehensive policies exist in the Member States on the preservation of digital content. The Commission recommends establishing national strategies for the long-term preservation of and access to digital material.

The Commission highlights Web-harvesting, for example. This is a new technique for collecting material online for preservation purposes. It involves mandated institutions actively collecting material instead of waiting for it to be deposited. The Commission proposes that this procedure should be incorporated into national legislation. This would reduce the administrative burden on producers of digital material.

The Commission also recommends strengthening large-scale digitisation facilities, such as competence centres for digitisation in Europe.

The Commission recommends effective cooperation between Member States in order to overcome the present divergence in national provisions governing the deposit of material in a digital environment.

The Commission encourages Member States and cultural institutions to promote a European digital library in the form of a multilingual common access point to cultural material held in different places by different organisations. This online tool will facilitate searching among all the cultural material digitised diffusely online.

The emphasis on investment

The Commission recommends increasing investment in new technologies in general and digitisation facilities in particular. It encourages partnerships between cultural institutions and the private sector so that firms can take part in the digitisation effort.

To that end, the Commission stresses the importance of the private sector sponsoring digitisation activities.

Member States are recommended to inform the Commission within 18 months following publication of the recommendation (i.e. by the end of February 2008), and every two years thereafter, of action taken in response to the recommendation.

Last updated: 28.03.2007