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195 1 8 DIGITAL LIBRARIES FOR CULTURAL HERITAGE: A PERSPECTIVE FROM NEW ZEALAND Chern Li Liew Introduction Modern information and communication technologies (ICT) have brought about changes and developments in many ways. One of these is that time and space no longer hinder the distribution of and access to information. For the cultural heritage sector, these developments have opened up new opportunities. There is now increased ability to enhance accessibility and transparency to cultural heritage, to attract audiences from around the world to collections of unique and exciting heritage contents which are important assets of various societies. An increasing amount of such content is now being made available in digital form and via the Internet. Using ICT, cultural heritage artefacts can also be presented through more varied and lower cost communication mechanisms. There are also new opportunities for consortia activities, partnerships among different institutions and their audiences (both existing and new) to conserve and preserve heritage contents and to promote cultural diversities. The momentum to harness the power of technologies to create digital cultural heritage resources (CHR) is great, and the enthusiasm among museums, libraries, archives and historical societies – often referred to collectively as cultural heritage institutions – is high. In fact, digital heritage has recently been accorded status as an entity in its own right, with UNESCO pronouncing “resources of information and creative expression are increasingly produced, distributed, accessed and maintained in digital form, creating a new legacy – the digital heritage” (UNESCO 2003). However, while the new technologies capable of supporting novel presentations, navigations and access to information have received the most attention, it is the underlying social, economic and policy changes which are most fundamental and which will have the most lasting effects on the future of the digital CHR landscape. Cultural heritage, by its inherent social disposition, will naturally always be influenced by social and political factors. Before jumping on the bandwagon of developing a multitude of digital libraries for CHR therefore, it is critical to take a moment to think about what we are and should be building, for whom these digital libraries are built, for what purposes and how we can ensure the manageability and sustainability of these resources. With the power of technology to widen access, the missions of access of cultural heritage institutions are suddenly much more easily achieved, but the policies, business models and ethical as well as other professional assumptions which have been used to regulate the analogue realm are becoming insufficient in some aspects for the digital landscape (Bishoff BPDG_opmaak_12072010.indd 195 13/07/10 11:51 Chern Li Liew 196 and Allen 2004). The shift to computer-mediated forms of production, distribution and communication of cultural information “affects all stages of communication, acquisition, manipulation, storage, and distribution”, as stated by Lev Manovich (2001), and hence the importance of careful business planning among those involved. This chapter attempts to characterise the current developments in CHR digital libraries and to set these in their social and policy-related contexts, where appropriate, using the case in New Zealand as an example to illustrate a number of key concerns. The chapter does not aim to cover the research issues comprehensively but aims to highlight a number of current imperatives pertaining to the handling of CHR in a digital environment and to discuss the related key business planning elements, followed by a brief discussion of those likely to be operative in the foreseeable future. Cultural heritage resources in the digital landscape The value of CHR is more than the commercial aspects. The value is often based on the social and cultural, historical, spiritual legacy and honours of communities and the academic value. Creating and developing a CHR digital library is not just a technical task. In one of their most noble roles, cultural heritage institutions are vehicles for the enduring concerns of public spectacle, information and knowledge preservation, shifting paradigms of knowledge (Gere 2002). Digital libraries also need to distinguish themselves from mere digital collections and databases. They are expected to add value to their resources, and the added value may consist of establishing context around the resources, enriching them with new information and relationships that express the usage patterns and knowledge of the community concerned, in that the digital library becomes a context for collaboration and information accumulation rather than simply a place to find and access information (Lagoze, Krafft, Payette and Jesuroga 2005; Lynch 2002). Cultural and heritage contents are important for national/community identity. They are often the unique and irreplaceable legacy...


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