Handbook of Cultural and Heritage Management


7.2. The Internet and Digital Enhancement of Cultural Projects

This section deals with the digital communication’s role and potential in the emergence, planning, and –mainly– the impact of projects dealing with culture. Admittedly, this is a very broad field encompassing a range of actions from an academic research background, as the so-called “digital humanities”, to marketing strategies aiming at tourist-related services. Here we will focus on cultural projects that fall within a thematic framework defined by concepts and principles as sustainable development, soft intervention, social involvement, local entrepreneurship, experiential tourism, and synergies. This framework, which corresponds to various EU policies and funding structures, ascribes to culture a set of specific values in relation to collective identity and economic growth, between culture as a lived social reality (habitus) and as an “object” to be promoted and experienced.


From the management of cultural heritage to digital promotion and beyond


Two developments are crucial for our discussion here. The first is that culture, which until the last decades of the previous century was understood mainly as a category of “high” educational and aesthetic value expressed in emblematic architectural monuments, objects of art, musical compositions etc., became a much wider field that included everyday life, sociability, popular music and customs, cuisine, as well as the interaction of human activity with the natural environment. The economic and intellectual factors of this shift led to a diversification of interest in culture. The second development was the emergence of digital technologies, which became one of the most important vehicles for the shaping and the dissemination of this diversified interest in culture through their unprecedented communication potential.

The institutions that were in charge of cultural management (ministries, local government, museums, etc.) responded by developing websites and portals where the diverse cultural “assets” of their collection or jurisdiction were presented. At the same time, other stakeholders made their appearance. First, these institutions did not always have the competencies to build their digital profile, and relied for this on services provided by others; second, a digital presentation of culture was independent (partly, of course, because of copyright regulations) of the objects themselves, since it needed only their digitized trace. Thus, new stakeholders acquired a sort of specialization in planning and implementing digital presentations of cultural content. This shift, which was gradually intensified, followed closely the developments in digital technologies.

The picture that follows is an example of the early phase of the World Wide Web; it is a print screen from the website Old Parliament: From Action to Memory, (http://www.fhw.gr/projects/vouli/index.html, last access July 28, 2017), the first digital presentation of the National Historical Museum of Athens that is being housed in the building of the old Greek Parliament. The digital presentation was implemented in the mid-1990s by the Foundation of the Hellenic World, a non-profit Greek cultural organization.

The second picture is from the actual website of the museum. (http://www.nhmuseum.gr/en, last access July 28, 2017). The website, apart from a fully developed menu (and a query application), has incorporated a virtual tour in one of its collections, as well as links to its social media accounts. The website was organized and constructed by PostScriptum, a company specialized in digital applications for cultural institutions.

Within the framework of the European Union, the approach of culture as a lever for local development and trans-local synergies was transformed into a policy-making instrument as expressed in various cultural programmes. The next picture is from the website of the Erasmus project CultourPlus, which deals with cultural tourism along routes of religious and thermal tourism ( http://www.cultourplus.info/en/, last access August 28, 2017)

The project exemplifies the potential of synergies built around cultural projects; its consortium includes universities, local governments, SMEs and NGOs from five EU countries. In the design and structure of the website are evident the recent shifts in digital aesthetics, operability, and information architecture. The section of social media accounts is much more accentuated, as evident in the next picture.