Heritage Lottery Fund Study: Funding Information and Communications Technology in the Heritage Sector

The Humanities Advanced Technology and Information Institute was commissioned by the Heritage Lottery Fund to carry out a study on information technology in the heritage sector. This took place between August 1997 and February 1998.

The National Heritage Act 1997 enabled the Heritage Lottery Fund to consider a wide range of new types of projects which had hitherto been ineligible for Lottery funding. This presents many new opportunities for using information technology in heritage projects. This is the area that was investigated by the study, explained in more detail in the following brief.

Brief for research study

Purpose of study

1. To assist in developing a policy framework and funding guidelines to support the Heritage Lottery Fund's wider powers under new legislation to fund projects involving:

  • compilation and dissemination of information about the heritage 
  • encourage study, understanding and enjoyment of the heritage

These new purposes, taken with HLF's established role in funding conservation of the heritage, imply that information technology will play will play a much greater part in future HLF grant activity. HLF wishes to identify the most effective contributions it can make in this field.

2. The new legislation widens the range of HLF's potential projects and applicants. There will be no new lottery funding to meet these demands, and capital projects involving the direct conservation of the heritage will remain a priority. Resources for information technology projects will be finite, and an important objective of the study will be to identify and recommend priorities in the short and medium term.

3. These priorities should take account of government policy on, and parallel developments in the use of information technology, for example in the fields of current information and education, to identify opportunities for HLF to complement other initiatives and avoid duplication.

Specific objectives

4. To review (by means of a literature survey and targeted interviews) the established and developing uses of IT in the sectors covered by the HLF:

  1. Built heritage a) Survey and Record b) Archaeology 
  2. Countryside and Nature Conservation a) Survey and Record b) Biological & Natural Records 
  3. Objects (including preserved ships etc.) and Collections (museums, archives, special library collections)

5. To examine the possible future applications and issues raised for the above by:

  1. Databases, including image databases
  2. Interactive on-site and on-line systems 
  3. Websites

6. To identify requirements for standards (principals for selection rather than particular standards), kinds of applications to be supported (eg database development, interactive systems, software development, hardware) and the issues raised by copyright and intellectual property rights.

7. To examine the issues related to the inclusion of information technology training and skills-development with bids to the Heritage Lottery Fund.

8. To examine dissemination issues and problems associated with improving access and making certain that technology-based projects succeed in reaching a wider user-base and not just the traditionally IT literate communities.

9. To identify policy options, and recommend priorities across the range of areas, in the short (eg first two years) and medium term.

10. To draw up recommended criteria, and guidelines for the material to be submitted by applicants, which are:

  • comprehensible to non-IT specialists among applicants, HLF staff and trustees 
  • sufficiently robust about priorities to facilitate efficient and economic assessments by HLF

11. To define assessment tests for IT projects, including assessment of commercial viability, and appraisal of economic, cultural and social "market" for projects.

12. To review HLF options and resource implications for inviting/assessing applications for IT projects, including viability of establishing a special programme for IT in the heritage sector.