Cultural content on the web is available in various forms (documents, images, audio tracks, videos, collection items, learning objects, etc.), concern various topics (art, history, handicrafts, etc.), is written in different languages and is provided by different independent organizations (museums, archives, libraries) and individuals. The main focus of the related efforts is on digitization of cultural heritage items (tangible or intangible) in order to provide browsing, search, find and viewing capabilities of their digital representations as resources populating a digital library.
The i-Treasures project aims to go beyond the mere digitization of ICH content. Its main contribution is the creation of new knowledge by proposing novel methodologies and new technological paradigms for the processing and analysis of ICH information. As a consequence, the i-Treasures project is expected to open new perspectives in analysis, management and presentation of ICH resources. The creation of this new knowledge will enable researchers to identify possible implicit or hidden correlations between different ICH expressions or different interpretation styles of the same ICH and study the evolution of a specific ICH through its transmission from generation to generation or to other communities.
More specifically, the i-Treasures project aims to develop a new technological approach that will:
- Contribute to the safeguarding of ICH: Multisensory technology (e.g. 2D/3D sensors, ultrasound sensors, microphones, EEG etc) will be used for the creation of cultural content that has never been extracted or analyzed before.
- Unveil unknown correlations: The analysis of such cultural content will allow researchers to discover unknown correlations between intangible treasures associated with different ICHs (e.g. between Corsican "cantu in paghjella" and Sardinian "canto a tenore" singing traditions).
- Give rise to a deeper understanding of specific forms of ICH: The discovery of hidden treasures is expected to help the scientific community study the evolution of specific forms of ICH through its transmission from generation to generation or to other communities (e.g. correlations between the Patriarchal and the Mount Athos interpretation styles of Byzantine music).
- Break new ground in education and knowledge transfer of ICH: Besides the use of conventional learning procedures, the adoption of sensorimotor learning methods can change radically the way that rare know-how is transmitted from one generation to the next.
- Create new ways for cultural expressions: A novel intangible musical instrument will be developed within the i-Treasures project opening new ways for cultural expressions that connect the past and have relevance in the contemporary world.
Furthermore, two significant features of the i-Treasures technology, which make it applicable to numerous domains of ICH, are:
- Modular architecture that allows for easy system upgrades and extensions depending on the particular needs of different ICHs.
- The platform will be developed as an open-source content management system enriched with a significant number of functionalities contributing to the preservation and widespread dissemination of the ICH treasures.
As a result, the proposed system is expected to provide significant societal and economic benefits. More specifically, the i-Treasures platform will:
- Raise awareness of the importance of the intangible cultural heritage and contribute essentially to its safeguarding.
- Promote specific forms of ICH that can be seen as a community treasure. In many cases, the name of a particular ICH is known by the name of the community. As a result, people feel very proud to be associated with it and they not only intend to safeguard their ICH but also disseminate it further beyond their jurisdiction.
- Enforce the local development by making local ICHs more popular and dominant, e.g. the community could adopt the ICH as part of the local annual festival or make the art by itself a local festival, establish corporate business centres where they could sell local products. etc. Such actions can create new job opportunities and enforce the local economy.
- Contribute to the protection of cultural heritage, the basic asset on which tourism is built. Tourism, closely related to Cultural Heritage, is, at the moment, the main industry in the world, with an increasing ratio of 12% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This sector employs 8 million people in Europe and accounts for nearly 5.5% of European GDP.
- Contribute to the development of a systemic methodology for the preservation, renewal and transmission of rare knowledge to next generations through the concept of prototype Territorial Schools. These schools could be created through combined actions based on the active participation of local agents (teachers, local cultural organisations, music academies, schools of History, etc.) acting as a means for stimulating creative economy and promoting local cultural tourism. Where a particular art is introduced in the school curriculum, the community practitioners could play a significant role as teachers and earn a living out of it.