European cultural heritage: digital dimension

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Facilitating cooperation in preserving European cultural heritage, both material and intellectual is among recent EU efforts. Researchers and museum professionals, artists and tourist operators, etc. shall be more active in safeguarding regional cultural heritage by enable easy access to cultural content and allowing future generations to enjoy it for years to come. These efforts are expected to offer new opportunities to EU smaller museums and cultural institutions to advance digitisation by working together on joint projects. 

Presently, only 30 to 50 percent of the cultural collections in Europe have been digitalized: the statistics are even lower for three-dimensional representations of large cultural heritage structures and landscapes, which are the basis for in-depth scientific research.
Furthermore, most standards in the digital usage are not uniform, traceable or secure, which are putting Europe’s tangible and intangible cultural treasures at risk.

Previous efforts
Under the previous EU research and innovation program (Horizon 2020), more than €60 million was invested in research and innovation actions to develop tools and methodologies for preserving tangible and intangible cultural heritage, protect endangered heritage from illicit trafficking and foster access to cultural heritage and promoting cultural tourism.
Thus, actions in Horizon Europe’s cluster on “Creativity, Cultural Heritage and Inclusion” support European cultural heritage to become green and digital. The EU fosters innovation and creativity in the sector of arts and the cultural and creative industries through various programs. For the first time, the EU Creative Europe program envisages sectoral support for cultural heritage.
For example, the new European Bauhaus initiative is the flagship of the EU efforts in the field of social inclusion, sustainability and aesthetics. Following pressing requests from the cultural sector, the EU digital infrastructure will help the states better preserve European unique artifacts, cultural landscapes, historical sites and buildings in the digital age.
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Creative Europe is the European Commission’s programme for providing support to the cultural and audiovisual sectors; it invests in actions that reinforce cultural diversity and responds to the needs and challenges of the EU member states cultural and creative sectors. The new programme contributes to the recovery of these sectors, reinforcing their efforts to become more inclusive, more digital and more environmentally sustainable.
Legal basis: Regulation (EU) 2021/818 of the European Parliament and of the Council

Collaborative cloud-network
This June (21.06.2022) the Commission launched a dialogue with the EU member states (21.06.2022) on the joint creation of a Collaborative Cloud for Cultural Heritage to help safeguard European cultural treasures through a digital infrastructure. The Cloud aims at fostering cooperation and co-creation among cultural, creative and technology sectors. With an envisaged budget of €110 million until 2025 from Horizon Europe, the Collaborative Cloud will be a unique infrastructure that will enable unprecedented trans-disciplinary and large-scale collaboration between specialists, such as cultural heritage scholars, curators, archivists and conservators. It will provide cutting-edge technologies for digitising artifacts, researching artworks, and documenting data, all of which will significantly advance and add a new digital dimension to cultural heritage preservation, conservation, and restoration. It aims to facilitate the access to advanced technologies and remove barriers for smaller and remote institutions.

Modern “cloud’s development” will take place under Horizon Europe, along the EU research and innovation program for 2021-2027; this program has for the first time a cluster dealing exclusively with “Creativity, Cultural Heritage and Inclusion”, with an overall budget of €2.28 billion for 2021-2027.
The Commission will be working closely with the states to prepare the Horizon Europe work program for implementing services and tools for the cloud infrastructure; the EU-wide financing reached €110 million and the calls for proposals will be launched during 2023-2024.

More Information in: = Shaping Europe’s digital future; = Commission Recommendation on the digitisation and online accessibility of cultural material and digital preservation; = Report on a European collaborative cloud for cultural heritage; =Horizon Europe Calls for Cultural Heritage

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