The idea of a digital centralised database in Europe existed as early as 1997. With the financial support of the EU Commission, the beta version of Europeana was able to go online on November 20 2008, following several previous test versions. By then, 4.5 million objects had been digitised (as of June 2015: 40 million), with 1000 European institutions taking part.
The size of the interest in such a comprehensive European knowledge database was shown within hours of the site going online: with over 10 million pageviews per hour the servers became overloaded and had to be upgraded. It wasn’t until a month later that the new site went online, with the official site, europeana.eu, being launched in early 2015.
The site is particularly valuable for cultural researchers. If they require a rare or very old book for their work which is not available in their own library, there is a good chance that they can find it in digitised form on Europeana. Along with books and photos, one can also find audio and video recordings. But the content itself is not all that Europeana offers: the site functions much more as a metadatabase, which provides contextual information and access to ancillary university databases.
In this way, many German universities now belong to the Europeana network. Following the example of Europeana, the Digital Public Library of America was launched in 2013. Tip: It is also worth checking out Europeana's Pinterest site, where you can find many works from European artists ordered by theme and era.