Go to main content
Important legal notice

EUROPA - Europe's Information Society Thematic Portal


Navigation path: European Commission > Information Society
Language navigation: en

Home | News | Calendar | Library | RSS | XML | Search | Contact | Help


Local menu


Alternate presentations: Default layout Alternate layout, printer-friendly and allows font resizing

Information Society projects :: MICHAEL

Project Logo

MICHAEL: Multilingual Inventory of Cultural Heritage in Europe

The goal of Michael is to set-up, validate and launch an online pan-European service to enable European cultural heritage to be promoted to a worldwide audience. Michael will contribute to the objectives of the eTen programme and the eEurope 2005 Action Plan by implementing a common inventory of digital cultural heritage in France, Italy and UK.

Project Statement

Issues being addressed

The cultural sector is attracting more and more new partnership and interest, as a direct result of its strategic importance for education, economic development and technological innovation in the development of digital services. MICHAEL will contribute to both cultural and economic development as digital cultural heritage resources can be easily transformed into specific cultural and tourist products. The growing interest in archaeological and cultural sites demonstrates the economic value of cultural tourism, and the huge interest in family history is creating a new market segment of 'genealogical tourism'.

Goals of the project

The key objectives of the project are to add value to the European cultural heritage and to encourage interoperability and the use of common standards across major national digital cultural heritage initiatives. The MICHAEL project is a multi-national deployment of a cultural portal platform already in use in France. It focuses on the integration and alignment of many national initiatives in the digital cultural heritage sector, including the most important initiatives in France, Italy and the UK. The project will deliver interoperability of national cultural portal initiatives and a high-quality end-user service, which will facilitate the exploitation of European cultural content resources.


Project Statement

Issues being addressed

The cultural sector is attracting more and more new partnership and interest, as a direct result of its strategic importance for education, economic development and technological innovation in the development of digital services. MICHAEL will contribute to both cultural and economic development as digital cultural heritage resources can be easily transformed into specific cultural and tourist products. The growing interest in archaeological and cultural sites demonstrates the economic value of cultural tourism, and the huge interest in family history is creating a new market segment of 'genealogical tourism'.

Goals of the project

The key objectives of the project are to add value to the European cultural heritage and to encourage interoperability and the use of common standards across major national digital cultural heritage initiatives. The MICHAEL project is a multi-national deployment of a cultural portal platform already in use in France. It focuses on the integration and alignment of many national initiatives in the digital cultural heritage sector, including the most important initiatives in France, Italy and the UK. The project will deliver interoperability of national cultural portal initiatives and a high-quality end-user service, which will facilitate the exploitation of European cultural content resources.


Characteristics

Target user addressed

The target audience includes: Students and researchers, who will find MICHAEL attractive because of its wide scope, its powerful search and retrieval functionality and the enormous body of rich cultural content that it makes available. Browsers and potential tourists, who will be attracted to it by the easy web-based user interface, by the availability to find cultural information based on the location of the original material (and thus, perhaps, included on the tour planned), and by the aesthetic beauty of the material presented.

Technical perspective

MICHAEL will be built on the SDX platform, which combines the following open-source components: Apache Tomcat java servlet engine, which includes the Apache web server Apache Cocoon publishing engine Lucene search engine and the OAI compliance XtoGen is the used application generator. SDX is a creation of a French software house, but is in the open source domain. SDX has a user community of several hundred users, and new applications of the technology are appearing on an ongoing basis. In a style similar to other open source projects, there is online support and discussion groups, FAQs, ongoing new releases etc.

Trans-european coverage

The MICHAEL consortium is made up of the national cultural ministries of Italy, France and the UK (as represented by Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, the national body for cultural integration). The main players in the consortium have a productive history of working together in the drawing up of standards and best practice models for digitisation of cultural heritage. They are participants in the National Representatives Group, set up by the 25 Member States to coordinate the development of policy in the area of digitisation of cultural heritage and advises the European Commission.

Expected benefits

The expected benefits of the MICHAEL project are closely aligned with strategic, operational and pan-Action-Line objectives of eTen. They include the following:

Contribution to eEurope 2005

MICHAEL is the implementation of a major plank in the Lund Action Plan, the set of concrete steps which embody the policy and objectives of eEurope where cultural heritage meets technology.


Progress and results

Expected Results

The expected results of the MICHAEL project are:

  1. National inventories on a common meta-data model, data model, multilingual thesaurus and service model
  2. National portals running on a common open source technical platform, localized as necessary
  3. Pan-national inventory portal
  4. Sustainable, flexible extensible model based on XML technologies
  5. Open source solution built on Apache Tomcat, Cocoon, XtoGen, etc.
  6. Methodology and model which is easy to deploy and replicate in additional countries.

Deployment Potential

The main obstacles to be overcome for deployment consist of: Obstacle 1: Other projects The value of standards for interoperable online cultural resources is well established. Most, if not all, European nations have some national projects planned, in execution or complete which have established national meta-data profiles for collections and for cultural items. The ability to view cultural material online, often at reduced resolution, as well as various techniques for accessing high-quality images (often with some purchasing element included), is attractive and has been implemented in most countries. National ministries and agencies may perceive the MICHAEL project as a duplication of work which they are already carrying out, or which they have already completed. This makes MICHAEL unattractive, since it appears inefficient to carry out the same work twice. MICHAEL will address this obstacle by underlining the international and European nature of the initiative. Just as national projects have added, or are adding, value to the distributed and heterogeneous holdings of various national memory institutions, a trans-European initiative like MICHAEL will add further value by allowing the combination of multiple national efforts. MICHAEL need not replace existing work; instead, it adds value by widening the scope of the national project, and by raising its profile on the European level. Much of the work in such national projects will have been focused on creating digital material (i.e. digitisation) and on building meta-data profiles of items and collections. This work is not wasted - its results can be mapped to the MICHAEL data model, using the tools and methodology developed during the project. Once mapped, the data can be harvested and then presented to users at a European level. Michael therefore demonstrates how the data already created can be re-used within a European context. Obstacle 2: Multilingual Issues In a European context, almost any international initiative comes up against the problem of multiple languages. In the cultural domain this is particularly important, given the important role that language plays in culture overall. If native languages are not supported (e.g. if English, for example, were to be the language used throughout MICHAEL installations), the end product would be much less attractive to the general user. MICHAEL addresses the issue of multilingualism by moving the effort of translation away from the end user and onto the project. This means that the net result of the project, the online service, will be available in the chosen language of the end user. This will ensure that the service is as attractive as possible to him. Obstacle 3: Different Data Models The MICHAEL consortium anticipates that, during any trans-European deployment, various data models will be encountered. This reflects the existing national projects mentioned above. As with the multilingualism issue addressed above, the MICHAEL consortium will themselves have addressed the identical problem themselves, as they initially deploy to France, Italy, and the UK. In the process, the correct methodology and procedures, both organisational and technical, will be identified to simplify mapping existing data models onto the NRG-agreed data models implemented by MICHAEL. Thus, when new countries join, the difficulty of establishing how best to carry out the mappings, etc. will already have been overcome. In the event that a new country has, as yet, no data model for digital cultural material, the MICHAEL data model can be used as the native format. Since the MICHAEL data model reflects international agreed best practice, this would be a sensible option for any country which did not have a large corpus of existing data. Obstacle 4: Different Legal Frameworks As new countries are recruited in a trans-European deployment, various legal systems will be encountered. It is to be anticipated that this will result in various different approaches to intellectual property rights, copyright and associated issues. These will need to be addressed on a country-by-country basis before a common set of MICHAEL services can be deployed on new bodies of content. The MICHAEL consortium has established that this issue will also arise during the initial deployment phase of the MICHAEL project. The differences between the Common Law model prevalent in the UK and the Napoleonic Law model in France are not trivial, and assume different levels of rights for the individual or institution as opposed the state or the public. The various legal frameworks will be addressed within the MICHAEL project, on a country by country basis. Unlike technical issues, these issues require local expertise in depth, as well as strong understanding of how laws and principles are interpreted in an online environment with (largely) public or institutional material. The MICHAEL consortium will have established procedures and frameworks for the three national partners; these will be to some degree useful and applicable for other countries.

Reports to be available on the Website

The project web site will follow the criteria and principles set-up at European level for cultural heritage web sites. It will include both a presentation of the outputs, and a set of recommendations and guidelines to facilitate the participation of other countries to the model.

Return to factsheet

Last update: 24/05/2011


More on this subject

Project ID card
Links
News
Publications
Browse
Quick search
Search all Information Society programme projects:
Home | News | Calendar | Library | RSS | XML | Search | Contact | Help