Analytical summary

Cooperation participants, knowledge and skills

There is a considerable variety of project participants across our and many other cases we know of. This confirms the notion of cultural and creative organisations as a group of actors of different domains that can be mobilized to communicate cultural heritage in novel ways, in the benefit of towns and regions.

The participants include museums, archives and libraries, universities and academic associations, technological research centres, creative businesses, tourism associations, municipalities, regional development agencies, foundations, civil society groups, local and international volunteers (e.g. European Youth in Action Programme), online communities, and individual citizens as important drivers of projects.

The research sector is present with many humanities scholars (e.g. archaeologists, historians, experts in arts and architecture) as well as scientists and technologists. The latter typically work in specialised research centres with a track record in cultural heritage and media projects. The cultural heritage institutions museums, archives and libraries are major providers of content and expertise as well as locations (e.g. cultural sites with information centres or small museums). Creative organisations and businesses in our sample produce multimedia, videos, imagery, 3D objects, virtual environments, mobile platforms and apps, content portals and community websites. Also the important role of funding agencies, investors and sponsors must be highlighted, especially concerning the sustainability of project results.

Thus as diverse set of knowledge and skills is involved, including project management and finances, research, content preparation and editing, technical implementation and maintenance, community involvement, organisation of tours and educational activities.

Target users

The projects aim to reach and involve users within a region, country or international, addressing in our cases local communities and stakeholders of sites, scholars, tourists, pilgrims, families, school classes and young people in general.

Importantly, the users in many cases are also project participants as contributors of own content, personal memories, observations and opinions. They have relevant knowledge, particularly the most essential local experience, and are willing to share it with others.

Local / regional and international dimension

Most projects are carried out on the local to regional level, and the particular place and context are indeed crucial in the communication of cultural heritage. Some projects are essentially local because participants are invited to contribute local knowledge and memories (e.g. Birmingham Music Archive, Vintage Vienna).

There are also projects that involve international collaboration at a particular site (e.g. Çatalhöyük) or contributions of digital collection items and information from institutions and individuals of many countries (e.g. Heritage of Portuguese Influence Portal, Virtual Shtetl). The “Berlin Wall” has a strong symbolic character internationally, while locally this legacy presents issues concerning the preservation of the physical remains of the wall and the memories of the impact it had on people’s lives.

The regional and cross-regional dimension is particularly suited for cultural routes projects, if the purpose is that tourists actually visit several places during one travel (e.g. Caminos de Sefarad, Church on the Move). Many cultural routes and “maps” however are based on historic themes and relations (e.g. trade routes, monasteries, historic figures) that allow for connecting virtually regions, towns and places across national borders, promoting the common European heritage.

Focus areas of projects

All types of historical objects and content, including intangible heritage (e.g. Edinburgh Book Trail, UK Soundmap), past and contemporary life and culture (e.g. Vintage Vienna, Virtual Shtetl) can become the core or interlinked themes of a project.

There are projects which combine research with raising awareness of the importance of local heritage (e.g. Çatalhöyük, Ename 974, Heritage of Portuguese Influence), others enhance the access and experience of local heritage with a virtual tour guide (e.g. Edinburgh Book Trail, Knappensteig), or use various Web applications to promote a cultural theme, route or town (e.g. Clunypedia, Caminos de Sefarad, Matera). Also a combination of heritage presentation and town planning, involving the citizens, is feasible (Bamberg 3D).

Many projects of course have an educational component. This can be interactive installations that allow visitors learning about the history of exhibits and the people who produced or used them (e.g. Brede Works), online learning modules for school classes (Connected Earth), or material and guidance for “do-it-yourself” regional history (Odiel’s Wheel).

Furthermore, virtual recreations of ancient and historic sites can invite users to role-play and learn about a site and particular objects (Heritage Key). In cases where virtual recreations do not qualify as scientifically correct virtual reconstructions, they can still motivate people to read information about the actual sites, their historical contexts and current state.

Ever more projects now aim at being “community-driven”, i.e. involve citizens in an online community to share own content and memories (e.g. Birmingham Music Archive, Heritage Key, Vintage Vienna). Such “crowd-sourcing” can also be used to collect content for building a special digital collection (e.g. UK Soundmap). While the content of most community portals are digital collections and information feeds of cultural organisations, increasingly citizens and travellers are invited to contribute own content and personal stories (e.g. Heritage of Portuguese Influence, Virtual Shtetl).

Financing / funding

The main funding sources of cultural heritage projects are of course national, regional and municipal governmental bodies, directly or through development agencies, heritage institutions, research councils or universities. European Union co-funding plays a major role in collaborative research & development and implementation projects, though not in our sample of projects. Also major sources are charities and foundations (especially of banks and insurance companies).

Next come tourism associations and small sponsorships or “in-kind” support of private companies and organisations. One of the projects has been financed mainly by one corporation (Connected Earth), and another involves “angel investors” (Heritage Key).
Creative industry companies, which typically are small production firms, are usually not a source of financial contributions, though may contribute “in kind” (e.g. providing a creative work or service without charging the project). One example started off by a team of students investing extra effort and own money in a project (Zeitfenster), and meanwhile they have established a creative business.

Last but not least, the private investment of time, labour and resources of individuals who initiate, promote and maintain projects merits to be highlighted (e.g. Birmingham Music Archive, Vintage Vienna). Income generated in such cases from special products (e.g. book, music album) is usually invested again in the core project.

Crowd-sourcing of financial contributions to cultural and creative projects (Röthler & Wenzlaff 2011) is not present in our cases, and on major platforms we did not find many examples of crowd-funded cultural heritage projects.

Content & IPR / licensing

The content that is used to present, communicate and share cultural heritage includes 3D models of buildings and objects, imagery, photographs (historical or produced for a project), historic maps and drawings, sound recordings (e.g. oral history interviews), videos, various multimedia, learning modules and lesson support material (e.g. worksheets for teachers and students), itineraries‎ and excursion plans, news feeds, user comments, articles, descriptions of objects, glossaries (commented terms) and bibliographic information.

Most content is communicated in a presentational and interactive form (i.e. not just offered for download as a document in PDF format). The forms include thematic sections, interactive maps and timelines on content portals, 3D models, storytelling with multimedia, game-like products, interactive installations, virtual environments, mobile augmented reality applications.

The content comes from museums, libraries, archives and private collections, research projects (e.g. scientific surveys), scholarly studies, and creative production. The latter either uses content from cultural institutions for multimedia products or is produced specifically for the project (e.g. video interviews, imagery, etc.). Of course also a lot of editorial content is produced.

Last but not least, there are the platforms where users place content which they want to contribute to a project, for example, YouTube (videos), Flickr (photographs) and Audioboo (sound recordings).

Concerning copyrights / licensing, the picture is clear in our cases, and arguably the same in a much larger sample. The rights in most cases remain fully with the providers (e.g. a museum) or producers (e.g. a media company), or are held by the funding body (e.g. a foundation). Thus “© All rights reserved” is the standard. Only three projects provide some or all content under a Creative Commons license, the Birmingham Music Archive, the Catalhöyük research project, and Heritage Key (concerning the user-contributed content).

On content sharing and social media platforms users can usually select how they wish to make their content available, either © or a more or less open license. However, this “user-generated” content is not to be understood as an “official” part of the project (see below).

In some of our cases, the projects invite user contributions to collections and websites. This is a difficult terrain, because it entails questions of IPR, licensing, quality control, and often some editorial work. Here different solutions are used, as examples see Heritage of Portuguese Influence, UK Soundmap, Vintage Heritage.


Because of the focus on communication, in all case studies information and communication technologies play an important role. These technologies are not prototypes of science & technology centres, which are not mature and therefore not fit for the purposes of heritage institutions. Though, there are examples where novel scientific technologies have been applied successfully, like in the case of the virtual reconstruction of the Roman Gladiator School for the Archaeological Park Carnuntum.

The sample of case studies includes interactive museum installations, 3D models, virtual environments, augmented reality applications, geographic information systems (GIS) and other technologies. Google Maps is used in several cases (e.g. Clunypedia, UK Soundmap, Memorial Landscape Berlin Wall), and in many other heritage projects with a geo-spatial component.

The Web-based applications include large state-of-the-art portals as well as thematically focused weblogs. A weblog is often just the right tool for a smaller project that is not heavy in content but invites citizens’ own ideas and memories about heritage objects and places.
Social media platforms, channels and tools – e.g. Facebook, Twitter (messaging) or an own weblog – are now used by ever more cultural heritage projects. They are also present as an important communicative element in several of the case studies. Social media provide a cost effective way to “spread the word” and enable users to provide ideas, comments and links.

Content sharing platforms (e.g. Flickr, YouTube, Audioboo) are typically used to share some content (e.g. images of a project) and allow project-external people to contribute own content. This allows for setting apart the core project website from content on external sites, which may include contributions that are not appropriate for the purposes of the project. For example, the core content is academic (e.g. archaeology) while there are external works of creative people (e.g. imagery of sites and objects) which do not quality as scientifically accurate.

Concerning a mobile application, a few years ago this was not a feasible option for most heritage institutions. Today the so called “app” is on the way to becoming a standard. Though not necessarily offering an augmented reality experience like in our examples (Carnuntum, Zeitfenster) and similar projects (e.g. Streetmuseum, developed by Brothers & Sisters for the Museum of London). More common are mobile guides for walking tours with a specific theme (e.g. Edinburgh Book Trail, Knappensteig). Cultural themes and places are of course a major part in all mobile city guides (e.g. Just in Time Tourist, developed by iClio, Portugal).