Outcomes of the UNESCO HeritageNet Project. (A network of cultural Institutions in Central Asia)

Karpov Sergey, Project Manager,
Information Society Division CI/INF,
UNESCO Cluster Office Almaty.

: " " 1997 . 2001 . , 2001 . http://www.nii.ac.jp/dsrtokyo


The UNESCO HeritageNet Program established in 1997 (A network of cultural Institutions in Central Asia) is contributing to the international promotion of Central Asian culture and art through the development of digital cataloguing in museums and creation of cultural multimedia products. HeritageNet, through Information Society Technologies, em-bodies the ancient Silk Road, replacing the flow of spices and silk with information and images of Central Asias cultural treasures.

The European Commission DG InfoSoc has supported this Project through its International Cooperation (Inco) Program. A omplementary project has been approved of by the IST program thus enabling RTD Cooperation with the third countries (Multimedia Content and Access to Cultural Heritage). The European partner in the EC HeritageNet project, Euroclid, has developed digital cataloguing software, which will initially be introduced in Central Asian museums. The software is an open source; it is adaptable to the needs of each museum and will meet international cataloguing standards. The software is free of charge. A website is also being established to ensure support on the part of formal partners big museums to small ones. That has given equal representation rights in the Internet to all kinds of cultural insti-tutions and has resulted in a multiple effect of the network evelopment. A listserv is also being updated to promote a widespread discussion of Central Asian culture on the national, regional and international levels. Museum database related to the HeritageNet is growing and is being promoted by Focal Points in each of the Central Asian countries. Heri-tageNet related projects imply the involvement of cultural community into their implementation. Development of a series of CD- ROMs is one of the Project objectives.

Other projects include Regional School of Web Designers in Central Asia (Kyrgyzstan Bishkek), ECONET First Central Asian Network using Internet for scientific solution of environmental prob-lems related to the Aral Sea, Semipalatinsk nuclear testing ground and the Caspian Sea.


Heritage Network, multimedia, digital content, digital catalogue

1 Background

At the time this Project was initiated in Central Asia, Internet was an embryo. The project started with the Round Table meeting Using Internet in Preservation of Natural and Cultural Heritage and Tourism Development, organized by UNESCO in Almaty, Kazakhstan in September 1997. Representatives of about 40 museums, libraries, higher schools and scientific research institutions, ministries and departments, Telecom operators, Internet providers and Media took part in the Round Table discussions. As the follow-up of this event three regional centers in the Kyrgyz Republic, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan were set up in 1998. An interesting and original information has been collected in Uzbekistan in collaboration with UNDP within the framework of Cultural Tourism, Job Creation and Handicraft Development Project. As of the end of 1998 the Project has been financed by UNESCO regular Program. In May 1998 the first Website was presented at the Distance Education Workshop, Bishkek, and later in October at the Eurasia Online Conference held within the framework of UNESCO and the European Commission DENEMA project. Since that time HeritageNet has become an extra-budgetary project with the financial support from the European Commission programs such as Telematics Applications as well as from Educational Multimedia Task Force. Several European organizations such as IIS (Greece) and Euroclid (France) were involved into the project.Since 1997 more than 17 national and sub-regional workshops and trainings have been held and 8 CD-ROMs have been produced. For the time being new phase of the HeritageNet project is being considered under Cultural Heritage Applications Program, Directorate General of Information Society of the EUROPEAN COMMISSION

2 Objectives

The objectives can be characterized as follows:
-to promote Culture & Art of Central Asia
-to enhance expertise for research & cultural Heritage preservation

3 Partners

HeritageNet Partners - possible content providers
Academician organizations 61, Archives 2, Libraries 34, Mass Media 14, Monuments protection related agencies 10, Museums 96, UNESCO National Commissions 4, NGOs 5, Theatres 17, Tourism organizations 3, Total 247,

Some of the partners of the HeritageNet Project are formal ones. For instance:
Central State Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan
State Historical Museum of the Kyrgyz Republic
State Scientific Library, Tajikistan
Oltin Meros Foundation, Uzbekistan
All of them signed HeritageNet Agreement in 11.05.99 in Paris.

Other agreement signers:
State Archaeological Museum, Kazakhstan
Institute of Archeology, Kazakhstan
National Museum, Turkmenistan,
National Library, Kyrgyzstan
Regional Museum of Local History and Regional Art Museum, Pavlodar, Kazakhstan
Museum named after M.O.Auezov, Kazakhstan
More details: http://www.heritagenet.unesco.kz/db/List_of_HN_Partners.htm.

4 HeritageNet Agreement

Recognizing that Central Asia is the region with extremely rich cultural heritage the adhere to certain norms set out in the document with 10 Paragraphs and 8 Articles. This agreement is in full conformity with UNESCO policy aimed at achieving universal access to the information in public domain. For this purpose Central Asian countries are to develop their own specific policy. The agreement is available in the HN Internet forum http://ubb.freenet.kz/heritagenet

5 Related Activities

Related Projects and activities implemented in Central Asia:
DENEMA Development of New Markets for Telematics Application in Central Asia
TeleInVivo portable telemedicine workstation for distance ultrasound diagnostic purposes
Regional School of Young Web Designers, Bishkek
Information Processing Tools regional workshop in September, 2000
RSDN Regional Network of Software Developers in South Caucasus Project
LINUX and Museolog software Training for Museum Community, 2001
CD-ROM Series with the National Libraries
under Memory of the World and HeritageNet
EcoNet. Environmental network in Central Asia
Digital State Archive Website

Figure 1. HeritageNet countries

6 Connectivity and content

Online connectivity issues and maintenance of the channels have been solved during 5 years. 6 servers have been installed with 3 servers working in an online mode, three in local area network without connections. Two of these servers have been installed in the museums and have the dialup allocated channels. The main server is installed in the UNESCO Almaty Office and have connection with ISDN at a with speed of 128 bpcs; at present expansion of the bandwidth up to 2 Mbit with VPN is under consideration. Website is available on Internet via the following URLs http://www.heritagenet.freenet.kz

Figure 2. HeritageNet language
Content Quantitative assessment of the languages used in HeritageNet content is reflected in Figure 2.
Tens of Websites were created on HeritageNet servers with the significant volume of information presented in Russian. To provide this information in the English language the capacity of the language universities have been made use of. The students of Tourism and Translation/Interpretation faculties get the information they need on the HeritageNet site, they translate it into English. Thus the English version of the information comes to be available too. So, the situation has the tendency to improvement. To validate the content of HN websites, HeritageNet agreed to set up an online Steering Committee. We would like to invite to cooperation experts in the issues of heritage as volunteers, to improve quality of our Websites.

7 Collaboration

HeritageNet key partners
British Council,

Many institutions, agencies, projects and NGOs
expressed their interests in collaboration
EVA conference
Russian Cultural Heritage Network

8 Multimedia Products review

Different types of multimedia Products have been developed in collaboration wth HeritageNet in Central Asia. Among them CD-ROMs Musical Heritage of Kazakhstan, Kazakhstan Chronicle - as documented in Kazakh newspapers from 1913- 1932 in the Arabic alphabet, Early Publication of the Kyrgyz Epic Poem MANAS, Memory of Tynystanov, Digital Archive of Kazakhstan, Digital Oriental Heritage of Uzbekistan, Turkestan Sites and voices of antiquity and Otrar expedition was issued. Bakhtria and Sogdiana, Tajikistan, Architectural and archaeological monuments of Tajikistan and Unpublished Tajik Miniatures

Figure 3. Multimedia CD-ROMs

CD-ROMs have also been developed in Uzbekistan within the framework of Memory of the World program: Blue Ceramics of Central Asia, Akhmad Al-Farabi and Imam Al-Bukhari - Creation of Civilization, Oriental Miniatures

9 Capacity Building

More than 20 small on-site workshops and three
English Russian Other...
Kazakhstan Turkmenistan Uzbekistan Tajikistan Kyrgyzstan training seminars have been within the framework of HeritageNet. The last seminar took place at the Central State Museum of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Almaty, 19 February - 9 March 2001 :

Figure 4. Trainings

Museolog software examples of those workshop materials are presented below:

Figure 5. Museolog digital catalog interface

Figure 6. Multilingualism aspects
For compatibility with high-level metadata standards HeritageNet partner - Euroclid has applied such standards as: DOUBLIN CORE - Standard for Web pages. Specifies metadata elements with names Maintained by the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative purl.oclc.org/docs/core
Dublin Core Metadata Initiative Standard http://www.dublincore.org/
Dublin Core Best Practice for Museums www.cimi.org/old_site/documents/
Principle of AAT thesauruses

Figure 7.

Thesaurus system http://www.cimi.org/old_site/documents/
Trainers from the Australian PowerHouse introduced their standards to the representatives of Central Asian museums. On top of that they have also described the following standards: SPECTRUM - Maintained by the Museum Documentation Association, United Kingdom, Describes procedures to follow Describes data elements (information units) to record for museum objects www.mda.org.uk/spectrum.htm
Digital Library - www.dlib.org/dlib
MARC 21 Format for Bibliographic Data Libraries must use MARC fields and MARC data format in order to share cataloguing records
RUSMARC is used by the Russian libraries and is available at: www.rba.ru:8101/publ/index.html
RDF - Open Archive Initiative http://www.openarchives.org/

10 UNESCO Tools

Information Society Division continued development and promotion of the Information Processing and Management tools. Such a tool as CDS/ISIS software is one of free-of-charge alternative solutions for multilingual database management system. Fig 8 shows an example of database entry with bibliographic description in multilingual mode. It is an archaeological treasure description with the possibility to get access to image information and multimedia files.

Figure 8. Example of CDS/ISIS entry in multilingual database
The advantage of the updated software is the possibility to use interface in French, Italian, Spanish and Russian. Soon interface will appear in Azery and Kazakh and I believe UNESCO should make effort for non-Latin/Cyrillic language support including Japan/Korean/Chinese. Besides that UNESCO continues working over the following products:
UNESCO Knowledge portal (under test)
CD-ROM Safeguarding our Digital Heritage - Memory of the World
Guidelines (translation to Russian)
Software Digital Library GreenStone (testing)
Free software catalogue (development)

11 Conclusion

In predicting cooperation and possible content of Digital Silk Roads it is necessary to have in mind experience of HeritageNet construction; to take into account development and implementation of the agreement of the network participants as well as cooperation in the field of content validation. Given Internet weak development and the factor multilingual environment in the countries of Central Asia, it is necessary to expand the network to the west and the east, to boost the dialogue between the researchers of the Silk Road. The organization of the international committee on the network content and reliability validation will make it possible to improve the network quality.

To achieve this it is necessary to take advantage of the already created telecommunication infrastructure, to make it a reality.-Utilization of new digital technologies, such as Digital Image System will ensure a powerful impulse to cooperation development on the Silk Road. However it is necessary to consider a problem of digital gap between different countries. Besides that there is a need to estimate the contribution the members of the network may make in terms of digital Silk Road development, specifically in the field of:
Connectivity and data transferring issues
Criteria development for materials selection

In terms of strategy development HeritageNet can help to organize links with one or several centers with best connectivity to discuss issues of general activities, country-specific activities and regional networking. On top of that it can also ensure the best practice and data exchanging.

[1] Author. A Network of Cultural Institutions in Central Asia EVA2000 Moscow Electronic Images and Visual Art Conference publication, p.157, 1-November 2000
[2] EC Annual Report, "Network of Cultural Institutions, in Central Asia, HeritageNet, SU 6009, Educational Multimedia Task Force", Mr. Rene Cluzel, Almaty, 24.11.2000
[3] HeritageNet, http://www.heritagenet.unesco.kz
[4] Museum Documentation Standards materials for HeritageNet workshop, Christina Sumner, Senior Curator, Decorative Arts and Design, Powerhouse Museum, amol.org.au, AusHeritage, Almaty, May 2001
[5] http://www.unesco.org/webworld
[6] UNESCO CD-ROMs under Memory of the World, HeritageNet, Almaty, Bishkek, Dushanbe, Tashkent, 1998-2001; ftp://www.unesco.kz/cdroms
[7]   Tokyo Symposium for Digital Silk Roads Fusion of Culture and digital technology http://www.nii.ac.jp/dsrtokyo/index-e.html
Presentation Acrobat version http://www.unesco.kz/ci/projects/rp30/DSR_karpov.pdf

HeritageNet Contacts

Mr.Rene Cluzel, CI/INF, Project coordinator, Information Society Division, UNESCO HQ, Paris
Email: r.cluzel@unesco.org, http://www.unesco.org/webworld
Mr.Jack Skillen, CI/INF, Liaison Officer, Information Society Division, UNESCO HQ, Paris
Email: j.skillen@unesco.org, http://www.unesco.org/webworld

Last information

The European Commission (Directorate of Information Society Technologies for digital cultural heritage) will fund a follow up project to HeritageNet, called HeritageNet 2. HeritageNet 2 aims to promote the use of innovative multimedia techniques for the promotion of Central Asian heritage and also spread the know how and results of the initial HeritageNet phase to a greater number of cultural institutions. The following activities are planned; - Establish 2 Multimedia Art Studios in Central Asia with an initiation training period in Europe for graphic designers and technical experts - An innovatice 3 month distance education course for museum personnel with a Spanish distance University in methods of cultural preservation, dissemination and promotion using IT and multimedia techniques.
- Create multimedia products including a regional web-site, CD-ROM, virtual exhibition and electronic brochures - Set up an International conference to promote links between Central Asian cultural specialists and international experts in several linked domains (electronic cataloguing, Intellectual Propoerty Rights, Memory of the World, etc)
Tuesday, February 05, 2002