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A Survey of Digital Cultural Heritage Initiatives and Their Sustainability Concerns

report cover

by Diane M. Zorich
June 2003

Copyright 2003 by the Council on Library and Information Resources. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transcribed in any form without permission of the publisher. Requests for reproduction should be submitted to the Director of Communications at the Council on Library and Information Resources.

About the Author




Part I: Background

Participants and Process

The Selection Process
The Survey Process

Part II: Review of Digital Cultural Heritage Initiatives


Products and Services
Organizational Types
Needs Assessment
Founding History
Other Organizational Alliances
Sources of Financial Support
Business Models
Financial Management
Sustainability Issues
Becoming a Sustainable Organization

Part III: Review of Funders of Digital Cultural Heritage Initiatives

Reasons for Funding DCHIs
Funding Support
The Impact of the Economy on Funding Sources
Evaluating and Encouraging Sustainability
Special Sustainability Initiatives at Public Funding Agencies

Part IV: Recommendations

Planning and Marketing
Integration and Culling
Stable Repositories for Digital Cultural Resources
Fostering Communication Between DCHIs, Funders, and Their   Cultural Heritage Constituency

Part V: Summary


A: Participating Organizations and Contacts
B: CLIR Survey for Digital Cultural Heritage Initiatives
C: CLIR Survey for Organizations Funding Digital Cultural Heritage Initiatives

About the Author

Diane M. Zorich is an information management consultant for cultural organizations. She specializes in planning and managing the delivery of cultural information over digital networks. Her clients include the J. Paul Getty Trust, The Huntington Art Library, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Association of Museums, and many other cultural organizations and institutions.

Before establishing her consultancy, Ms. Zorich was data manager at the Association of Systematics Collections in Washington, D.C., and documentation manager at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University. She served as past president and Board member of the Museum Computer Network, and currently serves as chair of that organization’s Intellectual Property Special Interest Group.

Ms. Zorich has published and lectured extensively on issues related to network access to cultural information. She is the author of Introduction to Managing Digital Assets: Options for Cultural and Educational Organizations (1999, The J. Paul Getty Trust), and was project manager for the publication A Museum Guide to Copyright and Trademark (1999, American Association of Museums). Her forthcoming publication, Developing Intellectual Property Policies: A Guide for Museums (Canadian Heritage Information Network/National Initiative for a Networked Cultural Heritage) will be out in fall 2003.


My sincere thanks to the members of the National Review Steering Committee, particularly Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) President Deanna Marcum, for assistance in all phases of this project. Thanks are also due to Cynthia Burns and Melanie Kamm of CLIR for facilitating contacts and follow-up tasks between CLIR, the author, and survey participants. I am also grateful to Ann Schneider for discussions about the Getty Los Angeles Electronic Cataloguing Initiative and to John Unsworth, Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, and to the participants of the Allied Digital Humanities Organizations Committee (ADHOC), who allowed me access to their closed discussion list. Finally, my deepest thanks to the 38 individuals who participated in this survey on behalf of their organizations.


Nearly every organization whose mission includes promoting access to information is well aware of the value of digital collections. To cultural organizations and funders alike, the prospect of making collections available to new and distant audiences is compelling. Digital technology is finding its way into cultural organizations, and it offers great promise for enhancing access. However, digitization efforts, despite everyone’s good intentions, rise and fall on the waves of external funding.

New organizations have been created to promote and manage a growing number of digital initiatives. Some traditional organizations have added projects to accommodate the digital agenda, but they often treat these projects as special initiatives, rather than long-term programs that will require an ongoing commitment of funding, staffing, and time. The economic downturn has increased the vulnerability of many digital programs, especially those run by very small organizations that lack the human or financial resource cushion to sustain “add-on” programs.

The Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) has been watching these developments with concern. After Charles Henry, of Rice University, and Stanley Katz, of Princeton University, developed a working paper, American Cultural Heritage Initiatives: A National Review, which called for a detailed study of the situation, CLIR decided to support a study that would explore how the many small cultural organizations that have been launched in recent years will be sustained. CLIR commissioned museum consultant Diane Zorich to conduct the study. A steering committee composed of Charles Henry, Stanley Katz, Samuel Sachs, Patricia Williams, and Deanna Marcum provided guidance and advice throughout the study.

We believe the work presented here will be invaluable to all cultural organizations as they struggle to find the rightful place for digital initiatives in their agendas. We hope that funding agencies will also find the study useful.

Deanna B. Marcum
President, CLIR


AAUP   American Association of University Presses
ACH   Association for Computing in the Humanities
ACLS   American Council of Learned Societies
AfA   Americans for the Arts
AMC   American Music Center
AMICO   Art Museum Image Consortium
ARL   Association for Research Libraries
ARLIS   Art Libraries Society
BOLD   Berkman Online Lecture and Discussion Series
CAA   College Art Association
CDP   Colorado Digitization Project
CHIN   Canadian Heritage Information Network
CIMI   Consortium for the Computer Interchange of Museum Information
(organization now uses only the acronym)
CLIR   Council on Library and Information Resources
CNI   Coalition for Networked Information
DCHI   Digital cultural heritage initiatives
DCMI   Dublin Core Metadata Initiative
DHC   Dance Heritage Coalition
DLI-2   Digital Library Initiative Phase 2
EAD   Encoded archival description
ECHO   Exploring Cultural Heritage Online
GRI   Getty Research Institute
IATH   Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities
IMLS   Institute of Museum and Library Science
ISO   International Organization for Standardization
JSTOR   Journal Storage Project
LSTA   Library Services and Technology Act
MCN   Museum Computer Network
MESL   Museum Educational Site Licensing Project
MoA   Making of America
NEA   National Endowment for the Arts
NEH   National Endowment for the Humanities
NHPRC   National Historical Publications and Records Commission
NINCH   National Initiative for a Networked Cultural Heritage
NISO   National Information Standards Organization
NSF   National Science Foundation
OAC   Online Archive of California
RLG   Research Libraries Group (organization now uses only the acronym)
SAA   Society of American Archivists
SSRC   Social Science Research Council
TEI-C   Text Encoding Initiative Consortium
UVA   University of Virginia
VRA   Visual Resources Association
WWP   Women Writers Project

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