Van Gogh’s down at heel boots were the first thing to appear on the test website of the European digital library. The website, branded Europeana, will break new ground by bringing together millions of digitised resources from Europe’s archives, museums, libraries-including the British Library in London- and audio visual collections through a single portal.
The site model was previewed at a conference in Frankfurt last week to holders of digital content, including curators, archivists, publishers and librarians. They were shown how a user would be able to use sophisticated browsing and searching to find paintings, photographs, objects, books, newspapers, archival records, films and sound that have been digitised by Europe’s heritage organisations.
The European Commission, a strong advocate of a European digital library, expressed its support for Europeana. Horst Forster, Director of Digital Content and Cognitive Systems in the Information Society Directorate, attended the conference, and commented, ‘Europeana is ambitious in its scale and scope. It’s making the connections between the whole network of cultural heritage digitisation programmes in Europe, and promises to be a very powerful service. It will enable citizens to explore how ideas were transmitted between countries, how political or social trends developed, how artistic movements influenced the whole continent.’
Europeana is developing practical, user-defined tools for exploring and sharing content in a multilingual interface. The tools will make it easy for users to combine or compare related material across different countries – for example the artefacts, imagery, records and writings relating to the Roman Empire, the Vikings or the Renaissance.
Van Gogh’s Pair of Shoes is also the starting point for Europeana’s promotional web video. Introduced by Nancy Sinatra’s 1966 hit, These Boots Are Made For Walkin’, the video takes the audience on a series of journeys through Europe - on pilgrimage, seeking work and marching to war.
The purpose of the video is to encourage European institutions to make their digital content available to Europeana. As Martine de Boisdeffre, Présidente of the European Regional Branch of International Council on Archives said, ‘Users expect to be able to connect the different types of cultural heritage material. To make this possible, organisations need to provide their metadata to Europeana. So many excellent digital resources lie below the surface of the web at present, and aren’t easily located by search engines. Europeana will make this material accessible as never before’.
Dame Lynne Brindley, Chair of the Management Board of the European Library and Chief Executive of the British Library, added: “Europeana will open up the unique collections of Europe’s cultural institutions to audiences worldwide. This pioneering web portal will radically transform the way in which global users interact with Europe’s rich heritage in the digital age. The British Library is proud to be part of this project, which for the first time unites Europe’s diverse cultures.”