Managing Cultural Heritage Assets

Managing Cultural Heritage Assets
by Trinity College Dublin

By the end of this section, you should be able to…

  • Describe what Digital Cultural Heritage Assets are
  • Describe what the Cultural Heritage Reuse Data Charter is
  • Discuss who the typical CHI stakeholders are
  • Describe ways in which CHIs manage their Digital Cultural Heritage Assets

What are Digital Cultural Heritage Assets?

Digital Cultural Heritage Assets such as digital photographs, high-resolution scans of manuscripts, 3D objects and ‘born digital’ items  can be hosted by Cultural Heritage Institutions (CHIs) or by dedicated Data Centres. The data they host can be used for all sorts of purposes, by individual researchers for several different purposes, or non-academic researchers working on local history projects, family history, or even as inspiration for art, or as local school projects. To ensure that the data is used to its fullest, CHIs may choose to collaborate with a Research Infrastructure, so that researchers can make use of the best tools, services and methods available.  The benefits of such an approach mean that  scholarly use becomes easier and provides incentives and best practices to all stakeholders.

However, the very basis for collaboration between Cultural Heritage institutions and Research Infrastructures and individual scholarly use of Digital Cultural Heritage Assets is formed by a non-restrictive, easy to understand and applicable general framework that provides incentives and best practices to all stakeholders (e.g. the individual parties involved in the research process) about access, use, and reuse.  Many of the general framework aspects touch especially legal aspects which cause a lot of uncertainties on the side of the individual researchers as the necessity to care about clearing rights impacts greatly their work conditions and forms an obstacle to apply digital methods and tools in first place. For the individual cultural heritage institution a case-by-case approach can be time consuming when wishing to establish clearing rights as well as actually getting few feedback of what kind of research has been done with their data, as a question and underlying motivation of the visibility of their Cultural Heritage Assets, affects their digitisation efforts.

A better approach is to develop and use standards for licences in order to create legal certainty and the necessary freedom to work with digital tools and contents. This means that researchers planning digital humanities research projects need to pay attention to both copyright and other rights concerning the tools, research environment, and contents they are using, reusing, and creating on the one hand, and on the other hand that they need open contents to work with.   

Research Infrastructures and Digital Cultural Heritage Assets

In this context Digital Humanities and Cultural Heritage Research Infrastructures are combining their resources and efforts to improve the interplay between scientific research and CHIs. They strive to stimulate and enforce the creation and application of standards to improve interoperability of different data and data exchange; to improve the sustainability of data in general; to exchange good practices and knowledge about tools and methods; and to advance the implementation of open science and open access. They do this by promoting the integration of the FAIR Principles by acting on the pedagogical dimension of the integration of standards, that is the need to change the way of working in a digital environment.  

The Cultural Heritage Data Charter

To this end, the Cultural Heritage Data Reuse Charter is a particular initiative that was developed by DARIAH-EU and now involves a wide community of interest that includes infrastructures like CLARIN-EU, E-RIHS, Europeana and affiliated projects such as HaS, IPERION-CH, EHRI, PARTHENOS.

The Cultural Heritage Reuse Charter is neither a substitute to CHI content catalogues, nor a copyright clearing environment.  It provides information on reuse, recommendations and links to content that might be of interest for the user (catalogues, license information etc.).  It takes into consideration the relationship between the actors exchanging data and seeks to make it more practical for all actors.


Anne Baillot – The Cultural Heritage Data Reuse Charter (17 mins)

Know Your Rights!

This section was kindly contributed by Jolan Wuyts, Europeana is an initiative of the DPLA and Europeana to create easy standardized terms to describe the copyright status of cultural heritage works online. These rights statements were developed to make it easier for cultural heritage institutions to communicate the intellectual property rights of their Works and how those Works can be used by others.

The rights statements have been designed with both human users and machine users (such as search engines) in mind and make use of semantic web technology. Simplifying the use and application of Rights Statements benefits both contributing organizations, which share their valuable collections online through aggregators such as Europeana and the DPLA, and the people who engage with those collections. Understanding and using these rights statements enables Digital Humanities researchers to know which digital objects they can use and re-use, and who should be credited when using them.

Rights Statements is the result of the collaboration of Europeana and the DPLA in the international rights statements working group. In 2015, they released a whitepaper with Recommendations for standardized international Rights Statements and subsequently created as a set of rights statements that follow their recommendations. They have been widely used since their release, and have become the standard way of describing the rights of online cultural heritage works.  


FAIR Data in Trustworthy Data Repositories Webinar 
Webinar proceedings from December 2016, from an event organised by DANS, EUDAT and OpenAIRE