The Archives Portal Europe (APEnet) will soon enable access to information about the collections of seventeen European national archival institutions from a single point of entry. The Nationaal Archief has participated in the APEnet project from the very beginning.
Prior to the definitive launch of the portal in January 2012, a pilot version was launched in the beginning of 2011. This first pilot led to numerous improvements, and an improved pilot version is now available online at www.archivesportaleurope.eu
Launch of Archives Portal Europe in 2012
The new pilot version will be tested and -if necessary- modified or improved over the next few months. Following this, the definitive Archives Portal Europe will be launched in January 2012. Information about the collections of the seventeen participating institutions will then be accessible to everyone from this single point of entry. But that is not the only advantage of this initiative: via the Archives Portal Europe information about digital archival material will be forwarded to Europeana, thus enabling a Europeana user to simultaneously access the digital collections of libraries, museums, archives, audio-visual collections etc. This supports the ultimate goal of making European history and culture accessible and available to a wide audience.
Expansion, innovation and sustainability: the APEX project proposal
The final version of Archives Portal Europe will be an important contribution from the archives community to the goal of online availability for all information about European cultural heritage, within a cohesive European digital infrastructure. However, it is not the end of the road:
- It is necessary to connect more countries and more (regional and local) archival institutions, which will enable online access to yet more information from the archival domain;
- Further development, sustainability and innovation of the portal (such as enhancement with web 2.0 functionality) has yet to be organised.
These issues are being addressed in a follow-up proposal from a consortium of 26 European national archival institutions to the European Commission, entitled 'Archives Portal Europe network of eXcellence' (or APEX for short).
The proposal identifies three key tasks for the national archival institutions:
- Expanding the network of participating archival institutions (so-called 'content providers') in their home countries;
- Supporting the connection of these institutions;
- Developing a network of national aggregators to provide this support. (An aggregator is an institution which collects and standardises metadata about digitised content from multiple institutions for delivery to third parties, such as the Archives Portal Europe and Europeana. This network will be part of a larger network of digital culture aggregators.)
The proposal also envisages establishing a Foundation of National Archives in Europe that could coordinate further development, innovation, and sustainability of the portal.
The APEX consortium proposal was submitted on June 1st this year in response to the ICT PSP Work Programme 'Aggregating content in Europeana' (theme 2.1). A response to the proposal is expected in a few months time.
The APEX project is closely linked to the following Dutch research & policy initiatives:
- The 'Vision on Archives' that is being released in June 2011;
- The Digital Content in Europeana research programme, commissioned by the Cultural Heritage Directorate of the Ministry for Education, Culture & Science, and undertaken by a consortium comprising the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, the Nederlands Instituut voor Beeld en Geluid, the Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed, the Stichting DEN and Erfgoed Nederland.