The Digital Imperative: Envisioning The Path To Sustaining Our Collective Digital Heritage

African Digital Heritage director Chao Tayiana Maina was pleased to contribute to this seminal research on Sustainable digital heritage published by ICCROM. As digital heritage continues to dominate conversations on cultural engagement, documentation and dissemination, the report highlights the need to come up with more well-rounded digital interventions in order to create a robust, self-sustaining sector.

In 2021, ICCROM embarked on a journey to understand the needs, challenges, and goals of heritage professionals whose work relates to sustaining digital heritage. The aim of this inquiry is to develop a proposal for a programme—tentatively called Sustaining Digital Heritage—that could help fill gaps in existing opportunities for capacity development offered on this topic.

There is a new continent made of bits, powered by machines, accessible by anyone, anywhere. Every industry has a home here, including heritage. There is a rush to populate and be part of this space that has become woven into every part of our lives, from business and banking, to entertainment and education.

What do heritage organizations do in this land? Most do one or more of the following:

Engage with users, patrons, and audiences. The digital environment allows heritage organizations to meet people where they already are learning, exchanging, and creating information. It allows them to reach wider audiences than they can in the physical world, and provide access to more data and artifacts than ever before.

Maintain content. For content that was natively created in the digital domain, it must often be preserved in the same environment. Similarly, older machine-dependent content originally created on now-obsolete technologies are migrated to the digital domain in order to be maintained for future use.

Innovate. Bringing heritage content into the digital domain enables new insights and innovations, both to the heritage itself, as well as to the audiences that engage with heritage. 3D laser scanning offers a new way to study and interact with a site. Massive sets of collections data can be analyzed to generate new insights into the composition of the collection. And artificial intelligence will free up time by automating tasks.

This report shares the findings of these discussions and identifies professional development opportunities that could help practitioners develop skills and capacities to sustain digital heritage.

For more information visit: https://www.iccrom.org/publication/digital-imperative-envisioning-path-sustaining-our-collective-digital-heritage-summary

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