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Digitising Contemporary Art

From January 2011 to June 2013, PACKED vzw took on the role as project coordinator of the project ‘Digitising Contemporary Art ’ (DCA), that was financially supported by the European Commission within the framework of the CIP-ICT PSP call, under the objective '2.3. Digitising Content for Europeana'.  The project aimed at digitising contemporary art objects from small to middle-size museums and other art institutions. 

Period: 2011 - 2013

About the project

Digitising Contemporary Art is a 30-month digitisation project for contemporary art, i.e. art made after 1945 - a type of cultural heritage still largely missing in Europeana . It comprises paintings, photographs, sculptures, installations, videos… DCA will create a digital corpus of high-quality reproductions of 26.921 artworks and 1.857 contextual documents, and make it accessible and retrievable through Europeana ; not only metadata and thumbnails, but also direct links to large-sized reproductions of each item. DCA assures that the rights on all available digital content will be cleared. The supplied content, including masterpieces from key artists of most European countries, will fill a gap in Europeana‘s content supply.

The main issues of the project are the choice of specifications for digitisation and metadata, in order to make them interoperable, and finding the appropriate aggregation solution for each institution. The exchange with Europeana will be the major result of the project. DCA‘s digitisation action will also contribute to the preservation of the artworks. Although DCA will create a dedicated project website, it will NOT build a website nor any other online portal to present the digitised collections. The DCA project website is available at

Target users and their needs

Seen the strong interest in contemporary art, DCA‘s content is of interest to a broad international audience (including learners of all ages), not only specialists. The digital reproductions and its metadata are likely to be of particular interest to:

  • the members of the general public, especially but not exclusively those interested in contemporary art;
  • other more specialised users:
    • mediators between the general public and the artwork and artist, like art critics, publishers, ...;
    • users from the educational field, like teachers, students, ...;
    • users from the research field., like art historians, philosophers, ...;
    • professionals in the arts field, like museums workers, guides, ...;
    • artists;
  • users from the broader field of tourism, IT technology, marketing, creative design,...;
  • the collecting institutions (reproductions can be used for research, preservation, publicity, education, ...);
  • Europeana. DCA will increase the access to contemporary art in other environments than its original museum or gallery settings. Online display through Europeana and other aggregating portals enables access to contemporary art for less mobile people, who will be able to enjoy the artworks without physically having to go to a museum.


The usage by different user groups differs in nature, but the needs are often the same: they all want easy and fast access to trustworthy, high-quality digital reproductions of contemporary artworks – and if they have no commercial intentions, they also expect to get it free of charge. Anyone will be able to consult the newly created digital content integrally on the Web. In Europeana (and other portals) they will be pointed to the original context of the found items (e.g. the museum‘s website) by a link, in order to consult enhanced visual data and additional information on the actual work. This link enriches the Europeana-experience, increases the visibility of the contributing museum‘s website and will also encourage partners to develop (apart from DCA) new web applications, e.g. tools that allow the user to create own virtual exhibitions or collections. This will result in a more interesting experience for the public of the institutions‘ contemporary art collections.


A part of the technology for reproduction and display of the high-quality digital content is already available in the contributing collecting institutions. For some digitisation actions, subcontractors will provide external digitisation facilities. The partners will provide databases for metadata and images. DCA will help the institutions to set up or adapt their database in order to comply with their own needs and the state-of-the art of metadata schemes (CDWA, Spectrum, MuseumDAT…), vocabularies (AAT, RKDartists&, ULAN…), data exchange, etc. For those institutions that cannot host large video files, DCA will set up collaboration with project GAMA. To maximize synergy, DCA will take into account Europeana‘s technical specifications (ESE, thumbnail size, IPR, etc.). DCA will identify the most suitable paths of aggregating the new content into Europeana. In cases where content cannot be ingested through existing aggregators, NTUA will provide an ingestion platform (based on the one developed in project ATHENA). For metadata mapping DCA will build on the tools developed by its partners in other projects. (e.g. NTUA mapping tool and LIDO), taking into account developments such as Linked Open Data. DCA will recommend the use of persistent identifiers.

The digital images produced in the context of DCA will become part of the digital collections of each contributing institution. They will care for their long-term sustainability, as they do for their other data and images. DCA itself will provide guidelines and assistance on how to preserve digital files and keep them accessible over a long period of time. The work package on sustainability will be entirely devoted to helping the partners create a feasible plan for future preservation of the digital content.


The DCA consortium will provide new content to Europeana: metadata and images of 26.921 artworks and 1.857 contextual documents. DCA‘s corpus includes masterpieces created within different art disciplines and by key artists of most European countries. Some of its best-known artists are: Marina Abramovic, Orla Barry, Christian Boltanski,  Marie José Burki, Gusztáv Hámos, IRWIN, Sanja Iveković, Bjorn Melhus, Carsten Nicolai, Dan Perjovschi, Fiona Tan, Blast Theory, Luc Tuymans, Steina Vasulka, Franz West,...The artworks and contextual documents belong to institutions that need support for their digitisation and contribution to Europeana. The 21 collections stem from 12 European countries: 17 stem from countries that limp behind in making their heritage accessible through Europeana (10 from Tier 1 and 7 from Tier 2 countries, countries that limp behind in their effort to make their cultural heritage accessible through the European cultural heritage portal.). DCA‘s corpus will contain texts and images, as well as video and sound material – both underrepresented in Europeana.

Consortium Partners

PACKED vzw - Platform for the Archiving and Preservation of Audiovisual Arts (PACKED), Belgium; iMinds, Belgium; National Technical University of Athens (NTUA), Greece; National Gallery of Iceland (Listasafn), Iceland; UBITECH, Greece); Reykjavik Art Museum (RAM), Iceland; Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMSU) Croatia; Museum of Modern Art (MG), Slovenia; National Gallery - Alexandros Soutzos Museum (EPMAS), Greece; argos – Centre for Art and Media, Belgium; Fundação Serralves, Portugal; Netherlands Media Art Institute (NIMk), the Netherlands; Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Spain; Ars Electronica Linz, Austria; Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium (MRBAB), Belgium; Staatliche Hochschule für Gestaltung (HfG), Germany; WRO Media Art Center Foundation, Poland; European Media Art Festival (EMAF), Germany; Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, the Netherlands; Museum of Contemporary Art Grand-Hornu (MAC), Belgium; Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art (MMCA), Greece; Frissiras Museum, Greece; Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art (LCCA), Latvia; MuZEE - Art Museum at the Coast, Belgium; Transmediale, Germany.


All public deliverables are published on the DCA website and can be downloaded in the section ‘Deliverables and documents’.

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