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Europeana.eu is the EU digital platform for cultural heritage. More than 3,000 institutions across Europe have contributed to Europeana. These range from major international names like the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the British Library and the Louvre to regional archives and local museums from every member of the European Union. Together, their assembled collections let users explore Europe's cultural and scientific heritage from prehistory to the modern day. Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer, the works of Charles Darwin and Isaac Newton and the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart are some of the highlights on Europeana.
Type of site
|Meta-aggregator and display space for European digitised works|
|Alexa rank||75,535 (September 2018[update])|
|Launched||20 November 2008 (prototype), February 2009 (official version 1.0)|
The catalyst for Europeana was a letter sent by Jacques Chirac, President of France, together with the premiers of Germany, Spain, Italy, Poland and Hungary to the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Durão Barroso, in April 2005. The letter recommended the creation of a virtual European library, to make Europe's cultural heritage accessible for all.
The letter added resonance to the work that the European Commission's Information Society and Media Directorate had been engaged in for over a decade, with programmes such as Telematics for Libraries. It gave strong political endorsement to the Directorate's strategy, i2010: communication on digital libraries, which was published on 30 September 2005. The strategy announced the intention to promote and support the creation of a European digital library, as a goal within the European Union, which aims to foster growth in the information society and media industries.
The project that began the building of Europeana was called the European Digital Library Network (EDLnet) and was aimed at building a prototype of a cross-border, cross-domain, user-centred service. It was funded by the European Commission under its eContentplus programme, one of the research and development funding streams of i2010.
The prototype was launched on 20 November 2008. At its beta launch, the site gave access to 4.5 million digital objects – more than double the initial target – from over 1,000 contributing organisations, including world-famous national library, gallery and museum collections from the capitals of Europe. Due to an unexpected user surge (peaking at an estimated 10 million hits an hour), the servers were unable to cope with the massive load. The site was temporarily taken down, and after series of technical upgrades went up again in December 2008. In February 2009, the successor of EDLnet – Europeana version 1.0 – began. This 30-month project was to develop the prototype into a fully operational service. In 2010, the project accomplished its objective of giving access to over 10 million digital objects. Early in 2011, new features on the site included a translation tool and the ability to expand on information by automatically transferring the search term to Wikipedia and other services.
Europeana gives access to different types of content from different types of heritage institutions. The digital objects that users can find in Europeana are not stored on a central computer, but remain with the cultural institution and are hosted on their networks. Europeana collects contextual information – or metadata – about the items, including a small picture. Users search this contextual information. Once they find what they are looking for, if they want to access the full content of the item, they can click through to the original site that holds the content.
Different types of cultural heritage organisations – libraries, museums, archives and audiovisual collections – catalogue their content in different ways and to different standards. Approaches also vary in different countries. To make the information searchable, it has to be mapped to a single common standard, known as the Europeana Semantic Elements. This metadata standard at present takes a lowest common denominator approach to the integration of different types of digital content. In 2010 the Europeana Data Model, a richer metadata standard, was introduced to help give users more and better information.
Europeana accepts metadata about digital objects, it does not make any decisions about digitisation. The decision about which objects are digitised lies with the organisation that holds the material.
In its Strategic Plan for 2011–2015, which was published in January 2011, Europeana outlines four strategic tracks that will shape its further development:
- Aggregate – to build the open trusted source for European cultural and scientific heritage content;
- Facilitate – to support the cultural and scientific heritage sector through knowledge transfer, innovation and advocacy;
- Distribute – to make heritage available to users wherever they are, whenever they want it;
- Engage – to cultivate new ways for users to participate in their cultural and scientific heritage.
The current strategy is for the period 2015-2020.
The Europeana Foundation is the governing body of the Europeana service. Its members are the presidents and chairs of European associations for cultural heritage and information associations.
The Foundation promotes collaboration between museums, archives, audiovisual collections and libraries so that users can have integrated access to their content through Europeana and other services.
The Foundation is incorporated under Dutch law as Stichting Europeana and is housed within the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, the national library of the Netherlands. It provides a legal framework for the governance of Europeana, employing the staff, bidding for funding and enabling the sustainability of the service.
The executive director of the Europeana Foundation is Harry Verwayen.
There are a number of projects – the Europeana Group – that are contributing technology solutions and content to Europeana. These projects are run by different cultural heritage institutions, and are part-funded by the European Commission's eContentplus programme and the Information and Communications Technologies Policy Support Programme (ICT PSP).
The Europeana Group projects are:
- 3D ICONS digitising archaeological monuments and buildings in 3D
- APEx – Archives Portal Europe Network of Excellence Project
- ASSETS aims to improve the usability of Europeana.
- ATHENA aggregates museum content and promotes standards for museum digitisation and metadata.
- AthenaPlus access to cultural heritage networks for Europeana
- Biodiversity Heritage Library for Europe
- CARARE aggregates content for the archaeology and architectural heritage
- Digitising Contemporary Art (DCA)
- DM2E stimulates the creation of new tools and services for re-use of Europeana data in the Digital Humanities
- ECLAP will build a large digital library of performing arts and UGC.
- EURO-Photo digitises photographs from news agencies.
- Europeana 1914–1918 for the First World War centenary, including family histories collected in collaboration with the British Library, the National Library of Luxembourg and other institutions.
- Europeana Collections 1914-1918 which will make available 425,000 items related to the First World War for the First World War centenary. In January 2014, this material was combined with the Europeana 1914-1918 and European Film Gateway First World War material.
- Europeana Connect adds sound material to Europeana.
- Europeana Awareness a best practice network to publicise Europeana at a political level.
- Europeana Creative stimulates the creative re-use of material added to Europeana.
- Europeana Fashion will bring more than 700,000 items of fashion-related content into Europeana.
- European Film Gateway (EFG) provides more than 600,000 films and film-related content to Europeana.
- Europeana Libraries will add over 5 million digital objects to Europeana from 19 of Europe's leading research and university libraries.
- Europeana Local brings content from regional and local content holders.
- Europeana Newspapers adds records relating to 18 million newspaper pages to Europeana;
- Europeana Regia is digitising royal manuscripts from Medieval and Renaissance Europe; an exhibition of the manuscripts is available
- Europeana Sounds contributes audio material to Europeana.
- Europeana Travel will bring material associated with travel, trade, tourism and migration into Europeana.
- Europeana v1.0 is developing a fully functional Europeana website.
- EUscreen contributes television material to Europeana.
- Heritage of People's Europe (HOPE) aims to improve access to digital social history collections.
- JUDAICA Europeana looks at the Jewish contribution to Europe's cultural heritage.
- Linked Heritage aims to add substantial new content from commercial and public sectors, and enrich Europeana's metadata with a "linked data" approach.
- Musical Instrument Museums Online (MIMO)
- Natural Europe connects the digital collections of natural history museums.
- OpenUp! brings Europe's natural history heritage to Europeana
- Partage Plus digitising and enabling Art Nouveau for Europeana
- PATHS Personalised Access To cultural Heritage Spaces
- The European Library aggregates the content of national libraries.
- thinkMOTION gathers content from the field of motion systems.
Europeana and the projects contributing content to Europeana.eu have been funded by the European Commission under eContentplus, the Information and Communications Technologies Policy Support Programme (ICT PSP) and similar programmes. To participate in a wide range of projects, which are only funded by the Commission for 50–100% of the costs and do not include overheads, Europeana is also reliant for an element of its funding on Member States’ ministries of culture and education.
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2008 Europeana's prototype is launched on November 20th by Viviane Reding, European Commissioner for Information Society and Media, and the President of the Commission, José Manuel Barroso.
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- Stichting Europeana, Kamer van Koophandel (Chamber of Commerce, Netherlands) (KvK) number 27307531, located at Prins Willem-Alexanderhof 5, 's-Gravenhage (The Hague).
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