The EUROPEANA Revolution : Free European Culture on the Internet

Article published on Dec. 20, 2008
Article published on Dec. 20, 2008

The whole of European cultural heritage put freely accessible for all is no longer a utopian dream. The European digital library baptised “Europeana”, put online last November 20, made this dream a reality. This ambitious project was put together by the European Commission. Visit the site at :

A substantial European initiative

Nearly two million works are already uploaded on the site and consequently accessible to any internet surfer. The European digital library includes all types of cultural work considered to be within the public domain: paintings, music, literary works, films, photographs….

The works come from the twenty-seven countries which constitute the European Union today. More than a thousand cultural institutions through out Europe are taking part in the constitution of this virtual library. The project is being managed from the Hague in the Netherlands. At present, the twenty-seven countries do not contribute at the same level, France provides more than 50% of works thanks to the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF), the Institut National de l'Audiovisuel (INA) and the Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM). The United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Sweden are the next largest contributors. Countries such as Spain, Italy, Austria or Germany are contributing little by little. Navigation within the site can be done in 21 languages; making it possible for all Europeans to surf in their native tongue.

 The objective announced for 2010 is to reach the 10 million-mark for works digitized and accessible through the site. The developers of the site are facing a job of titanic proportions; indeed, the European national libraries contain nearly 2,5 billion books, and only one percent of this cultural heritage is digitized. An immense process of digitalization begins that requires the engagement of important financial and technological resources. The European Commission has already committed to providing an envelope of 120 million euros throughout the next two years, to be invested in digitalization technologies. However, these investments are far from being sufficient. According to Viviane Reding, the European Commissioner in charge of communications, media and new technologies, it would be necessary to lay out a budget of 225 million euros per annum to digitize approximately 5 million books and there would be an additional 2,5 million euros for operational costs.

An Immediate Success

The launch of the site last November 20 exceeded all the hopes of the persons in charge of the European Commission and initiators of the project. The multitude was such that as of the first hours of being put online, the site was blocked, unable to accommodate as many visitors at the same time: 20 million clicks per hour were recorded, that is to say up to 6,000 requests per second! The site was originally conceived to accommodate up to a maximum of five million visitors per hour. It had, moreover, only three servers. Consequently, the site was quickly blocked, unable to absorb all the traffic. It was thus decided to put the site in maintenance in order to add three new servers to improve the site’s reception capacity. Europeana should be back on line before long, with at least, the doubled capacity of reception. Internet surfers from all over Europe will be able to then navigate it to their heart’s content. The final objective sought by the implementation of this project is formidable: to offer to the whole of the European and worldwide population, a freely accessible extraordinary cultural centre.

Jose Manuel Barroso, current President of the European Commission, said concerning the Europeana project, that it emphasizes the European mastery within the field of new technologies, as well as, providing a formidable window of the cultural richness of Europe.

Sources :

- Site Europeana

- Europeana sature dès l'ouverture,

- Europeana victime de son succès, Courrier International

- La bibliothèque numérique Europeana victime de son succès,

Thibaud SIMON

Translated to English by: Joanna Cordero