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8. Conclusion

In recent years there has been a surge of popular interest in the historic environment and a phenomenal growth in the use of the World Wide Wide to undertake research at all levels. It is a happy coincidence that this growth in interest has been matched by the availability of funding to digitise content. As a result, organisations from across the cultural heritage sector have been able to take advantage of ICT to offer new forms of access to their resources for users. However, users are still faced with the perennial problem of finding those resources that will be most relevant to any particular research project. Internet search engines are notorious for returning lists of thousands of irrelevant sites to inexperienced users. Creating a web-site is not enough by itself to realise the full potential of the Internet to improve access to information resources.

The Historic Environment Information Resources Network was formed to explore ways of improving access to information about the historic environment, and member organisations are collaborating in a number of projects. Two projects are particularly relevant to the problem of improving access for users to historic environment information resources. The HEIRNET register offers an invaluable aid to users by finding information about the wide range of resources that are being developed by amateur enthusiasts, academics and other professionals. HEIRPORT demonstrates the potential that ICT offers to bring resources together on-line and make them available to users in a thematic portal via a single search interface. Both projects have benefited from work to develop standards for web-technologies and information content and illustrate what can be achieved when organisations agree to work together.

It is eminently possible to 'get it together on-line' but strategic developments such as HEIRPORT depend on a shared vision and good dialogue between partners. HEIRNET has created a forum for heritage organisations to develop this vision and explore some of the issues. For the future, HEIRNET members hope that their users will be able to realise fully the benefits offered by information technology.

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