An Ecstacy of Beauty. Finnish Artists Travelling Beyond Europe 1882-1926. Online exhibition in Europeana. Screen capture of the front page.

Tapping in to Europe’s Digital Cultural Heritage

Interview by Gill Crabbe, FNG Research

We transform the world with culture’ is the motto of the Europeana Foundation, Europe’s largest digital platform for cultural heritage, where FNG’s Archive and Library Manager/Chief Curator Hanna-Leena Paloposki spent two months on a unique residency working at its headquarters in The Hague

As art experiences for the general public expand increasingly beyond the walls of art museums, online collections and online art exhibitions are offering a new kind of accessibility to artworks in the 21st century. Now, not only can you access a vast array of curated cultural material such as image galleries, podcasts and exhibition tasters through art museums’ own web pages, but international cultural organisations are also offering portals and platforms for important cultural material that are proving invaluable, not only for the art-loving public, but also for researchers and art professionals. One such organisation is the Europeana Foundation, and if you visit the Europeana Collections homepage, you will find an online exhibition, ‘An Ecstasy of Beauty’, which explores the travels made by Finnish artists from 1882 to 1926 and how their journeys influenced their art. Thus visitors from across the world can discover, perhaps for the first time, Finland’s key artists of the period, such as Akseli Gallen-Kallela, who travelled in Africa, and Hugo Simberg, who journeyed to the Caucasus to visit his engineer brother.

The EU’s commitment to creating a digital European library to make Europe’s cultural heritage available to all, led to the creation of the Europeana Foundation and website in 2008, which in 2010 provided access to around 10 million digital objects – today that figure has risen to 51 million – through the contributions of more than 3,000 cultural institutions mostly from across Europe. Besides being a portal, it is a platform and publishes curated online exhibitions and thematic collections, as well as raising awareness of its content through active engagement with social media. The Finnish National Gallery joined Europeana many years ago, sharing a large part of its art collections online.

As part of its continuing commitment to international co-operation and networking, in 2016 the Finnish National Gallery launched a work exchange residency scheme for its employees to fund them for periods of up to two months to work in organisations abroad. So when Hanna-Leena Paloposki, Archives and Library Manager / Chief Curator at the Finnish National Gallery was awarded a residency, her manager Riitta Ojanperä, Director of FNG Collections Management, made an inspired suggestion that she apply to work at Europeana, because the development of the collections online is one of the main tasks of the department. Having successfully arranged a work exchange, Paloposki found herself last autumn working at Europeana’s headquarters in The Hague. The online exhibition ‘An Ecstasy of Beauty’, which is part of Europeana’s dedicated online exhibitions platform, is just one result of the time she spent there.

Featured image: ‘An Ecstasy of Beauty. Finnish Artists Travelling Beyond Europe 1882–1926’. Online exhibition in Europeana. Screen capture of the front page

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