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The working paper “American Cultural Heritage Initiatives: A National Review” articulated some of the factors contributing to compromised sustainability for organizations and projects that focus on digital cultural heritage. This survey of DCHIs and funding agencies confirmed many of the findings in that paper and identified others, as indicated in the following lists.

Factors identified by the National Review and reiterated by the survey participants

  • the impact of the economy and attendant budget shortfalls in all institutions
  • declines in philanthropic support resulting from the economic downturn and a change in the nature of funding by foundations
  • increasing competition and overlapping agendas among cultural heritage programs
  • lack of business plans and other planning tools and strategies
  • difficulty in communicating to the public programs that are hard to grasp or quantify and in demonstrating their importance for the public good
  • lack of standards consensus to solve complex technical and content problems, particularly those involving digital preservation
  • a political environment less receptive to the cultural community and digital initiatives

Factors identified by survey participants

  • uncertain market needs
  • unproven business models
  • transition problems (when moving from a startup to an established organization)
  • intellectual property roadblocks
  • the impact of organizational dynamics (for example, leadership changes, board development, internal competition for resources)
  • the failure of cultural organizations to operationalize digital cultural projects, leading to inadequate resources, untenable staff workloads, and poor long-term planning
  • the need for stable repositories for digital cultural resources
  • unanticipated costs of technology resources
  • difficulties in moving into an international arena
  • lack of clarity in interpreting the digital world

Factors identified by the National Review

  • technology changes that make computing more powerful, but also more fragmented
  • inadequate communication between library, scholarly, and arts communities

The findings outlined throughout this report identify concerns about the current status and tenuous state of many digital cultural initiatives. These findings, in concert with the recommendations proposed, offer a blueprint for those exploring appropriate strategies to support and strengthen digital cultural initiatives. The number and diversity of issues that affect DCHIs and jeopardize their future warrant a coordinated and consensus-driven approach to the problem.

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