The previous week I had the pleasure of attending the International Symposium on Evaluating Digital Cultural Resources (EDCR2016). The symposium was organised by the Scottish Network on Digital Cultural Resources Evaluation and took place at the lovely Kelvin Hall in Glasgow, Scotland.
This interdisciplinary meeting brought together academics and practitioners interested in the creation, design, use, and evaluation of digital resources and collections across museums, libraries and the broader cultural heritage landscape.
The two-day programme was packed with interesting talks and activities, including a Europeana workshop and poster pechakucha style presentations. After a warm welcome from the conference organising team, Dr. M. Economou kick-started the event by summarising the main goals and objectives of the meeting.
During the first session, the speakers focused on digitisation of cultural collections and raised issues of access and impact with regards to different communities. The projects presented ranged from large European initiatives such as ENUMERATE, Europeana Cloud and Europeana Research to the local Scotland’s Sounds and a research project highlighting the concerns that surround digitization of indigenous cultural heritage. Through these presentations, it became apparent that a complete and accurate evaluation of digital collections can not be achieved without taking into account the views of the people who use them and those whose cultural heritage may be represented.
Heritage visualization and virtual environments (VR) constituted the topic of discussion during the second session. Some critical points were made by the Revisit project team regarding the low re-use of heritage visualisations, especially for educational purposes, which limits their impact potential and challenges their value. Following, Laia Pujol-Tost explained how ‘cultural presence’ can be achieved in VR environments in archaeology and presented a framework for their evaluation.
Fostering questions around the evaluation of museum collections and objects in the digital age constituted the task of the presenters in the next session; matters concerning the digital and physical parts of the collections in cultural heritage environments and how these can affect their effective evaluation and use were brought to the fore and discussed. The practitioners’ and funders’ perspective during the last session was a valuable addition to the conversation around strategic approaches towards the evaluation of digital resources and achievement of impact that had been developed up to that point.
The day closed with a public lecture delivered by Mark O’Neill from Glasgow Life who very eloquently talked about the role of museums and their collections nowadays. He looked at ‘what museums are for’ from different perspectives and stressed the important part museums can play in society; from allowing ‘different’ stories to be told to contributing to a healthy lifestyle. In other words, his lecture constituted an inspirational end to a thought provoking day.
The morning of the second EDCR2016 day was dominated by the Europeana workshop, during which we had the chance to learn how to conceive performance indicators through using the Europeana Impact Framework. The workshop involved groupwork and a hands-on approach to the investigation of issues around impact achievement in the museum environment.
The afternoon presentations examined an array of issues with regards to digital resources and their evaluation. These were related to critical views around digital design in the cultural heritage sector as well as the assessment of tools and services provided by institutions, such as museums and libraries, for engaging different group of users in the digital environment. Moreover, examples of how user requirements can be used to evaluate digital resources as well as lessons learnt from the creation of digital heritage content and use of digital libraries provided a complementary perspective to the matters that had been raised earlier.
A reflective discussion closed the EDCR2016 symposium, leaving delegates with plenty of food for thought for future conversations.
Christina Kamposiori, Programme Officer, RLUK