European Commission plans to put the continent's works of art at the fingertips of web users could be up and running by the end of the year — if EU member states are willing to commit more funding.
Europe's online cultural library — a digital repository of countries' books, music, paintings, photographs and films, accessed through a single digital archive — is set to go live this autumn, according to the Commission.
The Commission is hoping the project will allow the continent's citizens to browse, search and compare the catalogues of major museums, libraries and archives over a single web portal under the name of Europeana. The portal's demonstration site went live earlier this year as a showcase for organisations interested in submitting digital content, and now the Commission is hoping to make a full-scale version of the portal available to users before the end of the year.
However, the Commission has called on member states to invest more in the project, after earmarking around €120m (£94m) of its own funds for "improving online access to Europe's cultural heritage" between 2009 and 2010. The Commission wants both public and private investment to go into the project, in order to speed up the pace of digitisation, with just one percent of national libraries' contents now digitised.
Most countries, the Commission said, still don't have the necessary technology and know-how to digitise their cultural content. However, the Commission picked out a handful of countries for praise on their digitisation work to date, including Slovakia, which has turned an old military complex into a digitisation facility, complete with "page-turning robots".
According to the Commission, the issue of standards could raise its head as the Europeana project progresses. "Common standards need to be implemented to make different information sources and databases compatible for and usable by the European Digital Library," the Commission noted.
The Commission has also yet to resolve the question of so-called 'orphan works' — where the author is unknown or unable to be located, and therefore can't be asked the necessary permissions to allow their works to be distributed through Europeana.