A Look at the Spanish Museums: Dissemination of Digital Cultural Heritage

Spanish museums are proud of cultural assets preserved at their institutions. To please a contemporary person, however, they should not only make their expositions attractive but to also present their collections online. Such portals and virtual exhibitions invite attention and increase museums’ popularity. In this brief review several Spanish portals presenting digital content will be discussed and thus you are kindly invited to visit them.

Spanish museums taking advantage of an integrated documentation and museum management system DOMUS have excellent opportunities to present their exhibits to the public. It was the initiative of the Ministry of Culture to develop the first electronic catalogues for the Spanish museums. Each of the seventeen museums under the jurisdiction of the Ministry has their collections catalogue online. The collections of the National Archaeological Museum, the Museum of America, the Museum of Altamira and others may be accessed online through the platform prepared by the Ministry. Several other important Spanish museums have their own public catalogues, for example Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation, the Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona MACBA, the Prado National Museum.

Digital content of Spanish museums is made public through regional and national museum portals. Available in Spanish they offer simple and advanced search, present basic information about exhibits with their digital images and descriptions. User interface is simple and easy, the only way to get confused is to do field searching with multiple search criteria.

The institutions that coordinate the museums of Aragon, Andalusia, Catalonia and Tenerife have developed regional portals for museum collections. Administered by the Cultural Heritage Department of the Government of Aragon, the portal “Collections of the Museums of Aragon Online” („Colecciones de museos aragoneses en red“) comprise of sixteen electronic catalogues of the museums of Aragon and includes nearly 8 thousand digital exhibits (which make around 6 percent of exhibits in DOMUS system). In order to constantly increase the number of museum assets available to public, the administrators of the portal ask the museums to provide at least 250 digital exhibits and then each month to complement this number with more exhibits. The portal of the collections of the museums of Aragon features a possibility to search both within a separate catalogue of a museum (Museum of Zaragoza, Museum Dedicated to Goya’s Etchings, Pablo Gargallo Museum) and within a joint catalogue of all the museums in the portal (try, for example, to type in words “Goya”, “Gargallo” or “etnologia” in the search field).

The national museum collections portal “Collections Online CER.ES” (“Colecciones en Red”) was introduced in 2010. At the present moment, there are 71 Spanish museums connected to this portal and more than 180 thousand digital images. CER.ES is a joint electronic museum catalogue that stores information about museum exhibit collections that comprise the digital network of Spanish museum collections (“La Red Digital de Colecciones de Museos de España”). All the museums in this network use the integrated system DOMUS where a total number of museums has already reached 151 and is still growing. CER.ES network provides museums with a significant benefit to make their collections public online which encourages museums to join this initiative and do not lag behind digitisation processes in the world. During the first year 10 new museums (3 of them from Aragon) joined CER.ES network and the number of exhibits and digital images have increased by almost one third.

In 2011 the Spanish Ministry of Culture has organised the first thematic virtual exhibition “Heritage from a Female Perspective” (“Patrimonio en Femenino”) compiled of what was available on the digital network of Spanish museums. The exhibition presents artworks made by women artists as well as those that touch upon woman theme. The Ministry lists links to thematic catalogues of Spanish museums, for example, the Catalogue of Ibero-American Collections of Spanish Museums, the Catalogue of Egner Collection of National Museum of Ceramics as well as links to the catalogues of foreign museums, for example the Integral Virtual Exhibition System for Lithuanian Museums.

The digital content of all Spanish memory institutions – museums, libraries and archives – may be accessed on the national portal “Hispana”. Accumulated in CER.ES network, the museum data is then collectively provided to “Hispana” where there are already 3 millions digital objects in 149 repositories and the number is still growing. Particularly active contributors to “Hispana” are Spanish state archives; they also take part in APEnet (Archives Portal Europe) project which is coordinated by the Spanish Ministry of Culture.

With the overall number of 1.5 million digital objects “Hispana” is one of Europeana’s most important content providers except for ATHENA, “Culture.fr” and European Digital Library. Data to Europeana is provided through “EuropeanaLocal” project which at the national level is coordinated by the Spanish Ministry of Culture. Thus museums content is accessible not only on CER.ES portal but also on Europeana. It is pursued that the same digitised objects would be available on various portals be they regional, national or European.

Text prepared by Giedrė Stankevičiūtė
according to the information obtained during the internship at the Department of
Education, Culture and Sports of the Government of Aragon as well as that available on the above mentioned websites

For more information read Giedrė Stankevičiūtė’s review „A Look at the Spanish Museums: an Integrated Documentation and Museum Management System DOMUS