The heritage data reuse charter in a nutshell

Improving access to cultural heritage data is one of the major data management challenges in the field of arts and humanities.

A fundamental difference between the epistemic cultures of hard sciences and arts and humanities is that in the arts and humanities the wide range of scholarly information artefacts, pieces of arts, written documents of all sorts, recordings, annotations etc. broadly referred to as cultural heritage data are not autonomous products of research projects but are deeply embedded in the cultural memory of Europe, and the cultural and social practices of the institutions (museums, libraries, archives) that preserve, curate and (co)produce them. These institutions are not only data providers as ownership of heritage data is inherently shared between them, the researcher communities, the public and the people and cultures that give rise to the objects in question.

What can be considered as cultural heritage data?

  • Primary analogue sources
  • Digitized resources (scanned artifacts)
  • Born-digital collections
  • Attached metadata
  • Annotations
  • Further enrichments

A major difficulty when scholars interact with heritage data is the lack of a clear and comprehensive framework that could serve as a general baseline for such interactions between scholars and cultural heritage institutions. Scholars who want to reuse and share data need to know the terms of use for the database and the data content. What are the legal rights in data and who has these rights? How rights holders use the rights allowing for productive and successive use? In which ways they can connect and keep together these sources with their own research findings and enrichments of these data? The lack of clarity and the great deal of confusion here impacts greatly their work conditions and this can be recognized as a recurrent problem both heritage data creators, curators and reusers are suffering from.

To find solutions to this problem, a wide range of stakeholder groups involved in the cultural heritage domain (Europeana, CLARIN, E-RHIS, IPERION CH, APEF, PARTHENOS) came together under the governance of DARIAH and started to design a common online environment that will enable all the relevant actors to connect and improve together access to heritage data and make transactions related to the scholarly use of cultural heritage data more visible and transparent.

Who are the stakeholder groups?

  • Cultural Heritage Institutions are considered in their function as curators of collections and objects in their physical form and as potential primary initiators of corresponding digital surrogates, from basic descriptions (catalogues of collections, metadata for specific objects) to more elaborate outputs (scans, 3D models, physical analyses, etc.);
  • Primary data can be hosted by CHIs or by Higher Education Institutions like universities, but they are in many cases curated by dedicated Data Centers. These Centers play a key role in guaranteeing the stability, the visibility and the long time availability of the primary data;
  • Cultural Heritage Laboratories have a high-level expertise in Cultural Heritage. They give essential insights into Cultural Heritage history, technologies, environment, and Alteration.
  • Researchers are invited to sign in person, independently from the institution for which they are working at the time they sign the Charter;
  • However, academic institutions (departments, universities, research institution or funding agencies) wishing to sign the Charter are welcome to do so as well.


The basis of this common environment is a moral contract, the Mission Statement all stakeholders must adhere to. It comprises of six core principles: Reciprocity, Interoperability, Citability, Openness, Stewardship, Trustworthiness. Key elements of the future online environment would include primarily conditions of access and reuse (e.g.license information) for each collection or object registered in the Heritage Dara Reuse Charter as well as contact information to the person responsible for specific datasets. Signing the Charter would allow all stakeholders to declare their commitment to the reuse conditions expressed for each collection or object registered in the Charter and thus increase the transparency and visibility of their own workflows.

Establishing a common online environment to support smooth end-to-end communication between cultural heritage institutions, data centres, research institutions and individual researchers will be an essential component of the FAIR data ecosystem in the arts and humanities domain. Such a trusted framework would be a key step in achieving a better alignment of data creation and curation with downstream reuse.

If you are willing to contribute to design of this shared environment or just interested to learn more about our mission, you are very welcome to contact us through this blog or follow the hashtag #chdatareusecharter on twitter.

The institutional partners behind the heritage data reuse charter
The work has been carried out with the support of the European union under the Parthenos and Iperion CH projects.

Cite this blog post
Laurent Romary (2018, October 1). The heritage data reuse charter in a nutshell. Heritage Data Reuse Charter. Retrieved June 22, 2024, from

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