Europeana.eu is the EU digital platform for cultural heritage. More than 3,000 institutions across Europe have contributed to Europeana. These range from major international names like the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the British Library and the Louvre to regional archives and local museums from every member of the European Union. Together, their assembled collections let users explore Europe’s cultural and scientific heritage from prehistory to the modern day. Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer, the works of Charles Darwin and Isaac Newton and the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart are some of the highlights on Europeana.
Europeana gives access to different types of content from different types of heritage institutions. The digital objects that users can find in Europeana are not stored on a central computer, but remain with the cultural institution and are hosted on their networks. Europeana collects contextual information – or metadata – about the items, including a small picture. Users search this contextual information. Once they find what they are looking for, if they want to access the full content of the item, they can click through to the original site that holds the content.
Different types of cultural heritage organisations – libraries, museums, archives and audiovisual collections – catalogue their content in different ways and to different standards. Approaches also vary in different countries. To make the information searchable, it has to be mapped to a single common standard, known as the Europeana Semantic Elements. This metadata standard at present takes a lowest common denominator approach to the integration of different types of digital content. In 2010 the Europeana Data Model, a richer metadata standard, was introduced will help to give users more and better information. Europeana accepts metadata about digital objects, it does not make any decisions about digitisation. The decision about which objects are digitised lies with the organisation that holds the material.
Users of Europeana can search amongst hundreds of thousands cultural heritage artifacts and according to the case use or reuse these in their own environment and context, for example for education purposes.