On April 29 at the Riga Summit on the Multilingual Digital Single Market, Latvian Minister of Culture Dace Melbārde and the R&D Manager for Europeana, Antoine Isaac, signed a Memorandum of Understanding between Europeana and the Latvian Ministry of Culture. The Memorandum foresees the integration of Latvia's machine translation service Hugo.lv into Europeana, thereby expanding multilingual access to Latvia's cultural heritage data.
To provide multilingual communication in the public sector, the Latvian government has developed the machine translation service Hugo.lv, administered by the Culture Information Systems Centre. The system provides instant translation of texts, documents, and websites from Latvian to English (and vice versa) and from Latvian to Russian.
The service is freely available online as a public web interface, offering widespread multilingual access to information originally published in Latvian. Hugo.lv is also integrated into e-service platforms – including the official public services website Latvija.lv – so that residents, citizens, and visitors can receive e-services in multiple languages.
At the present time, the machine translation service Hugo.lv is specially tailored to general-domain texts and legislative acts. In the next phase of development for Hugo.lv, the Culture Information Systems Centre plans to further adapt the Latvian public sector's machine translation service for cultural heritage data. This would mean that the system could be used to provide instant translations of crucial cultural information like museum, library, and archive catalogues.
As Europe's digital platform for cultural heritage, Europeana collects and provides online access to tens of millions of digitised items from libraries, archives, audio-visual collections, and museums across Europe. Translating data significantly enhances its quality, as it makes it directly usable for multilingual access. The use of services adapted to local languages like Hugo.lv is a best practice to be explored by cultural organizations in other EU Member States.
Minister of Culture Dace Melbārde also emphasized the importance of multilingualism in the creation of digital content – particularly in the context of smaller languages – in her speech at the Riga Summit on the Multilingual Digital Single Market:
"We now witness the global changes of cultural diversity. The disappearance of languages is one of the most remarkable. From about 6000 languages only about half is being used nowadays; moreover, many of them being used by a few persons only, and a few hundreds – by more than one million people. Only about 10 are considered as large languages as they are used by more than 100 million people. With deep respect towards the linguistic diversity and truly appreciating the opportunities that are given to us through our foreign language skills, we clearly understand that the digitization helps to strengthen and preserve our language and culture areal."
Upon the successful adaptation of Hugo.lv to the cultural domain, Europeana could begin to explore the possibility of integrating the Latvian public sector's machine translation results into Europeana. For its part, the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Latvia undertakes to substantially increase the number of cultural items from Latvian cultural information systems included in Europeana.
Currently, data integration in Europeana from Latvian cultural information systems (museums, archives, libraries) is taking place within the framework of existing projects. Additional financing to Hugo.lv for cultural data translation and quality improvements is planned from European Regional Development Fund resources in the next planning period, beginning from 2016.
Public Relations advisor to the Minister of Culture