Europeana 2020 Strategic update

It’s three years since we launched our 2015-2020 Strategy ‘we transform the world with culture. We’re now at the halfway point; a good time to review our progress, refine and update our plans and make sure we’re on course to meet our targets together.

As we undertake this midterm review, it’s clear that much has changed in the world even in this short space of time. Technology and user behaviour have moved on. The way people access information and engage with content has evolved. The funding environment and overall economic outlook have grown more uncertain and our political and social landscape is unstable.

We know many of you, like Europeana, are looking for ways to take positive action. That’s why we’re seizing this opportunity to reaffirm our shared commitment to a vision of Europe that is united in its cultural diversity and strives to increase our collective welfare through smart and inclusive growth. By adapting faster to the changes around us, together we can maximise our impact.

Supercharging Strategy 2020

Our stakeholders agree that our 2020 Strategy still sets the right overall direction for the future, with the commonly owned European platform for cultural heritage at its core. The opportunity at this midpoint is to accelerate our progress and make sure we are doing everything we can to harness the power of our shared culture for positive impact. However our collective time and resources are finite, requiring us to focus, and jettison anything that isn’t core.

That’s why our recalibrated strategy will make the most of our combined strengths, channelling our energies efficiently and targeting the areas where we can have the greatest influence and most immediate and wide-ranging impact.

The impact we aim to create

“(In 2020) Europeana will have contributed to the aims of the European Union to foster ‘Unity in Diversity’, ‘Smart Inclusive Growth’ and a ‘Digital Single Market’. We will have increased the feeling of a shared European identity through cultural heritage for European citizens. Cultural heritage will be used and enjoyed across national borders for work, learning or pleasure because we will have developed and implemented interoperable standards, frameworks and intellectual property rights that make it work. We will have increased the quality and usability of digital cultural heritage with a powerful network of game changers from Europe’s cultural sector.”

Pain points

Pain points

We, at Europeana, also know that there are some notable pain points which the whole community need to address if we’re going to supercharge our efforts and create this impact:

It’s not easy or rewarding enough to share content with Europeana. That means we’re not yet getting enough of our shared cultural heritage, in the right quality, out into the world into people’s hands and the returns therefore do not yet warrant the additional effort that is needed.

Our approach for end-users needs to be modernised. We need to find smarter, more up-to-date ways to reach citizens with our powerful content and vital message – ways that fit with the way media is consumed today.

There is a lack of clear division of roles and responsibilities in our ecosystem. This means, as a community, we’re not yet harnessing our combined energy and expertise; we’re not yet much more than the sum of our parts.

Our three priorities

Game changers

Our supercharged 2020 Strategy will focus on three powerful priorities, designed to unlock more culture, address our pain points and create more positive change across Europe and the rest of the world.

  1. Make it easy and rewarding for Cultural Heritage Institutions to share high-quality content
  2. Scale with partners to reach our target markets and audiences
  3. Engage people on our websites and via participatory campaigns

For each of these priorities, we will also seek to change the way we work with each other. Together, we will aim to sharpen our focus on quality, to make sure educators, researchers, creators, and citizens across Europe genuinely can make use of the content we provide. We know users consume content in different ways and that there is a growing appetite for participation. The key is to make sure we all know “who is responsible for what” across our diverse network so that we can rely on each other to deliver.

What does this mean for you?

Game changers

If Europeana does these three things well, and delineate roles and responsibilities better, we believe we can mobilise the cultural community across Europe to help uphold our shared values and offer an alternative narrative to citizens. The next four years can be a time of positive action and forward motion. Here’s what our supercharged priorities could mean for you, your organisation and your team:

1. Making it easy and rewarding
As a Cultural Heritage Institution, you’ll reach and engage more and wider audiences at a lower cost and with less friction (which also means a lower cost for taxpayers). You’ll be further rewarded by directly contributing to a more cohesive and inclusive Europe as well as increasing your relevance to more audiences.

2. Scaling with partners
As an educator, researcher or creative, having more clearly labelled, high-quality material will help shift your focus from finding good content to harnessing and using it. This, in turn, will make it easier to create new knowledge, new ideas and new value. And users get rich, trusted cultural heritage in their workflow, tailored to their specific need.

3. Engaging and involving people more
As a culture lover, high-quality content means browsing Europeana Collections will become much more satisfying, with thematic collections and exhibitions that help you go deeper into a subject and understand how it connects across our shared cultural heritage.

As a citizen of Europe, taking part in our thematic campaigns – like adding your family memorabilia to Europeana 1914-1918 – will help increase your appreciation of our shared history and reinforce the importance of our shared future.

‘Frameworks such as the Europeana Publishing Framework are greatly valued at a time when organisations such as ourselves are developing policies and practices around open access to collections’

Dr. Dafydd Tudur, Head of Digital Access, National Library of Wales

Making it happen

What do we, the cultural heritage community, need to do to deliver the priorities and effect change?

1. Make it easy and rewarding for Cultural Heritage Institutions to share high-quality content

The European aggregation infrastructure has become complex, slow and cumbersome. The process of uploading content is opaque, and the benefit to the cultural heritage institutions is not yet clear enough. They cannot see what happens to their collections, and this, in turn, creates low input and commitment on data quality. Too often, when it comes to contributing content, it’s a case of publish and forget.

To get higher quality content uploaded to the Europeana platform, Europeana needs to increase our content partners’ control of and insight into the system. We need to:

  • close the feedback loop between user demand and Cultural Heritage Institutions provision
  • implement our Content Strategy
  • show the rewards of being part of an ecosystem that brings our cultural heritage together
  • create new insights and increased use and reach of collections

‘The painting by Zolo Palugyay was showcased through Europeana’s many channels, making it perhaps one of the most visible artworks from our collection online’

Michal Čudrnák, Slovak National Gallery

2. Scale with partners to reach our target markets and audiences

For several years the overarching trend is to place the content where users already go, rather than to create new destinations outside people’s use patterns and workflows. By using and developing our partnerships in Education, Lifelong Learning, Research, Infotainment, Social Media, and Creative Industries we can take cultural heritage out to more people across Europe and beyond. Focusing on sectors with known demand and with the largest accessible user bases will allow us to deliver scale quickly, moving away from peripheral partnerships that do not.

Our priority will therefore be to build and nurture large scale media and distribution partnerships with like-minded organisations and companies who already have strong and loyal communities of users with an interest in, need or passion for culture.

‘The rich cultural heritage of Europe curated for me’

from ‘Faces of Europe’ survey – Ingrid Olsthoorn, Europeana user (The Netherlands)

3. Engage people on our websites and via participatory campaigns

increase participation

Europeana needs to continue to improve access to Europeana Collections, so that people, both professionals and the public, can understand what is available. Everything our community does to improve data quality will help users to discover more cultural content, but we can also make it easier for them by showing what’s on the racks.

Some improvements have been made on Europeana Collections. Our thematic sites that curate and package content now attract much more loyal and engaged users. This we will continue. Expanding subjects and themes according to demand, available high-quality content and curatorial capability.

As a community we need to increase participation making our cultural heritage personal and relatable by connecting family stories and memories to major shared cultural themes. Europeana and its Network will continue to invest in our successful programme of campaigns encouraging the contribution of family stories and the making of new things with our content such as Art Faces, StoryPix or Europeana Radio. We will take new narrative themes and campaigns out into the world to challenge expectations and draw in new audiences.

A word of thanks

Europeana is an expansive, ambitious and complex organisation and we realise this can sometimes make it hard to understand. Simplifying our strategy, making it as accessible and inspiring as possible, has been a collaborative task, with a programme of workshops, strategic discussions and creative exercises designed to gather rich input and ideas from many quarters. Special thanks to the Europeana Governing Board and the Members Council of the Europeana Network Association. Your insights, critical remarks, drawings and videos have been truly inspirational.


We would like to express our thanks to everybody who has contributed to the Strategic Plan.

We would also like to thank the following for their courtesy in making available the images used in the document:

  • Rijksmuseum for the Stonehenge picture. (Public Domain)
  • The National Library of France for the photograph of a graceful rider on an elephant at the zoo. (Public Domain)



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