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MEDICI Framework of Cooperation

20th Anniversary Report 

Creativity is one of the highest forms of human energy. It is a defining human trait that enables us to design and to use tools, and it gives us the ability to solve problems. In the modern world, creativity and its outcome—innovation— are credited as the greatest predictors for economic advancement, equal to or surpassing investments. Creativity can be a vehicle for empowerment and fulfilment or, if denied or abused, it can lead to frustration, apathy, alienation, and even violence. The role of creativity has been magnified by the explosive developments in Information and Communication Technologies. ICTs are the most powerful means to produce, preserve and communicate the fruits of human creativity, including information, know-how, knowledge, and works of art.[1]

 

The MEDICI Framework (Multimedia for EDucation and employment through Integrated Cultural Initiatives) is a framework of co-operation that was established and supervised by the European Commission. A partnership aimed at the application of new information technologies to the field of culture is being developed between the MEDICI initiative and the Council of Europe. Since 1998 MEDICI operates not just in Europe but also worldwide. The goal of MEDICI is to promote the use of advanced technologies to access, understand, preserve and promote Culture, Education and Heritage.


Introduction

The MEDICI Framework (Multimedia for EDucation and employment through Integrated Cultural Initiatives) is a framework of co-operation established in 1995 adopted and supported by the European Commission (1997) as a follow up of the previous initiative known as Memorandum of Understanding for the Multimedia Access to Europe’s Cultural Heritage. The initial goal of MEDICI was to promote the use of advanced technologies for access to, understanding, preservation and economic promotion of culture. Main action lines are: information sharing, research projects, education & training.

The use of advanced technologies allows the achievement of goals of important cultural value, which are hard or even impossible to achieve with traditional tools. This will lead us to a fuller understanding of our and others culture. Of course any form of economic exploitation must take fully into account the primordial need for preservation of the cultural heritage for future generations.

Starting from 2003 the focus of MEDICI was extended to the use of different digital and other emerging technologies supporting social and economic development.

MEDICI Framework of cooperation is a not for profit, apolitical and non-religion oriented organization. The mission of the organization is:

a.     Promote knowledge sharing and dissemination in general supporting social and economic development and more specifically in the field of culture and arts;

b.     Contribute to the preservation, study, promotion and exploitation of the natural, cultural, historical and artistic heritage. Including immoveable, moveable, tangible and intangible. The organization extends the same interests to recent and future heritage as well.

c.     To favour and support creativity with specific reference to young generations;

d.     To contribute to the development, diffusion and proper use of innovative technologies in order to let them have a positive social impact;

 

In order to achieve these goals the organization will:

1.     Activate a knowledge and best practice sharing mechanism at international level:

2.     Promote, and actively contribute to research, studies and projects related to the mission of the Cooperation Framework;

3.     Design and activate projects aimed to: educate, train and disseminate knowledge and know how even through publishing activities.

4.     Design and organise events, conferences, exhibits, workshops and seminars on the main activities and aims of the Association;

5.     Organise evaluation processes and awards, grants and contribution addressing students, researches, professors, academy, university, cultural and artistic world’ active members and operators;

6.     Favour international cooperation in the field of culture, distance education and training, creation of digital content and services, support innovation process in SMEs.

7.     In order to fulfil the mission the Cooperation Framework may take advantage from the help and cooperation coming from other Associations, Foundations, single persons and public or private bodies, both national and international having similar or similar missions or anyway sharing the scope of the Cooperation Framework.  Such cooperation may, in addition, promote friendship, cooperation, twining and mutual acknowledgement and comprehension among individuals, people and cultures.


Main activities in the last 20 years

MEDICI Framework of Cooperation, in the general framework of social and economic development operated in three main sectors: culture, education, heritage, eContent and services.


Main MEDICI Events and Initiatives

a)     International Conference Cultural Heritage Networks Hypermedia – (XI editions 1995 -2005)

b)    Cultural Heritage Symposia on the occasion of CeBIT (Hannover) (1995- 2006)?

c)     Culture Track on the occasion of the World Wide Web Conference (1996 – 2005)

d)    Best eContent and Services events and awards / World Summit Awards (2003 – 2015)

e)     Year of Culture Italy – China (cooperation)

f)     Year of Astronomy (cooperation)

g)     Year of Culture Italy – Russia (eCulture program)

 

MEDICI sessions/panels on the occasion of

a)     CultH (Vienna 1999)

b)    Medi@terra Festival (Athens 1999)

c)     ACM Multimedia (Orlando FL 1999)

d)    Cooperation with the World Bank, UNESCO and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the occasion of Culture Counts (Firenze 1999)

e)     Global Forum – eContent/eServices (2005 – 2015)

f)     World Summit on the Information Society (Tunis Phase) – MEDICI session on eContenr & Services (Tunis, 2005)

MEDICI @

Programme Chair of ACM Multimedia International Workshop on Multimedia Virtual Exhibition: Models, Technologies and Applications, October 1999 Orlando FL, Programme Chair of the Cultural Track of the IX International World Wide Web Conference, May 2000 Amsterdam (NL), Chair of panels “On culture in a world wide information society” WWW Conferences 2001,2002, 2003, Founding Chair of the International Conference Cultural Heritage Networks Hypermedia, September 1996, / Milan, Co-Chair of Infopoverty Conferences 2001,2003, Founding Chair of the panel “Business opportunities from cultural heritage” CeBIT 1998, 2007 Hannover (D).

Recent events:

World Summit on the Information Society – Summits & Forums  (2003 – 2015)

EVA Moscow (Evolving Visual Archives) – (Moscow 2003 – 2013)

UNESCO IFAP – Cultural Heritage Preservation International Conference,  (2003 Hermitage Theatre Sankt Petersburg Russian Federation)

UNESCO IFAP – Cultural Heritage Preservation International Conference,  (2005 Hermitage Theatre Sankt Petersburg Russian Federation)

UNESCO IFAP - International Conference on Preservation of Digital Information in the Information Society: Problems and Prospects (Moscow 2011)

RIA NOVOSTI - 70th Anniversary Celebrations (Moscow 2011)

UNESCO IFAP - The Moscow Declaration on Digital Information Preservation (adopted by UNESCO General Assembly 2012)

UNESCO IFAP - International Conference on Media and Information Literacy for Knowledge Societies (Moscow 2012)

UNESCO IFAP, IFLA - The Moscow Declaration on Media and Information Literacy (adopted by UNESCO General Assembly 2012)

APCEO Gansu Government, 1st International Summit on Culture Industry (Jiayuguan city, Gansu province, China 2012)

APCEO Jilin Government, Global Economic Summit Leaders (Changchun, Jilin province, China 2012)

IFAP Special Event within the First WSIS+10 Review Meeting (Paris, 2013)

UNESCO IFAP - International Conference on Internet and Socio-Cultural Transformations (Sakhalin – Russian Federation, 2013)

UNESCO IFAP - The Sakhalin Declaration on Internet and Socio-Cultural Transformations (Sakhalin, 2013)

APCEO  Jiangsu Government - The 6th Global Outsourcing Summit (GOS 2013) (Wuxi City, Jiangsu Province, China 2013)

State Hermitage Sankt Petersburg - « Boundaries of memory:  Destiny of a cultural heritage

In Armenia and Russia » (Sankt Petersburg, Russian Federation 2013)

APCEO Wuhan Government – The 2nd World Emerging Industry  Summit (WEIS 2013) (Wuhan Government, China 2013)

APCEO Gansu Province Government - The 2nd International Culture Industry Summit ICIS 2013 (Lanzhou City, Gansu Province, China, 2013)

APCEO Jilin Province Government – The 3rd Global Economic Leaders Summit (Changchun, Jilin, China, 2013)

State Hermitage Sankt Petersburg - «Boundaries of memory: Museum and Heritage of modern culture » (Sankt Petersburg, Russian Federation 2014)

Co-funded under the European Framework Programme since 2005 - IST-Africa 2014 (Mauritius 2014)

UNESCO IFAP - The Third International Conference on Linguistic and Cultural Diversity in Cyberspace (Yakutsk, Republic of Sakha Yakutia, 2014)

UNESCO IFAP - International Expert Meeting on Improving Access to Multilingual Cyberspace  (UNESCO's Headquarters in Paris, 28-29 October 2014)

APCEO Gansu Province Government - The 3rd International Culture Industry Summit (Lanzhou City, Gansu Province, China, 2014)

APCEO Gansu Province Government - The 7th International Culture Expo (Lanzhou City, Gansu Province, China, 2014)

UNESCO IFAP - Ugra Global Expert Meeting on Multilingualism in Cyberspace (Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, 4-9 July 2015)

APCEO Henan Province Government - The 3rd World Emerging Industries Summit (Zhengzhou City, Henan Province, China 2015)

APCEO Jilin Province Government - The 4th Global Economic Leaders Summit (Gels 2015) (Changchun city, Jilin Province, China, 2015)

UNESCO IFAP - IFAP International Conference on Well Being in Digital Media (Beer Sheba, Israel, 2015)

APCEO Gansu Province Government - The 4th International Culture Industry Summit (Dunhuang, Gansu Province, China, 2015)

APCEO Gansu Province Government - The 8th Gansu International Culture Expo (Dunhuang, Gansu Province, China, 2015)

ITU - World Summit on the Information Society High Level Policy Statements, MEDICI statement (Geneva, Swiss 2015)

United Nations ECOSOC - United Nations General Assembly High Level Meeting – WSIS + 10 written contributions (New York City 2015)


International Organisations and Cooperation

MEDICI is accredited at the World Summit on the Information Society since the origin 2003

MEDICI applied for the United Nations ECOSOC since 2003

Cooperation with the Council of Europe since 1999

Cooperation with The World Bank since 1999

Cooperation with UNESCO IFAP since 2003

Cooperation with Keio University since 1997

Cooperation with The Smithsonian Institution since 1997

Cooperation with Ars Electronica in Linz


Action Lines and Special Interest Groups

Within MEDICI special attention has been devoted to the needs of SMMs (Small and Medium Museums). Museums and cultural institutions, companies, governmental institutions and public and private organisations co-operate within MEDICI in several ways (working groups, common projects, other arrangements) in order to achieve the common goal of a better access and fruitful exploitation of cultural heritage.

According to the needs expressed by members, MEDICI promotes Action Lines and Special Interest Groups on topics of general interest such as virtual exhibition, multimedia access for education and tourism and more.

Action Lines should express mid- and long-term goals to be achieved through the combined action of one of more Special Interest Groups.

Special Interest Groups will gather partners who share a common specific interest/skill in the field of ICT for Cultural Heritage. SIGs will in particular issue reports and recommendations; sometimes they could generate a correspondent Competence Centre in order to provide services and solutions in the specific domain of knowledge.

Activities of these ALs and SIGs are carried out under the responsibility of their coordinators, nominated by the participants from amongst themselves.

The development of the Information Society and the increasing use of Information Communication Technology (ICT) will have a profound impact on how society presents views and interprets cultural heritage material. Considering the general role played by ICT within the society and the on-going transition toward the so called “e-society” or “information society” technological developments will permit museums and other cultural heritage institutions to redefine their traditional role and to present cultural artefacts in new ways to new audiences. ICT is to be considered a new powerful “tool” enabling the delivering of new added value services.

The intensive use of networked applications immediately recalls the possibility to recreate both the cultural context both the physical context of any artefact.

In doing so, they must collaborate with the new media industries, broadcasters, publishers, information technology and communications companies, on-line service providers and others.

The development of ICT for cultural heritage will produce new products and open up new markets, both in Europe and elsewhere. These will have an impact on employment in areas where the presentation of culture is an important component of the production chain, such as virtual exhibitions, education and tourism.

The primary aim of the Framework, which continues the process initiated with the MoU and the Charter for multimedia access to Europe's cultural heritage, is to create and maintain an open and fair co-operation environment among cultural heritage holders, industry and other players involved in the development of ICT applications and services and foster the creation of conditions for the harmonious and balanced development of the market of multimedia cultural information: the economic dimension.

Action Lines

In addition to other relevant activities the Framework promotes several Action Lines expressing the priorities in addressing the need of members. Action Lines should express mid and long-term goals to be achieved.

Members cover their own costs for their own participation both to Action Lines and Special Interest Groups.  MEDICI Framework Secretariat will provide operational support to ALs and SIGs through the Web site and other information activities.

A special AL was requested in order manage the projects and initiatives related to the year 2000, this AL was named (2000).

Action Lines from AL 2 up to AL 6 are mainly addressed to vertical (specific) sectors such as ICT in Museums and Archives of ICT for Monuments and Sites.

Below the list of ALs , which have been defined by MEDICI members:

AL1 Virtual Museums & Exhibitions General Framework

AL2 - ICT in Museums & Archives

AL3 - ICT in Science Centres and Museums

AL4 - ICT for Monuments and Sites

AL5 - Cultural Heritage, Multimedia & Education

AL6 - Cultural Heritage, Multimedia & Tourism

AL7 - Marketplace Issues & Trials

AL8 - Best Practice Handbooks

Special Interest Groups (selection)

On Culture in a World-wide Information society

This section summarises a report that describes the achievements of panels and contributions on this topic. The report distils over three years of activity in this area, will enable us to outline some of the critical issues and policy needs that must be addressed and to make recommendations about pilot projects that should be launched to fully demonstrate the role of culture in development and poverty reduction.

The report outlines how the members of the G8 can include a cultural agenda in their efforts to promote global participation and empowerment in order to advance the development goals of poverty reduction, economic growth, education, health, sanitation, and global e-commerce.

The Okinawa Charter on Global Information Society, created at the July 2000 G8 meeting in Okinawa, Japan, af rmed the importance of using ICT in for developmental purposes:

Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is one of the most potent forces in shaping the twenty- rst century. Its revolutionary impact affects the way people live, learn and work, and the way government interacts with civil society. It is fast becoming a vital engine of growth for the world economy. The essence of the IT-driven economic and social transformation is its power to help individuals and societies to use knowledge and ideas. Our vision of an Information Society is one that better enables people to ful l their potential and realize their aspirations.

The recommendations of the report are structured into four main sections:

• Cultural content


• Standards and good practices


• Access and information policies

• Frameworks and Intellectual Property Rights.

 

We will now consider each of these topics in turn.

Cultural Content

The first section discusses how developing cultural content still represents a formidable challenge:

Develop a critical mass of cultural content. We are currently in a digital dark age with respect to lack of content. Without a critical mass of information, technological capacity is a hollow structure, like a highway without cars. It is even difficult to make high-quality content available through digital channels, due to the lack of an appropriate format.

During the evolution of communication from oral traditions to manuscripts to printed books, and later on to movies and radio and television broadcasting, a specific format was adopted or readopted at each evolutionary phase. However, even though we have now entered the multimedia era, we are yet looking for a proper format for multiple media channels; we are still porting books online.

Creativity must be encouraged, and new interactive cultural expressions must be stimulated. As stated earlier, “Knowledge is not about circulation of information. It is about adding value to ideas. A Knowledge Society must provide people with opportunities to think in new ways”.

The creation of a fully interactive online culture would transform links between computers into connections between people that can stimulate ideas and new skills. We must create mechanisms that encourage the participation and empowerment of all people in developing and developed countries and allow them autonomy and control.

Standards and Good Practices

The second section of the report, entitled Standards and Good Practices, develops standards for creating and managing digital collections and guides to good practices for creating cultural content:

“Developing standards to formulate and manage data and to migrate data to new platforms is essential and will require significant investments, which in turn demand standards and terminology to ensure long-term viability of electronic information and the ability to search across databases. Good practices are needed in order to help smaller institutions and developing nations avoid reinventing the wheel” (see NINCH 2001 for a good example).

The adoption of de facto standards and the use of Internet technologies guarantees interoperability and reuse of investments.

The report, in addition, suggests the construction of a portal containing international data standards, good practices, and policy frameworks in order to promote and encourage the harmonisation of cultural content. This portal should be a basic mechanism that allows information about international standards and policies to be disseminated as quickly as possible.

In terms of enabling technologies, during the same event (WWW10), Extensible Mark-up Language (XML)—which was first introduced during WWW7 in Brisbane in 1997—was endorsed as a standard by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

Many major organisations, including memory institutions (libraries, museums, archives) and galleries, have also adopted the Dublin Core (DC) meta-data standard and the Resource Description Framework (RDF), which were developed to aid the discovery of objects and content harmonization.

Technological aspects are not enough, however; the economic sustainability of cultural services must be ensured, meaning that institutional awareness of new economic models must be promoted. Some surveys have indicated that cultural institutions can earn revenue from ICT when they market their cultural resources to media companies (in a business-to-business—B2B—fashion) or produce their own value added products and services (in a business-to-custom- ers—B2C—model).

If the cultural institutions are to extend their range of operations to include online services and content provision, the creation of a web of links with related organisations implies the hiring and training of qualified staff. Institutions must develop training programs for technicians and managers of online resources. The development of training programs at various levels (local, regional, national, international, and also institutional) is essential.

10th WWW; as a follow-up, an of official report was submitted to the G8 during the G8 Summit held in Genoa in June 2001.

The report and recommendations highlight:


• The value of the cultural agenda in development


• The potential of information and communications technologies to implement the cultural agenda by transforming information from a scarce, unequally distributed and fragmented commodity into a true public commodity

• The importance of integrating the cultural agenda and ICT into the G8 program for advancing a worldwide Information Society.

A number of suggestions and remarks were gathered, such as those regarding the Western-style top-down scrolling behaviour of web browsers and the limited number of character sets displayable on a single page (Asian servers need to be able to handle Thai, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese).

Following the summit held in October 2001 in Genoa, the Global Forum 2001: Expanding the Global e-Society held in Newcastle (UK) saw the presentation of the report from the WWW10 Panel as well as other contributions that addressed cultural aspects, such as the paper Time Rich Time Poor.

As already mentioned, a joint event managed by the Council of Europe and UNESCO, Cultural Industries and New Technologies, was held in November 2001 in Strasbourg (France). A publication entitled Vital Links for a Knowledge Culture was issued during this event. Vital Links deals with the complex relations between NICTs and culture across Europe. It starts with a discussion of the context of the general context (culture, ICT, new technologies) and the deep structures of the Knowledge Society. It then describes public access to new information and communication technologies in Europe through statistics and indices, and provides contributions devoted to various aspects of access in Europe. The last part of the publication is devoted to policy frameworks, and contains chapters entitled Cultural Policy in the Knowledge Society, Towards a Strategic Evolutionary Cultural Policy, and A Policy Network Model.

During WWW2002, a panel on culture was held (as usual), and the two distinguished panellists made some relevant remarks. The rest of the contribution, from Lynn Thiesmeyer[2], was dedicated to Indigenous Space and Cyberspace: Online Culture and Development in Southeast Asia.

The contribution outlines the chances of preserving cultural representations that are not simply object- or text-based thanks to the WWW technology. Examples of such cultural representations in mainland Southeast Asia include life practices, such as the use of space and time, which are closely associated with different agricultural models.

These practices include female-based culture and economic activities, indigenous medicine, the creation and use of hand tools, cultural adaptation to diverse geographies and climates, and indigenous knowledge. All of these rely not just on static objects or spaces, but also on movements through house- hold, communal, agricultural, and forest spaces for a variety of interlinked pur- poses. Conventional databases, as well as conventional data-gathering techniques, have so far failed to adequately capture the intangibles of space, movement and indigenous knowledge.

This is the challenge and the ultimate goal of the Multimedia Online Project for Southeast Asia: to create a practical multimedia archive with the capacity to handle several new forms of information, and to maintain a direct real-time visual link to onsite sources in rural Asia. In addition, the multimedia archive must comply with the reciprocity principle, thus providing added value to the owners of cultural content.

Kimmo Aulake[3] introduced the second topic, cultural policies, starting with the Intergovernmental Context for Culture in the Information Society, which included a list of key organisations such as UNESCO, the European Union, the Council of Europe, WTO, OECD, and the G8.

Cultural policies are legitimised by national constitutions, national laws, and international instruments and commitments. There are two main principles to consider in a discussion of cultural policies: public access and cultural diversity.

Excerpt from the report On Culture in a Worldwide Information Society

People who helped shape this report: Eleanor Fink, The World Bank Report author; Co-chair, “The Future of Online Culture” Alfredo Ronchi, MEDICI Framework, Co-chair of the session on “The Future of Online Culture” at WWW10 and coordinator of the SIG; Andrew Cameron, Maplehurst Consultants, Canadian Heritage Information Network; Mercedes Giovinazzo, Council of Europe; David Green, Founding Director, National Initiative for a Networked Cultural Heritage; Kim Machan, Director, Multimedia Art Asia Pacific; Ranjit Makkuni, Xerox, Palo Alto Research Center; Liddy Nevile, Senior Research Fellow, University of Melbourne and WWW10 Culture Track Chair; Bernard Smith, Head of Unit, Cultural Patrimony Applications, European Commission; Lynn Thiesmeyer, Director, Southeast Asia Online Archive, Keio University; Friso Visser, Expert for Cultural Patrimony Applications, the European Commission; and Shelley Sperry, report editor.

More recently, a number of different global initiatives aimed at predicting and possibly solving different problems related to the provision of universal access to information have been activated. These include, in relation to cultural preservation, UNESCO’s Intangible Heritage Task Force (2002) and South Eastern Pacific Archives (supported by Keio University); in relation to the digital divide, the G8’s Digital Opportunities Task Force (2000), UNESCO OCCAM’s Infopoverty Programme (2001), the two phases of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), the first of which was held in Geneva in December 2003 and the second held in Tunis in November 2005 (organised by UNO and ITU), and the creation of the Global Alliance for ICT and Development (GAID, in 2006).

In November 2001, a joint event managed by the Council of Europe (see New Information Technologies and the Young; Council of Europe 2000) and UNESCO, Cultural Industries and New Technologies, was held in Strasbourg (France).

Such problems must be faced and possibly solved whilst developing trans- national cultural applications.

The idea of creating a working group that deals with cultural issues in the Information Society era was launched by MEDICI in the year 2000 in cooperation with a number of institutions.


Long Term preservation of digital content

“Long Term Preservation” - Comprehensive and updated (first report Vienna ’99 – second report New York ‘04) state of the art in the field of long term preservation of digital content, taxonomy of good practice and relevant methods. Publication of a set of recommendations as a follow up of the last international meeting.

In the last decades we faced two related processes, the increasing role of electronic devices in our every day life and the “rush to digital formats”. Institutions, organisations and private companies launched a mid term programme converting their own archives in digital format. Even people at home started a “personal data” conversion toward digital format: documents, music, movies, drawings and photos left their original format and medium reshaped in “bitstreams” on digital media. It was a common understanding that digital format was the “ultimate format” in order to “freeze” information “forever”. The idea to perpetuate texts, images, artefacts once converted in “digital” has been widely shared and supported / sponsored. As a result large part of our future heritage, our legacy to future generation relies on digital technology. Here comes the major concern: is digital technology suitable for long term preservation? Is electronic machinery, actually the implementation base of digital technology, enough durable in order to guarantee future access to information? If not how can we face this problem?

Rapid changes in technology make preservation of digital content a challenge. Taking into account the huge amount of data to be filed, the amount of time to accomplish with this task and more over the period of time we need to store such information, we have to value objectively a problem up to now widely underestimated and that is the conservation for long periods of time of digital information. This subject takes us to consider two aspects, the first is technological obsolescence and the second the 'temporary instinct' of the so-called 'permanent supports'. The biological clock of ICT beats smaller time slices compared to those considered worldwide in the field of cultural heritage. Digital formats becomes suddenly obsolete and disappear. An extraordinarily long-lived solution, such as the PC/DOS in great favour for over twenty years, represents a short-lived apparition if compared to the time spent in state owned archives. Computer systems are aging, media on which information is stored are disintegrating; the magnetic technology diskette survives without problems for thousands of hours but not enough to be considered 'permanent' for those aims. Which are the long-term implications if we rely on current digital technology to preserve our cultural memory? Long term preservation of digital archives is an issue not only for cultural content but even for e-government and social services. Electronic devices are disappearing because some key components are no more available on the shelf so the only chance is update the devices if possible or have a look at vintage market, if any.

Thanks to MEDICI Framework of Cooperation on May 2004 a panel on long term preservation of digital content was held in New York on the occasion of the World Wide Web Conference . Later on, on September 2006 on the occasion of an event held in Asolo a set of recommendations was issued (may you need further information pls. refer to the publication).

Last, probably, but not the least the meeting on Digital Preservation held in Moscow in 2011 under the aegis of UNESCO IFAP, the outcome of this meeting, the Moscow Declaration on Digital Preservation, was adopted by the UNESCO General Assembly on 2012.

Digital preservation of Intangible Heritage

On the occasion of the World Wide Web International Conference held in 2005 in Chiba (Japan) MEDICI organised a panel devoted to the SIG on Digital Preservation of Intangible Heritage.

 Cultural content is not necessary related to physical objects; intangible heritage should benefit significantly from new technologies. The preservation and exploitation of intangible heritage is one of the most important cultural issues today. Various institutions have launched their own projects and actions in this field; for example, UNESCO recently established the Intangible Heritage Task Force.

Cultural expression is not limited to tangible Cultural Heritage, but also includes valuable but fragile intangible expressions that are controlled by the intelligence of the human creativeness, which comprise the intangible cultural heritage (ICH). According to the 2003 Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage, the intangible cultural heritage (ICH) is the mainspring of humanity's cultural diversity and its maintenance is a guarantee for continuing creativity. However, ICH’s creations are typically transmitted orally or by gestures and are modified over a period of time through a process of collective recreation. To this end, there is always a risk that certain elements of ICH could die out or disappear if they are not safeguarded. Furthermore, effects such as the globalization, wars, and the movement of people caused the diminishment of the unique culture of many communities and pose a risk for many other types of ICH.

Recent technological advances in ICT open new perspectives for the Preservation and Transmission of Intangible Cultural Heritage, including applications in the fields of digital libraries, media entertainment, and education. Several organizations and research projects have contributed significantly towards this direction in order to provide access to cultural resources, such as Europeana (the European Digital Cultural Heritage Library: www.europeana.eu) and many related projects.

Beijing Ancient Astronomical Observatory

The Beijing Planetarium and the Beijing Ancient Observatory are two relevant assets of the same institution starting from 1949. The Beijing Planetarium has been recently (2004) expanded thanks to the creation of new exhibition and training area including different facilities such as automated telescope, wide displays for solar crown observation and two high tech theatres.

The Beijing Ancient Observatory, is located on the third ring of Beijing not very close to the Planetarium, it was first built in 1442 in the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644) was named "Guanxiangtai". and was the national observatory in the Ming and Qing Dynasty.

Key element of the Observatory  is the observation tower  about 14 meters high. On top of this is located a set of seven astronomical instruments made in Qing Dynasty plus a New Armilla build in 1744. Similar Astronomical Instruments are no more available in other countries even because of the obsolescence of natural observation and the reuse of bronze. The whole complex is a key national relict’s protection unit now.

At ground level there is a court with four single-floor buildings hosting offices and a small museum devoted to the history of the observatory, in addition some bronze replicas of observation instruments similar to the one on top of the tower.

The instruments survived through different periods of time and events such as the war in 1900. On that occasion the instruments were damaged (e.g. bullet hole) and transferred in the French Embassy (5 of them) and Berlin (the other three). Later on, in different times, they were repositioned on the tower.

Beijing, is one of the biggest and most populous metropolis of the planet. The city animates with its lights and tall buildings far more than the third ring and embraces the observatory with a number of grand hotels and corporate buildings all around. All these aspects make very difficult to think about the actual use of the observatory as an “historical window” on the sky. Of course scientist are very interested in reactivating the observation tower and enjoy a “live experience” of pre Galilean direct observation.

From the environmental point of view this metropolis in the last 10/15 years experienced and it is still experiencing deep changes and transformations. The big boost due to the “opening” to the rest of the world and the explosion of private transportation and commercial traffic together with the escalation of tourism both domestic and international has generated  both pollution and “antropic” risk for monuments and artefacts.

Tourism both in China and towards China is increasing exponentially. Domestic tourism is becoming more and more popular in China; day by day groups of American and European tourists are doubled by Chinese tourists more and more interested in discovering the beauty and treasures of their own county.

Following such thoughts if on one side it is no more convenient to observe the sky from the tower on the other side it seems reasonable to take into account some aspects related to the preservation of such an historical patrimony, preserving, communicating and exploiting the instruments event in a touristic framework.

The activity in the field of cultural heritage was mainly devoted to refinement of an Italy China cooperation project aiming to preserve, communicate and exploit the Ancient Astronomical Observatory located in Beijing (China).

The study address the goal to improve scientific communication, it introduces a “layered” approach to the preservation, communication and exploitation of the Beijing Ancient Observatory. This means that we foresee different levels of intervention, with different phases and consequently a set of goals. Single levels or phases may be implemented separately.

The main goal of the proposal is to improve scientific communication,  as clearly stated in the title the three main action lines of the project are:

Preservation: how to protect the astronomical instruments in order to transfer them to future generation. Eventually restore them fixing minor and major damages getting closer to their original status. This only pertains to the rehabilitation of their own functionalities or the restoration of the physical aspect.

Communication: define a communication strategy by integrating real and virtual objects in order to reach a global improvement of the communication both related to the history of the observatory and to the astronomical instruments. One of the goals is to enable the direct experience of the main functionalities of such instruments in a virtual environment. Explain how they work, positive achievements and limits in the field of the astronomical observation.

Exploitation: exploit such relevant cultural and scientific assets without any risk to jeopardize their conservation. Define an exploitation strategy addressing both local and international markets. This strategy may include a close link to the new observatory and the planetarium. Expand and extend the experience of the visit from the pre-tour phase, direct fruition and post tour phase. Generate new opportunities to came back and visit again the exhibit.

The exploitation strategy will include the opportunity to develop specific merchandise both generic and educational (simulators, tools, dida box etc).


Cultural Heritage and Legal Aspects in Europe

This initiative focus on legal, policy and practice issues concerning the integration between built heritage protection and urban/spatial planning systems with specific reference to areabased protection mechanisms, conservation management plans, heritage ledregeneration, funding programmes and sustainable approaches. Practice has been examined in Western Europe, where integrated systems and practice are more developed (e.g. Denmark, England, France, Germany), and in South East Europe referring to the progress of national policies on integrated management and sustainable development. Reference have been made to guiding principles through UNESCO and Council of Europe conventions, recommendations and other charters. A case study of Grainger Town, Newcastle upon Tyne (recognised as an exemplary regeneration scheme through the European Union funded INHERIT project “Heritage Led Regeneration – Delivering Good Practice”) has been considered.


eContent & Services for social and economic development

“To Google” is simply one of the neologisms providing the evidence of a running revolution, “go digital” is the keyword. A wide range of information and services are directly delivered on our desks or mobile phones: a tight interface with public administration, healthcare, education, entertainment and more. Quality content and services are a paramount issue in such a context, technological infrastructures without “content” looks like a highway without cars or a library without books. The World Summit Award initiative posed this question very clearly all around the world and ignited the quest for “quality content”.

Through the centuries we faced a number of “revolutions” that shifted the human paradigm, this time we are crossing the “digital” river, the border line of the stating side was probably the merge of IT and Telecommunications how can we call the opposite side? Information Society? Knowledge Society? It will take some more years and technological developments to reach destination.

In the number of initiative derived from the global award the one we activated in Italy is based on three main actions running all over the year: scheduled road shows both along the country and abroad on the occasion of major events, educational projects, information days and more recently the creation of the WSA Institute for eContent located in Venice. The main aim of our project is to bridge the gap between the local lonely authors and the join international community stimulating at the same time creativity and innovation. The feedback is largely positive: an increasing number of quality products, more and more Institutions supporting the project, better results in the global contest.


MEDICI Publisher

“eContentAward 2008 year book” ISBN 978-88-95441-05-4, MEDICI Publisher 2009

“eContentAward 2009 year book”, ISBN 978-88-95441-07-8, MEDICI Publisher 2009

Global Forum 2009 - ICTS & THE FUTURE OF INTERNET: Opportunities for Stimulating & Reshaping the Economy”, ISBN 978-88-95441-08-5, MEDICI Publisher 2009

Alfredo M. Ronchi, Сотрудничество в сфере обмена собраниями цифровых материалов и культурным контентом, keynote speech on the occasion of the International Seminar “RUSSIA-EU: SIGNS ON THE ROAD MAP OF CULTURAL COOPERATION”, Moscow 8 December 2009

Alfredo M. Ronchi, From paperback to paperless (again?), proceedings Global Forum 2009, ISBN 978-88-95441-08-5, MEDICI Publisher 2009

Alfredo M. Ronchi, eCulture: Cultural Content in the Digital Age, Springer (D) 2009 , ISBN:978-3-540-75273-8


Annexes

The bright challenge of the knowledge society (by Sergio Conti)

The speed of evolution of our current society is running towards  a global brain paradigm, with key focus on the sense of the variety of interconnected human thinking and being, as coined  by Peter Russell in the  80’s. However, at this stage the anxiety of being connected and aware of everything everywhere lets us no longer enough time for the pleasure of understanding and assimilating the multifaceted variety of the cultural contents.

Spot news as pills of generalized information-knowledge may give an illusion to be sufficient to satisfy, by quantity instead of quality, the inherent need  of nutrition for our minds.  But at the same time, this new  wave of the  increased amount of stimuli is indeed a great challenge for all youngest and for all bright persons  -but everybody is progressively included-  to feed the creative curiosity and to evolve ahead. There is a clear quality issue for the cultural content to be addressed, within the mass communication and the Internet intelligence.

The last decades have boosted the ICT into an exponential trend to creating the Information Society, in which we are now fully immersed. On-line cheep communication and information on the web have resumed now the priority of content and media over the infrastructural technologies. This achievement is enabling the transition from the Information to the Knowledge Society. Herein we have a great challenge to revitalize a new renaissance era with renewed cultural  values. 

The accelerated evolution calls by now for the question “which the next society?”.

In my personal view, more symptoms can be already perceived (globalization, sustainability, climate change) to disseminate a new concept and need of consciousness-responsibility for our human being on our magic planet. Thus I like thinking we are migrating into a Consciousness Society, just powered by the global brain, which ultimately can distill all the previous stages.

 This initial reflection guides me to the great honor and pleasure to add my compliments to my friend prof.  Alfredo Ronchi and to all the MEDICI networked members,  in celebrating  the bright 20 years anniversary of MEDICI.

It is indeed a special pleasure to highlight this initiative, which has been evolving from the first trans-European networking Virtual Museum project MOSAIC  (EC TEN-Telecom Programme, mid 90’s), extended into a Cultural Heritage initiative in a wider international context. I was testimony at that time of the proactive validity of the networked knowledge concept brought into reality.

MEDICI is a successful example of how, after the first EC co-funded project, the spirit and strong commitment of the core members has been continuing on own resources to progress in the development of emerging knowledge technologies, clustering of innovative projects and valuable dissemination. Therefore I share the best wishes for the excellence’s achievements to persist in future.  

Sergio Conti

Sergio Conti  (sconti@altern.org) matured over 40 years experience in the ICT industry, also expert at the European Commission DG INFSO, then RDTI responsible at the Lombardy Region Presidency in Bruxelles, now scientific consultant also linked to the EIPA Institute for public administration of Maastricht.

 

Trends towards Networked Culture and MEDICI (by Kim Veltman)

The vision of access the whole of knowledge has a tradition that goes back at least to the Library of Alexandria. The 20th century added two new ideas: 1) that networked access to knowledge and culture would lead to a World Brain and 2) that collaborative sharing of such knowledge could lead to new research design and creativity. This essay reviews these and related trends that led to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), the MEDICI Framework and the vision of networks of excellence in culture. Although successful, the framework did not receive official support as expected. An assessment of recent European developments offers five possible reasons.

 

These two ideas were initially related and have since evolved in parallel. In Europe, for instance, there is now a curious dichotomy. One part of the Commission is pursuing networked access to knowledge (idea 1) and striving for an information society with the European Digital Library as a flagship project. Other parts of the Commission are pursuing networked collaboration (idea 2) in the form of grids, an European Research Area and speak of Knowledge Europe. Needed is a reintegration of these two ideas, a) to align our information systems with knowledge systems; b) to integrate enduring knowledge of memory institutions with emergent knowledge of our research councils, institutions of learning, design and creativity; and c) to develop systems that allow multiple ways of knowing, which Francis Bacon called “knowledges”. This integration of the two ideas could become one of the key challenges for the 21st century (idea 3). In retrospect, while the original visions of a MOU, MEDICI Framework and networks of excellence in culture need revision and expansion in scope, the need for them remains.

 


[1] 1 Passage from the “Vienna Conclusions” of the conference ICT and Creativity: Towards a Global Cooperation for Quality Content in the Information Society, held in Vienna, Austria, 23 June 2005

[2] Dr. Lynn Thiesmeyer, Coordinator, Mekhong Region Development Net / Women and Development Online, Faculty of Environmental Information Keio University, Shonan–Fujisawa Campus Endo 5322, Fujisawa, Japan 252-8520. See: http://www. sfc.keio.ac.jp/~thiesmey/widmain.html.

[3] Kimmo Aulake, Ministry of Education and Culture, Finland. 


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