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On Digital Archives for sharing cultural resources KUBO, Masatoshi Professor, Research Center for Cultural Resources, National Museum of Ethnology (NME) kubom@idc.minpaku.ac.jp 2006/01/23

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on digital archives for sharing cultural resources

On Digital Archives for sharing cultural resources

KUBO, Masatoshi

Professor, Research Center for Cultural Resources,

National Museum of Ethnology (NME)




The general functions of the National Museum of Ethnology (NME)(1) Ethnological and anthropological research(2) Collection, conservation of ethnographical materials and information(3) Public Exhibition

storage for audio visual materials

about 70,000 materials

Storage for Audio Visual Materials

Movable Shelves in Room with 18-degree C.

Original Negative Film in Special Cool Room with 12-degree C.

question about ethnographical materials management

Question about Ethnographical Materials Management

1) Is it a true assumption that the ethnographical materials described or collected by a researcher is objective?

2) Could the relation between the described-side and describing-side be viewed with symmetry? The latter is sometimes dominant over the former in political, economic, and even cultural phases.

3) Are the ethnographical materials collected and described by the dominant side sometimes exclusively possessed by that side, not to mention "cultural deprivation"?

Answer to above question seems to(1) renaming of ethnographical materials(2) introduction of forum-type collaboration

renaming ethnographical materials to cultural resources

Renaming “Ethnographical Materials” to “Cultural Resources”

Term “ethnography” implies that materials are viewed

from describing-side only.

On the other hand;

Term “cultural resources” implies 1) They are primarily owned by site people 2) They are resources for understanding own culture

as well as other culture

3) They are also a kind of “global commons”

- toward “treasury of human wisdom”

coverage of cultural resources

In Context of UNESCO

Coverage of “Cultural Resources”

Resources visible or

easy to become visible


(Tangible Cultural Heritage)

instruments, objects,

artifacts, cultural spaces

  • - visible products from cultural heritage
  • to daily necessities
  • documents of tangible and intangible
  • cultural heritage represented by text,
  • image, moving image, sound, etc.- secondary documents
  • - tertiary documents

Immovable CH

sites, landscape, etc.


embodied resources


system-like resources


(Intangible Cultural Heritage)

  • - oral traditions and expressions
  • - performing arts
  • social practices, rituals, festive
  • events
  • - knowledge and practices
  • - traditional craftsmanship
  • - human-network
  • - organization
  • - institution
  • concept of
  • intellectual properties
  • etc.

- knowledge

- skill

- technique

- know-how

key points about cultural resources

Key Points about Cultural Resources

  • Cultural resources are alive and inherently changeful,
  • should not be taken as frozen.
  • Cultural resources covers not only outstanding masterpieces,
  • but also everything relating to daily and ordinary life.
  • The concept of “authenticity” should be excluded.
  • Every cultural group has the rights to revive, modify,
  • recreate, merge existing resources,
  • if it provides them with a sense of identity and continuity.
  • Ownership of the resources must be respected.
  • When managing them, owners must be involved as equal-
  • partners, based on predefined “codes of ethics”.
key issue for managing cultural resources
Key Issue forManaging Cultural Resources

(1) Needs of literacy in cultural resources management

(2) Needs of archivists specializing in each specific area

(3) Sustainableconservation and use of cultural resources

One solution is digitizing, but eternal “data migration”

will be necessary to follow up the rapid change of

both data format and storage media.

(4) Balance between protection of various rights of

resources and sharing of them.

* pro-patent vs. public-domain

* consideration on non-Western concept of rights

“culturally defined intellectual properties”

(5) Balance between cost and performance

* “true multi media”

key issue for culturally defined intellectual properties
Key Issue forCulturally Defined Intellectual Properties

(1) collective rights, custodianship

(2) specific profile rights;

ex. Australian Aboriginal culture prohibits exposing faces of the deceased person

(3) access to sacred/secret cultural resources;

access must be limited, with the consent of relevant cultural owners

(4) problem of “repatriation”

discussion on commons
Discussion On “Commons”


pro-IP (Intellectual Properties)

anti-patent, anti-IP



ex. creative commons

Western World

Non-Western World

pro-patent, pro-IP

for claiming

rights, identity, etc.

culturally defined intellectual properties

ex. “cultural moral rights”

about repatriation
About Repatriation

Probable Solutions;

(1) Where cultural ownership can be established, and those institutions can demonstrate their ability to preserve and maintain the items, the resource must be repatriated.

(2) Where preservation and maintenance of resources at the owner society is difficult, ownership and information or copy is repatriated, while original resources themselves will be maintained at the proper institutes or museums.

Based on the negotiation, information can be shared between owner and keeper organization.

Virtual Repatriation

proposal introduction of forum type collaboration in the cultural resources management

Proposal: Introduction of Forum-Type Collaboration in the Cultural Resources Management

Establishing forum for sharing cultural resources among

cultural owners, researchers and users including web/museum visitors, that has the following effects:

(1) Shift from exclusive control by specialists to sharing and joint works

(2) Change of research ethics

(3) Upgrading information through sharing

(4) Cultural restoration at the sites

(5) Shift from construction of intellectual databases to discovery of human wisdom

(6) The effects of fusion of the humanities and natural sciences

flow of cultural resources management

Flow of Cultural Resources Management

Headwaters Upper Stream Mid Stream Lower Stream

Investigation & Collection of Materials

Conservation and Keeping

Put to Academic Use

Put to Public Use

Documentation & Computerization

Social and International Collaboration

examples of forum type database archives project we were are concerned
Examples of forum-type database/archives project we were/are concerned

(1) Collaboration of Japanese museums and art galleries

(2) Making and sharing of ethnographical videos between NME and museums in Southeast Asia

(3) MEF (Multimedia Educational Forum) with school teachers in Osaka Prefecture

(4) Creation of cultural macro-micro time-space map: for investigating Eco-History of Southeast Asia

(5) Museum-network for sharing ethnological archival collection between Laos and Japan

concept of mef multimedia educational forum
Concept of MEF (Multimedia Educational Forum)
  • MEF is a NPO composed of high-school teachers, researchers,
  • computer venders, etc. in Osaka Prefecture.
  • Registered member can upload digital teaching materials to the
  • forum, namely digital archives.
  • School teachers can download any set of digital materials to form
  • their own “digital teaching contents.”
  • Experiences are shared through this forum.
  • MEF acts as a consultant on Intellectual Properties of digital
  • materials.
  • MEF also supports to form and expand human-network among
  • school teachers.


proposal establishing worldwide forum collaboration for sharing cultural resources
Proposal:Establishing worldwide forum collaboration for sharing cultural resources

Regional forum

Global forum

Regional forum

Regional forum

Hub information center

databases/archives services

clearinghouse services

supporting services

Local museums,

institutions, etc.

requirements for the database archives that enables forum type collaboration
Requirements for the database/archives that enables forum-type collaboration
  • Mechanism for harvesting or cross-search among various types of databases/archives

(2) Mechanism for registered member to add to or modify existing information

(3) Ensuring individual rights and responsibility

(4) Protection of intellectual properties

including culturally defined ones.

centralized passive clearinghouse
Centralized passive clearinghouse

Web Browser

or IR-client

Web Browser

or IR-client




Directory of Indices and

Part of data records











① Offer common indices and part of data records

② Retrieval of candidate data

③ Retrieval of detailed information

centralized active clearinghouse
Centralized active clearinghouse

Web Browser

or IR-client

Web Browser

or IR-client




Search Engine

Indices and part of data

Harvesting Engine











① Harvest data items for constructing directory

② Retrieval of data records

decentralized cross search system
Decentralized Cross-search System

Web Browser

or IR-client

Web Browser

or IR-client



Accessing by standard protocol

Cross-search Gate Way

Cross-search Gate Way

Server for standard protocol

Server for standard protocol

Server for standard protocol

Server for standard protocol

Metadata representation

Metadata representation

Metadata representation

Metadata representation











Experimental decentralized cross-search system conducted by National Institute of Japanese Literature

Participating Institutes

National Institute of Japanese Literature

National Museum of Japanese History

Historiographical Institute, University of Tokyo

Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University

International Research Center for Japanese Studies

National Institute of Informatics

National Museum of Ethnology

Present Activity

* Study of effectiveness of Z39.50

* Feasibility study of protocol other than Z39.50 like

OAI-PMH (Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata


SOAP (Simple Object Access Protocol)

* Study of constructing thesaurus;

for terms, place-names, era-names, etc.