International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property
Digital is a continent. How do we build…

Digital is a continent. How do we build a home for heritage here?

“There is a new continent made of bits, powered by machines, accessible by anyone, anywhere.”

If we envisage the digital realm as one huge landmass, where does heritage fit within it? This was the premise of the ‘Digital Imperative’ project, conceived in the framework of ICCROM’s prospective activity on Sustaining Digital Heritage. We are excited to be able to share the findings of our research.

Together with our partners, AVP and Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision (NISV), we set out to try and understand the goals and needs for digital heritage on a global scale. To do this, we used human-centred design and conducted interviews with over 30 heritage thought leaders, practitioners and service providers from 14 different countries around the world.

Our analysis of these insightful conversations reveals both an understanding of the existing digital heritage landscape and recurring issues, and also the potential for ICCROM to fill gaps in the sector, rather than duplicating efforts of other professional groups.

It is perhaps not surprising that heritage organizations make use of the digital environment in a variety of ways. This includes as a way to engage with users, patrons, and audiences; in order to maintain heritage content for the future; and also to explore innovative uses for the study and analysis of heritage.

The range of activities related to sustaining digital heritage is very similarly varied and actions such as collecting and managing digital heritage content, or making it accessible, form part of a larger picture. There are also concerns about the growing volume of data, intellectual property rights and the maintenance of metadata. To learn more about the main activities and concerns related to sustaining digital heritage, please read the report.

As part of our interviews, we took the opportunity to learn how ‘digital heritage’ and ‘sustainable digital heritage’ are understood within the heritage community to support our own effective and transparent communication.

We are proposing a model for sustaining digital heritage that can represent both a mindset and a strategy, tackling the diverse range of activities and concerns related to this growing area of study.

Based on this report, the Sustaining Digital Heritage team is developing a programme prototype and testing it with a set of pilot activities to be implemented in the 2022-2023 biennium in collaboration with existing partners. New partnerships will also be sought.

This project was led by Aparna Tandon, Senior Programme Leader and Kelly Hazejager, Project Assistant from ICCROM. It was brought to life in partnership with Kara van Malssen, Managing Director of Consulting, AVP, a digital asset management services firm, and Johan Oomen, Manager of Research and Heritage and Nienke van Schaverbeke Product Manager Knowledge and Innovation, from Netherlands Institute of Sound and Vision (NISV). 

We are immensely grateful to all the contributors who shared their insights and experiences.