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"Lack of digitalisation could cause our cultural heritage to be lost"

​Despite the Storting's goal to allow the best possible access to cultural heritage, the majority of the collections of Norwegian cultural institutions have yet to be digitalised. "The potential consequences of this could be considerable. Without a digital copy, our cultural heritage could be lost", says Auditor General Per-Kristian Foss.

Published 2/7/2017 12:00 PM

​Document 3:4 (2016-2017) The Office of the Auditor General of Norway's investigation into the digitalisation of cultural heritage was presented to the Storting on 7 February.

The Storting believes that the community has a responsibility to safeguard the collections in archives, libraries and museums for future generations, and to give the general public access to the collections. Digitalisation is increasingly becoming a prerequisite in order to do this.

The investigation conducted by the Office of the Auditor General shows that only the National Library of Norway has made progress in line with the digitalisation report, Report to the Storting no. 24 (2008–2009). The National Library has digitalised almost its entire collection of books. Around 30 percent of artefacts in museums have been digitalised, while 27 percent of museums believe it will take more than 20 years to get up-to-date. The Norwegian Archival Services of Norway has digitalised around 2 percent of its archives.

"Progress to date cannot be said to be in line with the Storting's overall goal of the best possible access to as many cultural heritage artefacts as possible", says Auditor General Per-Kristian Foss.

Physical materials will be subject to wear when they are used, and there is a risk that the physical format may be damaged or deteriorate over time.

"The lack of digitalisation also means that our cultural heritage is not widely available to the Norwegian population, as the Storting wishes", says Foss.

Users only have access to around half of the material that has been digitalised in the archive and museum sectors online. The investigation shows that this stems primarily from the fact that records of the materials are incomplete. No sector can be said to disseminate the digital material sufficiently.

The Ministry of Culture has not actively managed the digitalisation work. Digitalisation does not have a high profile in the management dialogue, and there is little evidence that the results are being evaluated or followed up.

"The Ministry of Culture has not adequately followed up the work relating to digitalisation in the Norwegian Archival Services of Norway or the museum sector", says Foss.

The biggest challenge within the archive sector is handling digitally generated materials. During an agency management meeting, the Norwegian Archival Services of Norway stated that they face major challenges here. Nevertheless, there are few signs that the ministry has taken the initiative to overcome this problem during the period covered by the audit.

"Materials from previous phases in the history of electronic documents represent an important part of Norwegian cultural heritage, which could soon be lost unless more is done. There is a risk that archives will be lost to posterity if they are not converted to modern technical solutions", says the Auditor General.

According to the digitalisation report, the long-term storage of archive materials is so competence- and resource-intensive that the Norwegian Archival Services of Norway and the National Library should work both with each other and with the museum sector to bring about a solution. No such collaboration has been established. The lack of common solutions means that most museums currently have no arrangements for the long-term archiving of digitalised materials.

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