Coalition for Networked Information
At the CNI spring meeting of 2001, Tom Kalil challenged the attendees to consider what might be done with very large amounts of federal government funding – perhaps as much as a billion dollars a year funded through a public trust — earmarked to support the creation or acquisition of content to support education, scholarship and the public interest. It was clear that our community in the US has given very little thought to the strategies and priorities that might guide such investments. While the near-term prospects for such large scale funding have certainly diminished with the elimination of the federal surplus, the economic downturn and the new financial demands on our nation after 9/11/2001, the question remains relevant. Also, over the past decade, very large personal fortunes have been amassed that may ultimately be turned in part to such purposes as new sources of funding. In addition, in the US we have seen a number of proposals, most notably the Minnow/Grossman “Digital Promise” initiative, suggesting large scale federal investments in digital content for the public interest.
Last summer, there was an international invitational meeting held in London at the Tate to examine a range of national digitalization initiatives for cultural heritage materials. One clear outcome from the 2001 meeting is that there are a number of large scale governmentally funded national programs taking place outside the United States which can offer valuable insights for US-based efforts, and that activities in the US are taking a rather different trajectory, with much more extensive participation and support from the non- governmental sector. A second international meeting took place in Washington DC in March, followed by an invitational CNI workshop to discuss potential US strategies and issues. This session will present some of the thinking emerging from these meetings.