Neelie KROES
Vice-President of the European Commission

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Bringing Europe's cultural treasures to a new generation

Imagine you have gold in a vault but you forgot where the key is.  In times of crisis, there are not many treasures that Europe can use to boost growth and prosperity. There is one treasure we have however in Europe, for which we need a new digital key: our cultural heritage – the many millions of historical artefacts and works of art which sit in Europe's museums, galleries, and libraries - which is unparalleled across the world. Some of these are familiar, if not world-famous. Others sit locked away, hard to access, and far from public recognition. If these assets are made digital and put online, we can bring them to a wider audience, and preserve them for the next generation. They can have applications in education, tourism, or as a source for further art. They can be used by developers and for online exhibitions to which members of the public can contribute. And they can boost our growth and jobs, including in the creative sector which represents 3.3% of our GDP. Europeana is the focal point for all these efforts. It already holds 19 million digital items – from Principia Mathematica to Het Meisje met de Parel. Check out the site now and explore our cultural heritage! A formal recommendation which the Commission today made to member states will boost Europeana further. Having asked a high level reflection group for their views, and in line with the Digital Agenda, we are asking for 11 million more objects to go online by 2015, bringing Europeana to 30 million objects. That should include all of Europe's masterpieces which are out of copyright – but also the in-copyright and "orphaned" works, within the right legal framework. National governments can team up with public or private sector actors to deliver this, including through fair and balanced public-private partnerships. And I hope that lots of those interested parties will get involved – so that we can get all heritage digital, accessible and re-usable for the benefit of all citizens.
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