Europeana 1914-1918: A Digital Museum?
Europeana is without any doubts a very ambitious projects of the European Union. The database collects photos, paintings, films and much more from European galleries and museums, creating a huge collection of artifacts from different time periods. Its main purpose is to create new ways for people to engage with cultural history. It supports its the digitialization of more Europe’s cultural and scientific heritage but also brings together items that have already been digitalized in one platform.
For the project “Europeana 1914-1918” artifacts of the First World War were collected and ditialized from both private collections and institutions from all over Europe. In the three year long process Europeana hosted 12 “family history roadshows” during which the public could bring artefacts to the archivists who scanned and tagged them. Together with the digitalized documents from ten different European state libraries they result in an impressive digital archive which is available online. And you can access all of it for free! There even are curated exhibitions on a wide range of topics, from the First World War to Hungarian music and dance, giving background information about the specific time the artefacts are from, often even in multiple languages. It is like visiting a museum but you could do that sitting on your comfortable couch. All you need is internet access.
Alternatively, you can explore Europeana on your own through a search function. While this offers a great potential you sometimes feel lost. Although there is metadata on almost all of the artifacts it sometimes is very hard to find just the thing you are looking for or to understand the context – not very surprising, given the fact that there are over 400 000 digitalized documents, 660 hours of film material and 90 000 personal papers of 7 000 people (according to a press release issued by Europeana). If you are not an historian the curated exhibitions are the easier way to use the platform, offering a “Best Of” of the digitalized documents together with an explanation of the historical circumstances.
Either way, the Europeana collection offers an interesting look into primary sources most of us normally do not have the chance to access. As said before, there are a number of topics to explore, for example a blog dedicated to fashion. In preparation for our WeberWorldCafé “Narrating the First World War” on September 16, 2014 we highly recommend the exhibition “Der Erste Weltkrieg – Orte des Übergangs”.
Europeana on Pinterest
Do you have more questions about the curated exhibitions on Europeana? Visit the WeberWorldCafé on September 16, 2014@Deutsches Historisches Museum Berlin and ask Dr. Frank Reichherzer who conceptualized and curated the exhibition “Der Erste Weltkrieg – Orte des Übergangs”.