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20 December 2004
Call to show Scotland's cultural artefacts online

The Cultural Commission, a body set up to review Scotland’s cultural provision and make recommendations for the future, is being urged to ask the Scottish Executive to set up a national online archive of cultural treasures.
    Mark Jones, chairman of Scran (Scottish Cultural Resources Access Network) and a director of the Victoria and Albert museum, believes the Scottish Executive should fun all cultural bodies in Scotland to produce digital presentations of their artefacts to be displayed on line for all to see.
    Mr Jones, a former director of the National Museum of Scotland, said “Scotland has had a world-leading advantage for many years with organisations such as Scran co-ordinating cultural digitisation projects across the nation. But this leadership needs to be actively co-ordinated and funded to ensure that access to all the national cultural resources is free to the Scottish people in a format that supports individual education and lifelong learning.”
    The chief executive of Scran, Alan Blunt, added "Access isn’t just about walking through the door . It requires a national and politically funded solution for the compulsory exposure of these items to the taxpayers. How many of the 130,000 or so items of the National Galleries do they show? There is no point having thousands of paintings in storage – but they could be digitised.”
    According to legal experts there shouldn't be any problems with infringement of copyright. Jonathan Mitchell, an Edinburgh-based lawyer who is leading an investigation into creative commons licences which would allow people and organisations such as schools to re-use images and web content, said: “Practically no law would need to be passed in Scotland, because our laws are very flexible. There is a need to make a lot of material that is available more accessible and the internet is an obvious way to do this that is also potentially far cheaper.”
    James Boyle, the chairman of the Cultural Commission, welcomes Scran's proposals, and said “Obviously, it is a great idea and something the country could really benefit from, but we need to hear more about it. This is exactly the kind of initiative that we would like to hear about.”

Source: Sunday Herald (19 December 2004)

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