Digitisation of a cultural heritage in Małopolska Region. An analysis of a process in museums

The report is based on a research questionnaire, including 31 units, showing the process of digitisation in Małopolska’s museums.

Among them we had: 26 entities, are organized by local governments, 3 private entities and 2 managed by non-governmental organizations. In addition, among these institutions there were 3 district museums – from Kraków, Tarnów and Nowy Sącz. The study was conducted to identify the current state of digitization of cultural resources in Małopolska’s museums. A goal was also to gather information about the manner and intensity of using digital culture resources by the inhabitants of Małopolska region.

Cultural heritage for future generations

Digitization is the process of transforming information recorded in an analog form into a digital form. The process of digitizing cultural heritage contributes both to increasing the availability of cultural products, and allows individual institutions to inventory and archive resources, which in turn gives them a chance to preserve the heritage for future generations. Digitization of cultural heritage is a multidimensional venture and it is necessary to take strategic planning activities, ensure adequate technical infrastructure, qualified staff, and thus also allocate the necessary financial resources.

The most important undertaking in the field of digitization at the European level was creating the EU i2010 initiative for digital libraries, and then the launch of Europeana – a digital platform with digitized resources of European cultural heritage. Europeana currently provides access to over 54 million items (including image, text, sound, video and 3D materials) from the collections of over 3,700 libraries, archives, museums, galleries and audiovisual collections from all over Europe.

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In Poland, the entity responsible for implementing EU recommendations in the field of digitization is the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, which established an auxiliary Digitization Team.

The first high-budget project – aimed at creating a stable financing system for digitization projects – was the “Kultura +” Multiannual Government Program for 2011–2015. The main goal and effect of the program was financing the activities of the designated 5 Competence Centers, with the main task to coordinate activities related to digitization in a cultural sector.

How and why do institutions digitize collections?

In 2007-2020, Małopolska cultural institutions carried out about 30 projects, co-financed from national and regional operational programs aimed at digital consolidation and sharing of cultural heritage resources. Museums implement the process of digitizing collections in various forms. The dominant model is relying on own forces, and only a part of the institutions take into cooperation with external entities.

Most of the surveyed units that digitize their collections did not create their own program for digitizing collections. The overwhelming group uses in this respect standards developed by external institutions – most often the Ministry or National Institute of Museology and Protection of Museum’s Collections, which indicates the important role of these units in the preparation of good practices for the discussed issue. However, this approach leads to a lack of coordinated actions in the field of digitization of cultural goods. It generates difficulties for digital libraries in providing digitized exhibits operating in a specific files formats.

As the results of the study indicate, the main goal of digitization is to preserve the mapping of exhibits for future generations and to use digital copies for internal use of the institution. An important goal is also been to increase access to collections by publishing digital reproductions on websites.


Chart 1. The declared goal of digitizing the resources of cultural heritage by Małopolska cultural institutions

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Source: own study


Who and why uses digitized collections?

Most users declaring to use the so-called contemporary works of culture in the form of e-books, films and programs can be found among the youngest group of respondents – 72.8%. Interest in this form of resources decreases with age. The situation is similar in the case of library resources – the inhabitants of Małopolska in age of 18-24 uses them most often – 52.7%. The situation is the opposite for seniors who use museum resources mostly – 45.1% of declarations.


Chart 2. Use of selected forms of digital heritage resources by Małopolska versus age (%)

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Source: Own study based on the results of the study


Residents of Małopolska Region indicated that the so-called contemporary works (e.g. e-books, films, television programs) available via the Internet are the most popular. Over 60% of respondents declared using these resources. The second position with a result of 38.6% came from library resources (e.g. books, antique prints, manuscripts, maps, notes). Importantly, the inhabitants of Małopolska Region relatively willingly use museum resources – 32.5% of declarations.

Most often, inhabitants of Małopolska Region use digital cultural resources for scientific and educational purposes (almost ⅓ indications). It is also a way of entertainment and form of spending free time for over a quarter of respondents, and 13.6% of respondents also indicated the aspect of personal development and the need to explore information (10.3%).

Read the full report in Polish language