Europeana: Highlighting Europe’s Heritage Through Media

Archives, audio-visual collections, museums, galleries, and libraries are working together to showcase two thousand years of Europe’s cultural and scientific heritage—images, objects, texts, sounds, and videos—through a unique service known as Europeana.

An extraordinary resource and thematic network associated with the European Commission, Europeana links the user to six million digital items, including paintings, drawings, maps, photos, and pictures of museum objects; books, newspapers, letters, diaries, and archival papers; music and the spoken word from cylinders, tapes, discs and radio broadcasts, films, newsreels, and TV broadcasts.

Europeana begins with an idea and plugs it into a whole network of influences that connect through time, across borders, and between people. A search for Mozart, for example, should bring up musical scores, documents including his letters, audio, and a video clip of a concert featuring the pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim.

Within hours of its inaugural debut online on November   , 2008, the system’s three servers in the Netherlands, where the site is based, were totally overwhelmed with the number of hits, a subsequent victim of its own success. Designers had expected a maximum of 5 million hits an hour, but what ensued was as much as three times the predicted traffic. Most of the interest came from Germany, at 17 percent, followed by France, at 10 percent, Spain at 9 percent, Italy at 6 percent, the Netherlands at 5 percent, and Belgium and the United States at 4 percent.

Europeana version 1.0 is a 2 ½  year project that will bring the Europeana.eu prototype to full service. This year the designers will implement a new version of Europeana with added functionality and access to more than 10 million digital objects. The second phase of the project features the launch in 2011 of a fully-operational Europeana.eu with improved multilinguality and semantic web features.

~Fay Renardson

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