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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by transcript Verlag June 15, 2021

Europeana, EDM, and the Europeanisation of Cultural Heritage Institutions

Carlotta Capurro and Gertjan Plets
From the journal Digital Culture & Society


Over the past two decades, the European Commission has mobilised cultural heritage to bolster a European identity. One of the main flagship initiatives promoted to this end has been Europeana, the most extensive digital cultural project financed by the EU. At the core of the project stands, a digital cultural portal aggregating metadata provided by national and local heritage institutions. Central in our analysis is the Europeana Data Model (EDM). Using standardised thesauri and vocabularies, EDM offers the possibility to create a semantic contextualisation for objects, allowing semantic operations on the metadata and their enrichment with Linked Open Data on the web. Due to its overarching nature, EDM cannot deliver the granularity that cultural heritage institutions need when documenting their resources. Nonetheless, heritage institutions accept to sacrifice accuracy to have their information represented in a Europewide collection. We study how this digital heritage infrastructure was designed to enact a sense of Europeanness amongst national and local institutions. Policy documents, ethnographic research and a systematic survey amongst the European heritage institutions enabled us to trace how a standardised European metadata structure plays a role in governing local and national heritage institutions. The EDM might enable heritage stakeholders to benefit from Europeana’s online exposure while enacting a European mindset. Ultimately, this study of the metadata model enriches the debate on the EU’s cultural heritage politics, which has not fully explored the role of the digital. At the same time, it also taps into debates about infrastructure and digital governmentality.

Published Online: 2021-06-15
Published in Print: 2020-12-01

© 2021 by transcript Verlag