3.3 The museum sector

The digitisation of museum collections in Sweden- including archaeological collections - has been going on for several years. Since the Swedish museum field is highly decentralised, the development of digital solutions for museum collections is equally decentralised (see for example a discussion from 2010 at, search 'digitalisering 2010'). Museums are organised on different levels. State-operated museums have their own cooperative network (Centralmuseernas samarbetsråd). On the regional level, county museums are organised in another network (Länsmuseernas samarbetsråd). The patronage of local museums varies considerably and, largely for this reason, they lack the network of the larger museums. Many different solutions for collection digitisation have been established since the 1990s. For smaller museums, investment in digital collection management means a considerable economic burden. In some cases museums have coordinated their efforts and shared digitisation-related development costs. Since the publication of the digitisation policies A Digital Agenda for Europe 2010 (European Commission 2010), ICT for Everyone - A Digital Agenda for Sweden 2011 (Regeringskansliet 2011), and the heritage specific DH Strategy 2011, efforts to coordinate digitisation have increased.

The reasons for digitising collections (primarily objects but also texts of different kinds) vary considerably. Initially the main intention was to give professionals access to collections. The early initiatives therefore often focused on putting large amounts of data into the systems to cover any imaginable aspect that might be of interest to current and future research. At the same time, early museum digitisation was conducted by temporary employees with varying educational backgrounds who had been employed as part of Swedish state-supported employment initiatives.

Two examples of collection digitisation projects are the Sesam and the Access projects. Sesam ran between 1995-98, and Access between 2006-09 (Statens Kulturråd 2010). The aims of the more recent Access project were: 1) ordering of collections, 2) digitisation of these collections, and 3) provision of public access to them. Proficiency in digitising had to be developed from scratch within the project (Statens Kulturråd 2010, 20). A total of 17 million objects were digitised during the project. One conclusion was that while it was of great value that the collections became more accessible, no centralised access to the digitised collections was available. In the future, it would be necessary to coordinate access to all the digitised items through only a few websites and databases (Statens Kulturråd 2010, 23). The conclusion from the Access project was that a great deal of work remains to be done. It was also obvious that the different participants in the Access project did not produce entirely uniform information throughout the different digital systems used in the project. This led to the production of partly inconsistent and not fully coordinated sets of data. One important conclusion connected to the question on target groups was:

The digitisation of cultural heritage will undoubtedly become more meaningful if the material made accessible is of interest to citizens. (Statens Kulturråd 2010, 38, our translation)

This comment implies that the project has indeed reflected on the relevance of making the produced digital material accessible to a wider audience even if the accessibility is not entirely apparent in the project's practical outcomes (the digitised collections).

More recent efforts include more comprehensive database initiatives such as Carlotta and Primus. Carlotta has been developed within the Museums of World Cultures (formerly the Ethnographic Museum of Sweden), and is used by 11 museums and cultural institutions in Sweden. Primus is developed by the Norwegian company KulturIT and used by 12 museums and cultural institutions in Sweden today. Both Carlotta and Primus aim at being the database solution for museum needs when collections are digitised. Carlotta delivers catalogued material to the portal K-Samsök. Primus delivers to the portal Digitalt Museum. K-Samsök is a portal developed by the National Heritage Board, similar to newer portals such as the Swedish part of Digitalt Museum (developed initially in Norway) and Europeana. Data from portals like K-Samsök and Digitalt Museum can be used in applications . In the Swedish case there is a public application called Kringla, making use of information from K-Samsök in its presentations of heritage sites and objects. Another interesting and interactive web application using K-Samsök is Platsr, an interactive site aiming at giving the general public the opportunity to present their own collections and places of interest in relation to heritage.

Hence we see how the scope of digitisation has been widened alongside the development of the internet in the last ten years. Today the aims of the initiatives are not only to consider professional needs, but also to provide the general public with access to the collections. Swedish society, and its shift towards general non-discriminatory accessibility to culture and cultural heritage, serves as a political foundation of and impetus for these initiatives. Another precondition of the digitisation initiatives has been the development and proliferation of web-based data services.

In contrast to the regional and national projects, Digitalt Museum is a Scandinavian digitisation and accessibility initiative that has been supported by a relatively large group of Swedish and Norwegian museums (, Participating museums have an opportunity to make parts of their collections accessible for a wider audience on both websites. In Sweden, Digitalt Museum is used by 32 museums and in Norway the number of museums is 149. The web service also has certain interactive elements where the general public can contribute to object-related information.

As a result of the general influence of the policy documents such as digital agendas for cultural heritage in Sweden and Europe, interest in digitisation has increased rapidly in the museum sector. Additionally, one important incentive for digital preservation and display at museums beyond the traditional digitisation of collections is that several financiers are offering funds to digitise collections (Petersson 2014, 89-90). However, the character of museum collections and the abilities of some museum staff can present challenges. In comparison with other heritage institutions' principal concern with text-based archiving, it is not easy to determine what should be digitised at a museum, which digitised material should be made accessible to the general public, and how. Most museums have collections from different fields, archaeology being only one of these. Further, in contrast to libraries and archives, museums rarely have separate departments and professionals dedicated to information technology. Museum IT often grows 'organically'. Often the person who is most knowledgeable about technology is given the IT-expert role (based on interviews in December 2013 by Petersson). Therefore the aims and the quality of IT investments vary between museums, and the objectives are seldom coordinated other than on the national level in documents like the DH strategy launched by the Ministry of Culture (cf. Regeringskansliet/Kulturdepartementet 2011).

In the museum sector and in cultural heritage management, the words preserve-develop-use are often used to underline the meaning of heritage management in a wider context (cf. Kulturdepartementet 2009). Regarding digitisation in museums, the question of preservation-development-use concerns how digital documentation reaches an audience. The aim to develop and use cultural heritage relates intimately to the fundamental question of target groups and efforts as an effect of that aim. Therefore a more thorough analysis and discussion of different target groups for digitisation efforts is crucial.