Kristiin Meos (Ministry of Culture, Republic of Estonia)

Plan of Action for the Digitisation of Cultural Heritage 2018-2023 in Estonia

Estonian memory institutions have been digitising cultural heritage for more than 20 years. There are over 900 million objects that are significant for Estonian culture and deserve digitisation. However, only about 10% were digitised by 2018 and the percentage of digitised heritage differs by type. Independent resources of each institution and the interest related to its collection determines the level of digitisation, rather than the state’s overall priorities or usage statistics as a whole. Therefore, on the one hand, duplication of digitisation exists in the memory institutions, and on the other hand, an integrated digital collection cannot be created without effective cooperation.

Due to these circumstances, Estonia lacks a critical mass of digital cultural heritage content, which includes user-friendly and integrated digitised material that would cover all types of cultural heritage and would therefore be a prerequisite for the development of more business services that could make use of digitised cultural heritage.

The Plan of Action for the Digitisation of Cultural Heritage 2018-2023 was initiated by the Minister of Culture’s advisory council the Digital Heritage Council, who determined the project’s priority heritage fields. The action plan itself was created in the cooperation of the Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Education and Research and Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications. Specialists from each cultural heritage field proposed the sectoral priorities, objectives and project implementers.

The main objective of the action plan is the resource-efficient digitisation of a critical mass of the cultural heritage, as well as preserving it and making it publicly available. The sub-objectives of the action plan are:

  1. To make up to a third of the cultural heritage of Estonia’s memory institutions available digitally.
  2. To develop a consolidated architecture and service for the archiving of digital cultural heritage, its long-term storage and backup.
  3. To make the information on 1.2 million cultural heritage objects available as open data.
  4. To increase knowledge related to the digitised cultural heritage in memory institutions, partner organisations and among young people.
  5. In cooperation with partners, to create opportunities for the active reuse and processing in the private sector.
  6. To increase the awareness of the public and increase satisfaction with online services in the cultural field.

Within this action plan we are digitising heritage-based documents, printed materials, photos, artefacts, art and films from the same time period (1900-1940) and depending on the type of heritage, also earlier (in the case of documental and artistic heritage) and later periods (in the case of film and printed heritage) so that it would be possible to organise the joint utilisation of various types of cultural heritage.

As a result of the project, combined with the materials previously digitised by memory institutions, the following percentages of the material in memory institutions will be digitised by 2023: documental heritage 3%; object heritage 32%; film heritage 60%; photo heritage 60%; art heritage 55%; and printed heritage 28%. This will ensure the necessary digitised content for the effective use of heritage and operation of memory institutions’ e-services.

The total cost of realising the action plan is €9.13 million in 5.5 years, of which the amount to come from the national budget is €0.88 million and the need for EU Structural Fund investment is €8.25 million.