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Once upon a digital time

Everybody has a story to tell. Empowering European citizens to tell their own stories lies at the heart of the COINE project, which provides user-friendly multimedia software harnessing tools such as computers, scanners and video to digitise storytelling, making it affordable and accessible.

COINE brought together 23 user groups, including universities, libraries, museums and archives, and the communities that use them. The objective has been to share experiences - users range from young schoolchildren to retired people. Today, the COINE website comprises the assets of local art galleries, archives, museums and history centres. Each user group has a link on the website, which has become an international digital community. Project partners developed software to provide facilities for using digitised texts, images, sound files, video clips and other media. The user groups participated in writing stories, personal histories and recollections, which are accessible from COINEs website. Accessible technology,COINE has developed the tools to enable everyone even those without computer skills to become writers and creators, and to publish their work. The projects aim is to keep the process of contributing stories as simple as possible. To this end a number of modifications have been made to the system, designed to make the presentation of stories more attractive to make it easier to search the growing database of material. We have developed a Web-based system that is simple to use and accessible from anywhere using a standard Web browser from a PC connected to the Internet, explains project coordinator Geoff Butters, at CERLIM (Centre for Research in Library and Information Management), University of Manchester. Clean and simple interfaces as well as clear, easily understood terminology used in the interfaces hide the complexity of the system from the user. The consortium researched the requirements of different groups and individuals for managed digital spaces for cultural purposes, and developed a software infrastructure accompanied by a toolkit of software tools and techniques to enable such domains to be created, populated and maintained. In addition, on the COINE website potential storytellers have access to hints and tips for good digital storytelling, guidelines, copyright information, digitisation guidelines and a guide for domain administrators. A cultural kaleidoscope,The website is a window on the world. Users choose from a list of themes, from antiques, dance, folklore, local history, people, science, sport and leisure, to urban life. A search of the people theme, for example, introduces the visitor to Kurt Schwitters, an exiled German artist and poet who died in obscurity and poverty in 1948. Since his death, however, he has come to be recognised as one of the most influential and visionary pioneers of art in the 20th century. The Universitat Oberta de Catalunya's is working with the Museu d'Història de la Immigració de Catalunya, which interviewed people from different places in Spain who came to Catalonia in the fifties. These people tell stories of building their own houses with the help of neighbours who settled under the same tough conditions as the newcomers. The video clips are a powerful testimony to courage, community and the human spirit. ,The Institute of the Information and Library Science at the Jagiellonian University has engaged a group of students by giving them the possibility to present their local heritages, as well as the diversity of the Polish culture. Work has concentrated on scanning objects and selecting the material that is going to be posted on the database. The local primary school has become involved by submitting paintings and theatre productions. Six year olds are participating in presenting the legends of the Krakow region. The Armitt Library, UK, has produced a story outlining the Ambleside Rushbearing procession, using photographs and resources from the librarys collection to enhance a summary of the annual festival, written by a local resident. Stories related to contemporary debates, such as foxhunting, are included. The next step is to involve local schools and colleges more widely. The library is assisting the schools to input stories and digitise childrens work to see how well COINE functions as a tool for sharing class projects or schoolwork. Exciting times ahead,The project, funded until September 2004, plans to continue. Plans are underway for moving the successfully demonstrated product into the mainstream marketplace for local schools, cultural institutions and other organisations at local, regional and national level. These are exciting times for the COINE consortium, Butters says. We are looking at market opportunities for a concept that has moved from an idea to a demonstrated product in less than three years. A report detailing trials by the 23 user groups is being produced. According to Butters, the vast majority of users, from the very young to the elderly, found the concept attractive and COINE easy to use. Contact:,Geoff Butters,CERLIM Centre for Research in Library & Information Management,Manchester Metropolitan University,United Kingdom ,Tel: +44-161-2476142,Email: G.Butters@mmu.ac.uk Source: Based on information from COINEPublished by the IST Results service which gives you online news and analysis on the emerging results from Information Society Technologies research. The service reports on prototype products and services ready for commercialisation as well as work in progress and interim results with significant potential for exploitation.

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