HORIZON-CL2-2023-HERITAGE-01-03: Re-visiting the digitisation of cultural heritage: What, how and why?

  • Action type: Research and Innovation Actions
  • Opening date: 14 December 2022
  • Closing time: 14 March 2023 17:00 (Europe/Brussels)
  • Budget per project: € 4 000 000 of total € 12 000 000
  • Estimated number of projects funded: 3
  • Official website


The cultural heritage sector, as the rest of society, finds itself in the midst of a dramatic digital transition. This transition deeply affects its activities, its organisation, and at times the purpose or existence of its institutions and subsectors.

A key component of European and national cultural heritage policy has been, and is, the digitisation and subsequent broad access to cultural heritage . Large sums have been invested by the European Union and Member States to digitise collections, monuments and buildings, and more are likely to follow.

Digitisation of cultural heritage can bring many benefits. In terms of research, preservation, accessibility and of supporting cultural and creative innovation, digitised cultural heritage can be an enormous asset. One of the reasons why these large investments are made is that such digitised objects facilitate a wider, more creative use of Europe’s world-renowned cultural heritage, and the creation of more societal value in Europe and beyond.

However, along with the benefits of digitising cultural heritage come pitfalls. One risk may be that digitised cultural heritage is used, or misused, out of its context.

Libraries, museums and archives, as well as other collections, often have long histories. Both the collections they house and the language they use(d) to describe these collections are products of that historical legacy. Taken out of its context, such items may be used to convey messages contrary to the intended, possibly in conflict with European values or the policy of the institutions housing the collections.

Other risks may emerge from the (perceived) loss of control over the uses of the digital objects, possibly prompting cultural heritage institutions to limit the access to and the use of their digital assets, thus hampering the realisation of the wider societal value digitisation is expected to bring.

The uses of digitised cultural heritage, and the strategies that might be pursued in order to reap the full benefits while avoiding the pitfalls, have not been thoroughly researched. Proposals should address these gaps in knowledge, and elaborate evidence-based recommendations on how digitisation of cultural heritage can best be managed, as well as on how digitised cultural heritage can best be used.

The European cultural heritage sector is wide and diverse, comprised of many different actors, from large public institutions to independent artists and artisans. Moreover, the context, the cultural heritage itself and the policy landscape often vary strongly between different countries and regions. This diversity should be taken into account when elaborating recommendations, so that these can realistically be applied across Europe.


Expected Outcome: Projects should contribute to all of the following expected outcomes:

• Increased critical understanding of the potential, opportunities, barriers and risks of digitising cultural heritage.

• Research and knowledge-based recommendations and/or method(s) on how the European cultural heritage sector can better manage digitisation of their collections, including setting priorities, ensuring the correct context is reflected on the digital objects created, and guaranteeing their long term durability.

• Validated framework(s) that support the cultural heritage sector to make best use of their digital assets, in order to reap the full benefits of the digital transition and avoid the pitfalls.

• Significant contributions to help European cultural heritage institutions become more digitally adept, capable of capitalising fully on the opportunities of digital cultural heritage.

Note: To the extent possible, proposals should build on existing knowledge, activities and networks, notably the ones funded by the European Union. Furthermore, where appropriate links should be established and synergies sought with related actions, such as relevant R&I actions funded by Horizon Europe or Horizon 2020. In particular, funded proposals should liaise with the projects funded under the “European Collaborative Cloud for Cultural Heritage” calls in the frame of Horizon Europe Cluster 2, as well as, to the extent appropriate, with projects funded under the Digital Europe programme to establish a European data space for cultural heritage.

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