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75/01 15 March 2001
CULTURE AT YOUR FINGERTIPS - CHRIS SMITH LAUNCHES VISION FOR CULTURE ONLINE
Opening up the nation's cultural resources to new audiences in new ways.
Watching a performance of Macbeth, visiting a museum or touring a Victorian
street will be some of the options available to people when Culture Online
becomes a reality early next year.
This vision of Britain's cultural future - where children and families have
instant access to the nation's storehouse of cultural treasures 24 hours a
day - was unveiled by Culture Secretary Chris Smith today.
The Culture Online vision report sets out how computers and the Internet can
be used in innovative ways to open up arts and culture to new audiences.
Speaking at Tate Modern, Chris Smith said:
" The Internet will allow Britain's cultural riches to reach vast new
audiences, in new ways at the click of a computer mouse. It means that for
the first time for many people our great standing collections, new
exhibitions, or live performances of world class theatre or music will be
accessible at home, at school or in public libraries.
"I believe we are using new technology in a creative way to set up a
virtuous circle. A circle where, building on the riches and wealth of talent
in our arts and cultural institutions, we can increase access and
participation, which in turn will help encourage individual creativity and
the love of learning.
"The potential applications for Culture Online are truly exciting and are a
tribute to the creative talent in our arts and cultural institutions. The
report shows how we could provide free access to the nation's culture, and
at the same time create a participatory experience that will actively
" The People's Memory is but one example. It is a project that would
enhance the users' understanding of history, while participating and
contributing materials. Afterwards it will leave a lasting cultural
resource capturing the essence of the twentieth century based on people's
own experience of it."
Culture Online aims to give both school children and life long learners easy
access to high quality cultural resources including museums, galleries, arts
organisations, film archives, and libraries, presented alongside explanatory
materials designed to enrich the learning experience.
In future, for example, a child studying Victorian Britain will be able to:
* download relevant sources of text, photographs and source materials
* take a virtual tour through a Victorian street or factory
* take part in discussion groups with other students
* call up clothing designs from the period; and
* discuss these online with a curator, and listen to children's
experiences of the work house - all without leaving their PC terminal or
And, of course, it will also provide a web presence for real cultural events
such as concerts and play rehearsals.
However, Culture Online will offer even more than that. Its emphasis will
be more on the quality of experience it offers than the quantity of
information it provides. It will create truly interactive experiences
allowing the user to engage in real cultural events such as having
discussions with curators, receiving lessons from artists, or taking tips
from theatre directors. It will also encourage both individual users and
communities to participate by allowing them to design and submit their own
materials and post them online.
A new organisation Culture Online will be set up to mastermind making the
ambitious vision a reality.
The report has been produced by Charlie Leadbeater, an ICT consultant. It
draws on advice from experts in the arts and culture world and from the
spheres of ICT and education.
Notes to editors
The Department has a £5m Development Fund for Culture Online. It has engaged
independent business strategy consultants to conduct a full economic options
appraisal which will set out a business plan for COL.
It is intended that COL will be operational as a statutory corporation
towards the end of 2001 and to produce its first wave of materials and
services by early 2002.
Culture Online is an integral part of the DCMS e-business strategy which, in
itself is a response to the Government's commitment to the UK Online
programme. This programme aims to ensure everyone who wants it has access to
the Internet by 2005 and that all Government services are online by that
date and to make Britain one of the leading knowledge economies.
The COL website is on www.cultureonline.gov.uk
Senior ICT Adviser
Resource: The Council for Museums, Archives and Libraries
Fifth Floor, 19-29 Woburn Place London WC1H 0LU
email: [log in to unmask] tel: 020 7273 8757 (direct line)
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