Digital cultural heritage

Digital cultural heritage can be divided into two parts – one part is so-called digitally-born subject matter, and the other is made up of digitized cultural heritage. In an increasingly digitized society, an increasingly large part of culture is born and is also spread digitally. Answers to questions about which part of digital culture should be maintained for future generations and how this should be done, are largely still being sought. Especially in a situation where a large part of communication among people, including the transfer of information and creations, is being concentrated in online environments controlled by businesses. In Estonia, the modern Legal Deposit Copy Act, which organizes the transfer and preservation of digital datasets of books at the National Library, is in effect, but how, for instance, should the photo collection of the Estonian National Museum be supplemented with records echoing everyday culture and how we live today, and how should the Museum of Literature preserve contemporary folklore which is spread electronically?

In order for material heritage which has been stored in collections over hundreds of years to be able to reach a broader audience and continue to be valued and current in society, providing the basis for new creations and services, it must also be made digital or be digitized. According to the pan-European cultural heritage portal Europeana, only one tenth of European cultural heritage is digitized, yet that tenth alone is equal to 300 million digital objects, of which only one third is available online and only a microscopic part is actively circulating and useable. Therefore digitizing cultural heritage is not only a technical task, but it requires many choices and complex decisions to be made regarding what material should be digitized and in which way it should be digitized (for example, when do we reach making 3-D models of certain photo views of objects). Decisions should be made regarding what is more important or more at risk and should be digitized first and what can wait or if something can be left undigitized. A solution also needs to be found on how heritage which has been placed on the web in digital form would not be forgotten and collect “digital dust”, but instead would reach people who might be interested in it, for example, in electronic curricula or in new products. And so it is that the information describing cultural heritage, as well as its many shortcomings, are receiving more attention. One solution that is increasingly used is digital collaborative work or collective creating, where everyone who wishes, can help to make digital heritage described in a better and more multifaceted manner and would thereby be easier to find. So there is plenty of work and opportunities to participate in the field of digital cultural heritage for anyone interested!

Vahur Puik, Ajapaik