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Report Examines Business Models for Digital Collections

subject: digital collections
library collections
museum collections
museum digital collections
library digital collections
online collections
sustaining collections

CLIR Press Release


For Immediate Release: August 20, 2001

Contact: Abby Smith 202-939-4758

Report Examines Business Models for  Digital Collections

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Many museums and libraries are finding that digital technology offers new ways to fulfill their core missions of education, research, and cultural enrichment. However, as cultural heritage institutions forge into the new territory of digital programming, questions of what to put online and how to sustain digital collections are being hotly debated.

In February 2001, the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) and the National Initiative for a Networked Cultural Heritage (NINCH) convened a meeting to discuss how museums and libraries are building digital collections and what business models are available to sustain them. A group of museum and library senior executives met with business and legal experts, technologists, and funders to discuss the challenges that cultural institutions face when putting collections online and to identify models for sustainability that support the core missions without contravening the internal cultures of nonprofit entities.

Using examples of six enterprises—JSTOR, HighWire Press, The International Center for Photography and George Eastman House, Questia Media, Inc., Art Museum Network, and Fathom—the report illustrates the differing approaches being used to extend the reach of collections and services online.

A discussion summary focuses on the following questions: How does a museum or library structure a business model for an online enterprise? Given the costs of a digital enterprise, can a single organization achieve success, or is collaboration necessary? How does a new digital enterprise affect the institution, and what are the new demands for staffing, technology, and marketing? And, finally, what elements are necessary to build and sustain a digital enterprise? On the basis of this discussion, participants identified a range of concerns and suggested next steps to address the short- and long-term needs of museums and libraries.

Building and Sustaining Digital Collections: Models for Libraries and Museums is available on CLIR’s Web site at Print copies will soon be available for ordering through the Web site.

The National Initiative for a Networked Cultural Heritage is a diverse coalition of organizations created to assure leadership from the cultural community in the evolution of the digital environment. The Council on Library and Information Resources acts on behalf of libraries, archives, and universities to develop and encourage collaborative strategies for preserving and providing access to scholarly resources.

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