by Alain Michard
The objective of this project is to design and to demonstrate a distributed multimedia information system offering access to reference documents standardised notices, images, and sound samples, describing the European cultural heritage. All the information bases, managed and fed by local entities and national authorities in charge of digitising and indexing of the cultural heritage, will be connected in a consistent and interoperable network, thus offering to the user a transparent access and a global vision of the European heritage.
In most European countries an important effort has been done, often during centuries, to preserve, describe and index the cultural heritage. More recently, many public authorities or private entities have undertaken to digitalise a more or less important part of this heritage. Digitalisation means creating databases containing images, reference documents, factual data, sounds, describing as precisely as possible the items constituting the cultural heritage. Paintings, sculptures, monuments, ancient manuscripts, music instruments, historical furniture, art photographs, etc. can be described by digital information, thus offering potentially to a large population of users an easy access to our cultural heritage.
This digitalisation effort will have to be carried-on for several years to reach some completeness. Very large information bases containing millions of images and documents are rapidly going to be constituted. Users will need a transparent and easy access to this information wherever it will be located. It is therefore important to design information systems that will make possible effective management of these huge information banks, easy retrieval of the relevant information, that will address the needs of the professional users and that will facilitate the realisation of interactive presentations for the general public.
A six-months feasibility study has been carried-out between January and June 1995 to assess users' needs and the relevant technological state-of-the-art. The proposal for the main phase project has now been officially accepted by the European Commission, under the Telematics Applications Programme, Information Engineering sector.
The coordinator is ERCIM-EEIG, and the project manager is Dr Alain Michard, formerly manager of ERCIM. The main technical challenges of the project are to support query broadcasting to multilingual archive databases, to provide powerful resource-discovery facilities, and to provide tools for authoring and indexing of distributed hypermedia folders with specific SGML DTDs. The project will long for three years (1996 to 1998), with a total budget of 6,5 MECUS, and an EU-funding of 3 MECUS. It will coordinate with national and international bodies which have launched similar intiatives (e.g.: UNESCO, Getty Trust, CIMI, etc.).