The value of digital archive film history: willingness to pay for film online heritage archival access | SpringerLink

Abstract:  With the passage of time, celluloid film degrades and valuable film history is lost, resulting in loss of cultural history which contributes to the shared sense of community, identify, and place at a local and national level. Despite the growth in digitised services for accessing cultural resources, to date no economic valuation has been performed on digital local history resources which are accessible online. Despite the recent emergence of online portals for digital cultural services in many countries (such as virtual tours of art galleries and digitisation of cultural archives) a shift which has accelerated in response to the Covid-19 epidemic, there remains a major literature gap around the value of digital culture. Failure to account for the value of digital archives risks sub-optimal allocation of resources to accessing and preserving these aspects of local cultural history. In response, we performed the first contingent valuation study to estimate willingness to pay for a free online film archive portal containing historical film footage for localities throughout the United Kingdom. Users were willing to pay an average hypothetical subscription for digital archive film services of £38.52/annum. Non-users in the general population were asked their willingness to pay a hypothetical annual donation to maintain free public access (£4.68/annum on average). The results suggest that positive social value is gained from online access to digital archive film, and from knowing that the cultural heritage continues to be digitally accessible by the public for current and future generations. We outline how this evidence aligns with a theoretical framework of use and non-use value for digital goods and services extending beyond those who currently use the portal, to those introduced to it, and those in the general public who have never directly experienced the online archive service. We also report what we believe is the first application of Subjective Wellbeing analysis to engagement with a digital cultural service. The advantage of applying methods from economics to value cultural activities in monetary terms is that it makes emerging modes of digital cultural goods and services commensurable with other costs and benefits as applied to cultural policy and investment decisions, putting it on a level footing with physical cultural assets.