Culture & Heritage

Museums and Digital

Since the beginning of the digital age it has been clear that museums have their own way of adopting technology. Often more than a century old, museum structures and processes are not built for rapidly-paced innovation required by digital. At the same time, the common expectation that heritage institutions will keep playing their key role (in education and research) also in the digital age created a growing pressure on them to become active players in emerging digital ecosystems. As a result, many museums are still struggling with clear digital strategies, effective and sustainable investment of resources, and relationships with different kinds of stakeholders. Many of them are still investing significant resources in building bespoke websites and apps, often below users’ expectations and expensive to maintain

Public Platforms

To facilitate this uneasy transition to the digital and provide alternatives to commercial platforms, public platforms for culture and heritage such as Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek, Digitale Collectie, Europeana, and DP.LA were created. They operate on the same principle of aggregating large amounts of content from GLAMs with the goal to foster its active use in education, design, tourism, and other domains. While these initiatives became important advocates for open access, standards and innovation, they keep falling short on their promise of accelerating cultural content use. Their expensive aggregation infrastructures do not cope with changing content, propagating changes back to sources and, ultimately, become yet another publishing platform adding to the load of museum staff without clear value

Back to Source

The vision of the Post-Platforms Initiative is to provide an alternative to the traditional centralised aggregation: decentralised data sharing at source. This means returning control of the content sharing process to institutions and, crucially, positioning this process as the indispensable part of content management. This is a fundamental transformation requiring orchestration of various stakeholders: content owners, platforms, CMS vendors, and funders. The transition will not happen at once but after a critical mass of pioneers will adopt the new model, the lure of sharing at source will become irresistible:

  • COPE

The well worn out promise to Create Once Publish Everywhere will finally realise because data owners will indeed be responsible for publishing content only once through standard services while retaining full control of access to it by others

  • Innovation
Platforms, services and startups will get direct access to millions of content items at source, without any need for an intermediary. The rules of sharing and re-use will be crystal clear and set by the owner according to standards.
  • Cross-domain Collaboration
Collaboration within and outside cultural domain will happen naturally, by design. Everyone will be able to work with and on standardly shared cultural content without the usual friction of back and forth copying

Assuming this orchestration role is what public platforms need to do to stay relevant and deliver on their initial promise.


Assuming the new role is not only expedient for today’s public platforms to deliver on their own core promise to the community of making culture accessible to all. It is also the opportune moment for the cultural heritage sector to step up as the leader to shape the Internet of the future for everyone. Leading by example, museums, public and private platforms and authorities in the sector can make a huge global impact by making the Web human-centric and shaped by value rather than interests or inertia.

Decentralised sharing holds promises for other fundamental challenges of today: environmental sustainability, social inclusivity. Are we bold enough to lead to a better future?