The educational potential of the digital cultural heritage

The educational potential of the digital cultural heritage

05 Nov 2023

Cultural heritage plays an essential role in education. Even though there is a multitude of languages and school curricula worldwide, the impulse to study the past in order to understand the present is universal, shared by all generations.

Digital books, films, archives, databases, photo galleries, digital exhibitions or different forms of virtual or augmented reality experience all have the potential to be part of cultural heritage.

Digital heritage is made up of computer-based materials of enduring value that should be kept for future generations. Digital heritage emanates from different communities, industries, sectors and regions. Not all digital materials are of enduring value, but those that are require active preservation approaches if continuity of digital heritage is to be maintained.

Definitions of heritage need to be seen in context. For example, UNESCO defines a world heritage made up of globally outstanding sites of cultural and natural value that should be preserved; many national and state legislatures also define their own national, regional or state heritage. However, heritage value may also be based on what is important at a group or community level. Heritage materials can exist well beyond the limits suggested by national legislation or international conventions. Anything that is considered important enough to be passed to the future can be considered to have heritage value of some kind.

According to the UNESCO’s Charter for the Preservation of Digital Heritage, resources of human knowledge or expression, whether cultural, educational, scientific and administrative, or embracing technical, legal, medical and other kinds of information, are increasingly created digitally, or converted into digital form from existing analogue resources. Many of these resources have lasting value and significance, and therefore constitute a heritage that should be protected and preserved for current and future generations. This heritage may exist in any language, in any part of the world, and in any area of human knowledge or expression.

Digital objects have the advantage of being more easily accessible to a large number of people, without them having to travel long distances or wait a long time for access to archives or museum collections. Other advantages are related to the reduced space required for storage and the possibility of presenting to the public objects that would otherwise not have an exhibition space.

In terms of preservation, although digital objects are "saved" from deterioration by the action of physical factors, they are threatened by the volatility of digital information and the continuous change of technology. Digital technologies offer new opportunities to preserve cultural content and facilitate access to cultural heritage for all audiences. Museums and cultural organizations that adopt these technologies can offer innovative visitor experiences, enable remote public access to various exhibitions and viewing of cultural material that is not on display.

We agree with the idea that heritage is “our legacy from the past, what we live with today, and what we pass on to future generations.” A heritage is something that is, or should be, passed from generation to generation because it is valued.

For this reason, we can remember the mission of the European platform: to support the cultural heritage sector in the process of digital transformation. It supports thousands of European museums, archives and libraries to provide free access to digitized versions of works of art, books and musical creations.

By Colegiul Economic Gheorghe Chitu