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The Office of the Auditor General's investigation of the digitalisation of cultural heritage

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Summary

Background and objectives of the investigation

The collections held by archives, libraries and museums form part of our shared national heritage. The digitalisation of cultural heritage will safeguard this for the future. It will also be possible to make this heritage available and communicate it to the public without the need to visit collections in person. The Storting assumes that society has a responsibility to safeguard these resources for future generations and to provide people with democratic access to these resources.

The objective of the investigation was to assess whether the control and influence over the work to digitalise our cultural heritage is resulting in the achievement of goals.

Findings

Much of our cultural heritage has still not been digitalised

There has been an increase in both the amount and proportion of material that has been digitalised, and only the National Library of Norway has failed to make progress in line with the ambitions of the digitalisation report. The National Archives of Norway will not achieve its ambition for 10 percent digitalisation in the foreseeable future based on the current rate of progress. At the same time, 27 percent of museums believe that it will take more than 20 years before they are up to date.

Much of the digitalised material in the archive and museum sector is not available to the public

Only around half of the digitalised material in the archive and museum sector has been made available to the public. There is also considerable scope to stimulate the use of our digitalised cultural heritage that has that has yet to be utilised.

The National Archives and much of the museum sector have not prioritised the digitalisation work as anticipated

It was only in 2016 that the National Archives prepared overarching criteria for prioritisation, and until 2016 the internal plans had few specific and quantifiable goals for digitalisation. Over half of museums lack specific goals regarding the results they will achieve in their own digitalisation work.

Limited follow-up of digitalisation by the Ministry

Investigations have revealed that there has been little governance from the Ministry of Culture within the field of digitalisation. Little attention has been given to digitalisation in the management dialogue, and there is little evidence to suggest that the results are assessed or followed up.

The handling of digitally created archives is unsatisfactory

The National Archives has a limited overview of the systems in the public sector that are producing material worthy of archiving. More than 200 archive and journal systems in the public sector are not being used for administrative purposes, and require immediate follow-up to safeguard the documentation.

No joint solution has been established for long-term storage

The National Archives and the National Library of Norway should work together regarding joint long-term storage, which could also be used by museums. When cooperation broke down in 2010, the Ministry did not intervene to ensure that joint long-term storage was implemented. The absence of joint solutions means that most museums currently have no arrangements for the long-term storage of their digitalised material.

Recommendations

The Ministry of Culture should strengthen management objectives and results regarding the work to digitalise our cultural heritage

The Office of the Auditor General recommends that the Ministry of Culture:

  • Clarifies what the results of the digitalisation work should be 
  • Assesses how reporting in the area could result in more and better information regarding status and progress
  • Follows up the performance of underlying government agencies
  • Contributes to the clarification and solution of problems identified in the management dialogue, such as the issue of how digitally created archives should be managed

The Ministry of Culture should ensure that National Archives establish more systematic, uniform and focused performance management for the digitalisation process

The Ministry of Culture should facilitate cooperation between the National Archives and the National Library of Norway regarding long-term storage, and ensure that the museum sector identifies an appropriate solution for this

Ministry/ministries:

Riksrevisjonen, Storgata 16, P.O. Box 8130 Dep, 0032 Oslo, Norway

Phone: +47 22 24 10 00

Org.nr: 974 760 843