Finnish archives, libraries and museums are responsible for the preserving of cultural heritage and any related information and for making these available for the benefit of the wider public. These organisations manage extensive historical collections as well as document and preserve contemporary history. Archives, libraries and museums are constantly developing the methods that they use to digitise their collections and information resources to make them available digitally. At the same time, a constantly growing share of the materials that they preserve already exists in digital form.
The preservation work of Finnish archives, libraries and museums is guided by both mutual agreements and statutory requirements. The majority of the collections housed by archives comprise documents, but they also contain a great deal of materials from personal and family collections as well as oral history. Library collections typically focus on different types of publications. Artifacts, photographs and works of art are often housed in museums, while the National Audiovisual Institute (KAVI) focuses on the Finnish audiovisual cultural heritage. Despite this division of work, the collections and services of archives, libraries and museums are often closely connected, which makes it advantageous for them to collaborate with one another. In addition, the division of the responsibility for preservation between these organisations is not always clear-cut. For example, documentary materials are available not only in archives but also in museums and libraries, photo collections are also preserved by other organisations than museums, audiovisual materials are part of the collections of several organisations, and many museums and archives maintain their own special libraries.
Digitisation has remained a slow and labour-intensive process, which is most likely why hardly any archive, library or museum has been able to digitise all of its materials. However, continuous advancements in technology have helped enhance the automation of the digitisation process. A new common challenge that archives, libraries and museums face is the inclusion of new types of digital cultural heritage as part of their collections for future use.
Description methods are key to work that focuses on the establishment, publication and preservation of information resources. Archives, libraries and museums have long traditions in creating methods for discovering content. This descriptive expertise and knowledge can be used in other parts of our increasingly digital society.