New skills and professionalization for the digital arena

Results of the CreativeCH workshop at the Digital Strategies in Heritage (DISH) 2013 conference (Rotterdam, Netherlands) on the 2nd of December 2013. The workshop focused on the following questions: What new skills are necessary for creating innovative (digital) cultural products and services based on cultural heritage content. What is the required mix of expertise in arts & humanities, technical applications and business development?

Workshop highlights

Collective learning environments promote versatility:
Learning to collaborate with others is essential. In any project development, knowing how to communicate with people who cover different aspects of the same problem (for example content specialists, technological and financial experts) will allow students to understand the various phases of development, and plan, design, create and manage products and services for the multimedia industry, cultural institutions and governmental agencies.

More emphasis on the business perspective of cultural heritage projects: In most current educational and early professional training programmes very little attention is placed on the managerial aspects cultural heritage projects. This should be addressed at an early stage to ensure that students have an understanding of what goes into managing a project, even if they are not in charge of handling the funds. Future cultural heritage practitioners should become good entrepreneurs. The socio-economic impact of cultural institutions and sites (e.g. museums, archaeological sites, etc.) should be incorporated in the training of future professionals.

The EuroMACHS Programme as a blueprint: The success of the “European Heritage, Digital Media and the Information Society - EuroMACHS” European Master Programme (started in 2006) shows that there is a need for specialized second-level training courses in the field of digital cultural heritage. The programme can be taken as a blueprint and implemented in universities throughout the continent. The rate of students that find employment after the course is high, mostly in start-ups, governmental and public institutions and often in their own companies.

Promoting closer collaboration with cultural institutions: Currently EuroMACHS students are assigned a project or problem mainly by the professors, though cultural institutions could suggest joint projects and be able to utilize the product developed by the students. This would allow each party to benefit from the collaboration: real-life cases addressed by the students, institutions – always low on funding – able to enhance visitor experiences with minimal budget efforts.

Cultural Heritage experiences based on solid historical facts: The CreativeCH showcase in Tuscany aims to be relevant to people with various cultural backgrounds. Therefore the showcase mixes modern technologies, such as touchscreens and mobile applications, with ancient manual skills and techniques (for example fabrication of flint tools, lighting a fire with sticks, and so on). The ancient techniques require a high level of skill that is difficult to teach, but is based on solid historical facts. The hands-on experience proved to be more educational and pleasant than viewing it through a screen, even when the clips are highly informative. The replicas of objects and the Etruscan cart were based on verifiable sources. There was scientific direction from archaeologists, who are experts in the relevant period, checking also that the re-enactments were philologically correct. Traditional training of cultural heritage professionals must not be abandoned in favour of novel technologies and skills: these are still necessary.

Need for homogenization of specializations at the European level: Throughout Europe there are many different first and second level courses in digital cultural heritage. They are difficult to identify and sporadic, and often depend on national regulations. In some countries the legislation is very flexible and the academic institutions have a certain level of autonomy in deciding how to name and structure the courses. Their existence depends only on the laws of demand and offer. In other countries, such as Italy, academic institutions have their hands tied by national regulations: all the names of first and second level courses are in a list, which can be changed only by a new law. The emphasis is on aggregating rather than on differentiating the courses offered.

Life-long learning for Cultural Heritage Institutions: A large number of heritage practitioners were trained in the Seventies and early Eighties. All they know, all the skills they have, either derive from training organized by governments, or from what they gathered on the field. Therefore, in the field of vocational lifelong learning, there is an increased demand for homogenization and facilitation at European level. The first priority is to define what sort of lifelong learning and common materials must be available for Cultural Heritage professionals. Common guidelines and examples of good practice could help to promote the implementation of this kind of training throughout Europe.

Training of lower-level and/or older generation personnel in museums: The first people you meet when visiting a museum, for example, are the less-trained, lower-level personnel: guards, security personnel, ticket office, etc. You hardly ever encounter the museum directors or the curators. It is important that all the members of staff are as well-trained as educated heritage professionals, that they are able to explain to visitors how to use the technological devices at their disposal within the building, thus enabling the museumgoer to better appreciate their experience. Much of the available training is aimed at the younger generations, who are already “tech-savvy”, but in reality older members of staff require more intensive technological education.

Bottom-level interest: Attention and interest in the field of digital cultural heritage and the educational themes discussed during the workshop comes principally from the bottom level employees of institutions, rather than from managers. There are usually small groups of enthusiasts, who place a lot of attention and interest on the topic, and who are often marginalized by top managers. We should leverage on this, to promote the change from the bottom-up.

Summary by Stephanie Williams (PIN VAST-Lab)

Workshop content

Full report of the workshop, presentations, videos, additional content and links at:

Selected material and links