Have you ever heard of Europeana? It is the ambitious plan to make Europe’s entire scientific and cultural heritage freely available at a single web site. Not just books, but also papers, sound recordings, images, paintings and videos … What an exciting, fantastic tool this can be for schools, scientist and the regular citizen, would'nt you say?
Let's type in 'Derain' in the search field and see what the library offers. Derain was Matisse's colleague painter involved in discovering the art of "Wild painting" labeled Fauvism, so he surely deserves a space in this library. Not bad… today you find 1 text, 456 images, 5 videos and 2 sound bytes. Excellent! Matisse has even 14 video links, one leading to a debate with French book guru Bernard Pivot.
After 15 months, the mark of 10 million documents is approaching, Euronews says. Good news. In an update report, they indicate that France has been the best student in the class by far, adding up to 47 % of the material to the digital library. Germany is second, with 16%, then the Netherlands and the Uk with 8 percent each. In all 5 % of European books are in the database, the report says.
One for all, all for one?
Still, in order to make the engine successful, all European member states have to do their bit, or the database will remain a lesser god in search engine land, falling short to the Google monopoly. Also, the intellectual property rights and the harmonizing of the European royalties are on the agenda and need to be settled.
This seems to be a typical EU story. A great idea, with lots of wonderful positive energy. But without the real commitment of all countries in the EU, many good initiatives fall short of delivering spectacular results they could generate. And with legal restrictions to boot, to further decreasing attractiveness (but all according to the book). Google first moves then looks behind (facing… Europe for sanctions).
Could national and regional pride make it work? Hugo Claus, the Flemish author, poet, screen writer, painter, enfant terrible who died last year does not exist in Europeana, while he has 412.000 hits on Google. The Flemish might want to correct that… And with them all the other nations for their cultural heritage!
As the three musketeers of Alexandre Dumas said "One for all, all for one!"