Statement of Purpose
The ECHO initiative has been motivated by the observation that, at present, information relevant to cultural heritage still plays only a marginal role in the Internet: the number one medium for current and future scientific work, communication and general archiving.
The basic idea of the ECHO-initiative therefore is to establish an open-source culture of the public and scholarly exploitation of cultural heritage on the Internet. This idea comprises the promotion of content-driven technology in information management.
The aim is to create an Agora, a community of producers and users of culturally relevant information, who are willing to freely exchange this in order to build a joint portal and a common infrastructure.
To reach this goal it is crucial
- to adopt common standards,
- to establish unified modes of access,
- to develop and disseminate universally applicable tools,
- to engage in complementary support e.g. by building tools for existing content,
- to offer support from an innovation center,
- to stimulate an open, non-commercial exchange of content and tools,
- to set up dedicated working environments.
This infrastructure should allow every archive, library, museum, educational or scholarly institution to make their sources available online with little effort and in a way that guarantees their interoperability with other elements of the European cultural heritage, and to constitute all meaningful links that can be established automatically.
The ECHO-surplus value
Every potential ECHO-Associate will gain a characteristic ECHO-surplus value when entering the Agora by making contents or tools available on the web. The ECHO-surplus value can be achieved by using the possibilities
- to transform tools developed for particular aspects of cultural heritage into modules of a universal working environment applicable to all pertinent domains of cultural heritage,
- to enable all possible meaningful links, not just the automatic ones,
- to launch a self-sustaining dynamics leading to a steady increase of the cultural heritage available on the web, and to the development of ever more sophisticated instruments for its analysis and dissemination,
- to present content that until now could not be made freely accessible on the web to the scientific and general public,
- to make computer-assisted tools, hitherto prevented from becoming standard instruments, available to a broad community of users.
The long-term vision of ECHO is that of an electronic representation of the European cultural heritage on the web which will make it more widely available than ever before in its history and thus strengthen its function as a bond of the European community. In addition, this vision also includes a new perspective on the ways in which electronically represented sources of cultural heritage can be explored from a scholarly point of view, eventually overcoming traditional, medium-based boundaries between disciplines in favour of an overarching study of the underlying cultural worlds. The long-term vision of ECHO finally comprises the expectation that a content-driven innovation of information technology will provide a new driving force for technological development in Europe.
These ambitious goals can only be reached if the ECHO-infrastructure reaches a certain scale in both the Agora dimension and the innovation center dimension, and if bonds with all parallel European initiatives are established. The important fact is, however, not the success of ECHO as a specific project, but the survival and long-term achievement of an open-source culture for cultural heritage on the Web.