Small organisations and cultural institutions – a digital future?

Jaqueline Spence (Department of Information Studies, University of Wales, Aberystwyth, UK)

Program: electronic library and information systems

ISSN: 0033-0337

Publication date: 1 December 2005



This paper aims to examine how technology presents both problems and opportunities for the historian, the researcher, small organisations, and cultural heritage institutions. Ways of safeguarding historical material in digital form are suggested, and the role of cultural heritage bodies as managers of sustainable digital collections is examined.


The tools available for online access to historical material are discussed, with some comparison made between current efforts on access provision and long‐term preservation.


At present, access to historical material in digital form is often given precedence over its preservation. This could have potentially serious long‐term implications. Lack of funding for the traditional collecting bodies suggests that new mechanisms for dealing with digital archive collections need to be found. Managing digital material from its creation moves responsibility back to owners, but can provide a platform for effective transfer to new custodians at the appropriate time. Small organisations can participate, increasing the volume and diversity of available material, enriching the base of knowledge upon which history is created.

Research limitations/implications

Further research is required into possible models to enable seamless transfer through the custodial chain. Limitation: lack of quantitative analysis of existing and planned digital preservation projects.


The paper challenges the status quo and sets out some radical ideas concerning the creation, acquisition, management and preservation of digital records, and the roles of the key stakeholders in the cultural and historical domains.



Spence, J. (2005), "Small organisations and cultural institutions – a digital future?", Program: electronic library and information systems, Vol. 39 No. 4, pp. 366-380.

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Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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