Re-visiting the digitisation of cultural heritage: What, how and why?

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The digitization of the enjoyment of culture, then the cultural production, and eventually the way cultural heritage is preserved and made accessible became largely digital over a very short span of time, mainly between 1995-2023. The very same time brought unprecedented connectivity via the opening of the world wide web in 1991-1993, and the slow uptake of the web of data, or the semantic web, since 1999 – where cultural heritage organizations have played probably the most important role.

During the planning and building of our digital infrastructure, neither the new audience habits, enjoyment forms, or research practices could be foreseen. The quickly decreasing costs of digitization and the increased connectivity due to exponential growth in bandwidth and in semantic connection brought unimaginable use cases. More digitization and more creative digital reuse is possible than ever imagined, but there are previously unseen risks. Our consortium aims to build on some past and ongoing Horizon Europe RIA project’s results and network to answer better the questions: what, how and why should be digitized in cultural heritage. Because of the lower costs, unforeseen benefits, currently the digitization and digital re-use of culture is taking place in both public and private collections; furthermore, more and more digital cultural object are created and enter these collections from public benefit and commercial production of the cultural and creative industries.

A key component of European and national cultural heritage policy has been, and is, the digitisation and subsequent broad access to cultural heritage. This heritage in some heritage domains is mainly held in public, in others, in private collections. Increasingly, new heritage of writers, photographers, musicians, filmmakers and more artistic domains enters collections in digital form. Both private and public collections often rely on the services of commercial digital producers, who have efficient infrastructure that works under competitive market conditions. We want to show a better path to connect and synchronize the priorities, infrastructure, and risk mitigation strategies of these public and private collections, commercial and not-profit cultural creators. Some private and public collections were very cautious about digitizing or providing access to their digitized assets. One risk may be that digitised cultural heritage is used, or misused, out of its context, and we have seen plenty of examples of this in the last year. Europe’s cultural sectors are just realizing that mainly non-European actors have trained AI algorithms on digital works that are currently undermining or destroying the jobs of illustrators, musicians, photographers, actors. Many cultural objects were taken out of their sacred, spiritual, religious or cultural contexts, and placed in digital contexts that caused moral outrage of the guardians, heirs of heritage. Based on our experience in socio-economic and socio-legal research, and trustworthy AI research and practice, we want to create a taxonomy of risks for effective risk mapping and mitigation strategy building.

Competition Data Observatory
Competition Data Observatory
A forming new open collaboration for computational antitrust

A fully automated, open source, open data observatory that produces new indicators from open data sources and experimental big data sources, with authoritative copies and a modern API.