The fundamental challenge at the moment is to determine what steps will ensure that the Web can be greater than the sum of its parts, that is, that the museum and library presence on the Web amounts to more than a cluster of individual Web sites. No one believes that the Web will replace libraries and museums, but many can see a time when the Web blurs and eventually erodes, in the user’s mind, the current distinctions between libraries and museums. The Web is allowing the creation of new spaces in a landscape different from that of either libraries or museums. We are rapidly moving into an environment in which preconceptions formed by traditional institutional associations and proprietary control are being challenged and dissolved. How do we facilitate the migration of culturally significant artifacts and information into the Web environment and make those sites as easy to use as the best commercial sites? How do we present our collections when the Web becomes the portal to the institution?
Participants called for the following actions:
Continue the dialogue and widen the participation
- The opportunity for museum and library professionals to exchange views informally and frankly should continue, perhaps under the auspices of CLIR.
- The number and type of institutions at future meetings should be expanded to include natural history, ethnological, or archaeological museums; a different mix of local and state historical societies; special collections; and more public libraries.
- Cultural institutions should establish areas of agreement and common purpose upon which to build an agenda and seek external funding.
- While some conversations need to be held among museums and libraries, others should include technologists and commercial organizations, such as the MIT Media Lab and IBM, as well as foundations.
Coordinate common endeavors
- There should be an easily accessible inventory of ongoing cooperative digital efforts.
- Cultural institutions’ digitization efforts should be scaled up substantially. This increase cannot be achieved without an unprecedented level of interinstitutional cooperation and collaboration. The following are areas proposed for action:
Archiving: A common repository or series repositories for digital masters, a “digital Fort Knox,” to provide economies of scale and standardization for maintaining the digital assets of small, medium, and large institutions.
Digitizing: A centralized digitizing service for cultural institutions.
Portal site: A common entry site (e.g., “culture.org” or “content.edu”) that will attract a large segment of Web users, be easy to navigate, and deliver several levels of access.
Selection: Pilot projects in which institutions collaborate on digitizing related collections in different media and formats.
Gather more information
- There is a great need for cost surveys and studies from both museums and libraries.
- There is a need to further develop business models that include cost recovery and other self-sustaining features. Different strategies employed by museums and libraries, either individually or as members of consortia, must be critically evaluated and compared. Existing business models such as AMICO and JSTOR should be studied.
- User surveys and studies are critical in order to know who uses a site, what their expectations are, and how well they are being met. The Web survey done by CLIR is only a beginning.
- Focus groups of various users, from scholars to students to casual users, should be conducted.
Address intellectual property issues
- Libraries and museums must “keep counsel close at hand” when making selection decisions.
- The cultural community should decide how to influence decisions such as whether the use of thumbnail rendering of images constitutes fair use.
- Cooperative licensing agreements should be developed and agreements should be standardized.