The CURIOS project is about how digital archives can support local interest in local heritage and, in doing so, can contribute to community regeneration and strengthened community cohesion. It will develop software tools to help remote rural communities to collaboratively maintain and present information about their cultural heritage. The objective is to investigate the use of semantic web/ linked data technology to build a general, flexible and “future proof” software platform that could help such projects to come into existence and be sustainable over time.
Rural areas are characterised by a strong identity of people with place. These identities draw on a repertoire of cultural norms, knowledge, histories, customs and practices which, taken together, construct unique place identities. This cultural distinctiveness is dynamic given traditional cultural practices are reproduced and others introduced as cultural systems evolve and adapt. Forms of cultural expression, such as story-telling, music and song, poetry and literature, dance and drama together with material objects, artefacts, sites and cultural spaces, are resources for interacting with the past and for experiencing the present. Moreover, by making them accessible for recreation and tourism consumption, they also represent a major economic asset.
Cultural resources are both a property of people and of place and have direct, indirect and non-use values. Yet the immobility of these resources means that access, for whatever purpose, is generally place dependent and restricted to certain members of a local community. Moreover, because cultural resources are often public or common goods, they depend upon intervention or collective action for their development.
Community efforts to collate and manage different kinds of cultural resources are typically dependent upon short-term funding and long-term efforts of a few dedicated individuals. Cultural repository information systems offer scope for rural community groups to widen participation in cultural activities and to enable their consumption independent of place, at a relatively low cost and with fewer resources. It seems there is a need to generate an understanding of the social and technical processes involved in the construction and use of cultural repositories and an opportunity to create a new set of generic tools to underpin their successful operation and management.