Reija Meriläinen, Survivor, 2017, videogame Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma Screen capture of the online artwork

Data Salvage – Preserving Software-based Artworks in the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma

Maija Grönqvist, MA student, University of Helsinki

This article is published as a result of a three-month research internship at the Finnish National Gallery

How to preserve process, context, and instability? Software-based art requires a certain amount of institutional rethinking in terms of collecting and preservation. Museums, entrusted with the task of preserving and re-exhibiting their collected artworks even in the most distant future, are battling with a new set of problems related to software-based art. The underlying challenge is that the artworks – often manifested as everything but objects – are created on technologically evolving platforms. As a result, theoretical models and practical strategies linked to software-based artworks are inevitably bound to change.[1]

Preserving software-based artworks is challenging yet vital, as they not only represent the artists’ ideas and concepts, but also the technological possibilities and the complex communication landscape of our time.[2] Long before the official recognition of the digital revolution, artists were already experimenting with the novel possibilities of new media. The first wave of digital art was exhibited mainly at technology conferences or digital media festivals. Towards the end of the last century, however, new media art, the art form that used to be considered ‘peripheral to the mainstream art world’[3], became an established genre and finally a welcome addition to galleries and museums. This expansion occurred globally in the 1990s, following the unforeseen affordability and user-friendliness of projectors and personal computers.[4]

[1] Paul 2015, 87; Fino-Radin 2011, 6.

[2] LIMA 2016.

[3] Paul 2003, 7.

[4] Paul 2003, 7; London 2014, xviii; Lialina 2010, 38–39.

Featured image: Reija Meriläinen, Survivor, 2017, video game
Finnish National Gallery / Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma
Screen capture of the online artwork

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Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, The Reading Monk, 1661, oil on canvas, 82cm x 66cm The Hjalmar Linder Donation, Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Yehia Eweis

Sinebrychoff Art Museum’s Rembrandt Joins International Database

Kirsi Eskelinen, PhD, Museum Director, Finnish National Gallery, Sinebrychoff Art Museum, Helsinki

The Reading Monk by Rembrandt van Rijn, which is at the Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum, has now been included in the Rembrandt Database. The Rembrandt Database is a research resource for information and documentation on paintings by Rembrandt or attributed to him. The database is maintained by RKD (Netherlands Institute for Art history) in The Hague and is supported by The Andrew F. Mellon Foundation in New York. The site contains art-historical documentation on more than 600 paintings. In addition to that, it also contains visual and textual material from the technical analysis and treatment of the paintings. Its significance as the leading portal for Rembrandt research is recognised worldwide.

As a practical outcome this marks the first step in the research project on The Reading Monk at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum. All the documentation concerning provenance research, literature and technical analysis has been carefully scanned and new information has been added. Now scholars have free access to all the data concerning The Reading Monk via the Rembrandt Database. We hope that this will also promote international research interest in the museum’s painting.

Database website: www.rembrandtdatabase.org

Featured Image: Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn, The Reading Monk, 1661, oil on canvas, 82cm x 66cm
The Hjalmar Linder Donation, Finnish National Gallery / Sinebrychoff Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Yehia Eweis

Call for Research Interns 2019

Finnish National Gallery
Call for Research Interns 2019

The Finnish National Gallery wishes to raise new interest in research topics based on its resources and collections. It also wishes to be an active and innovative partner in collaborating with the academic scene in reinforcing humanistic values and the importance of understanding the world and human culture by creating new, meaningful and relevant knowledge.

For this purpose the Finnish National Gallery has a research internship programme for art or cultural history students (preferably master’s-level) internationally to work with us as research interns.

The programme has two aims. The Finnish National Gallery wishes to enhance the study of its collections including artworks, archives, and objects. At the same time it wishes to support students who choose to write their master’s level theses on subjects based on physical collections and objects, archive material and data.

In 2019 the Finnish National Gallery is prepared to receive three research interns.

The internship period is three months with the intern under contract to the Finnish National Gallery. The salary is equivalent to the salary of university trainees.

The intern chooses in advance the material of the Finnish National Gallery collections that he/she wishes to study, and agrees on studying it during the internship period. It is desirable that the material will form part of the intern’s thesis. The intern is required, during the period of their internship, to write a text in English, based on the material and the research done at the National Gallery. The text may be published in one of the sections of the FNG Research web magazine.

Each intern will have two in-house professional tutors at the Finnish National Gallery. The tutors and the intern will meet on average weekly.

The Finnish National Gallery is not responsible for the academic supervision of the intern’s master’s thesis. The role of the National Gallery is to support the intern’s skills in collections research practices.

Are you interested? If so, please send your application by e-mail to fngr@nationalgallery.fi or by post to FNG Research, Chief curator Hanna-Leena Paloposki, Kaivokatu 2, 00100 Helsinki, Finland.

Applications can be written in English, Finnish or Swedish.

The deadline for applications is 15 November 2018 and the appointments will be announced by 14 December 2018.

The interns are appointed by the FNG Research editorial board.

For more information about the application process and programme, please click on the link below:

How to apply for the research internship programme at the Finnish National Gallery for master’s-level art and cultural history students >>

Otto Mäkilä, Summer Night, 1938, oil on canvas, 70cm x 90cm, Herman and Elisabeth Hallonblad Collection, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Antti Kuivalainen

Editorial – Stimulating Research through Collections’ Metadata

Riitta Ojanperä, PhD, Director, Collections Management, Finnish National Gallery, Helsinki

 

19 July 2018

 

Multiculturalism and opening up to the changes and challenges of today’s world are topics that are often discussed when museum professionals get together in meetings and conferences. It is about being relevant to the societies around us.

Collections are traditionally considered the core of museums and the kernel of museums’ role as providers of reliable knowledge about culture and its history. Therefore a significant interest in the histories of collections – that is for whom, in what historical period and for what reasons the collections were formed – has been shown within the museums themselves, as well as in the academic field.

Metadata is a key concept when talking about making collections and collections’ data relevant. Metadata creates patterns of knowledge that are connected with each single object in the collection. The data are gathered in museums’ databases and, ideally, shared via digital platforms, thus serving as an important primary source for academic research, as well as other interests.

The ways in which we organise, enrich and share the metadata that is formatting the knowledge do matter. This part of professional practice has the potential to reflect a museum’s and its collection’s relevance and also offers the possibility to participate in current discourses within academic research fields. Collections as sets of chosen objects are relatively static, but the metadata connected to them, and the procedures for constituting knowledge, need not be.

The Finnish National Gallery has very recently accomplished the task of migrating its collections’ data to a new database system and we are planning to share the data on a new website next year. We are also looking forward to experimenting with crowdsourcing keywords.

While doing this, we will be happy to hear about our colleagues’ experiences and to share with others what we are learning.

Wishing you all a nice summer!

Featured image: Otto Mäkilä, Summer Night, 1938, oil on canvas, 70cm x 90cm, Herman and Elisabeth Hallonblad Collection, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum

On the Finnish National Gallery’s website the basic information given about this painting is: Otto Mäkilä, Summer Night, 1938, Keywords: kesä, maisema, heinäpelto, figuuri, yö, nainen, allegoria. In future we wish to share the keywords with you also in English: summer, landscape, hayfield, figure, night, woman, allegory.

Information about the FNG collection is also available on these data platforms:

Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Antti Kuivalainen

Nineteenth and 20thcentury plaster portraits from the Finnish National Gallery Collections displayed in the exhibition ‘I am not I – Famous and Forgotten Portraits’ at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum, Helsinki, in 2017 Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Riitta Ojanperä Issue No. 4/2018

Connecting Museum Collections with the Rest of the World

Interview by Gill Crabbe, FNG Research

As the Finnish National Gallery prepares to launch a new integrated website for its collections, artworks, objects and archival material, Gill Crabbe asks the key people behind the project about the implications for researchers and other users

The days when an art historian’s first port of call in accessing an art museum’s materials would be to walk through its doors and spend hours leafing through indexes, letters and artefacts, are fast disappearing. In today’s globalised, digitised world, the research community expects rapid accessibility, through interactive channels, both online and via social media. In fact one might even posit the question to the art research community, does an object exist if it is not available online? For institutions like art museums these issues present a huge challenge, simply because the vast volume of objects and related material they hold in their archives and collections means that a gargantuan effort is involved in transforming even a selected part of it into digital material.

The Finnish National Gallery’s recent release of more than 12,000 images of copyright-free artworks into the public domain as open-data has not only opened up the dissemination of its art collections internationally but also goes hand in hand with a much larger development of its entire collections management system that will see all of the collections – artworks, objects and archive collections – brought into a single database for the first time. This new updated database will feed into the FNG’s new collections online web pages to be launched next year. At present there are several ways to access various parts of the FNG collections and improving their online availability is a pivotal way to enhance research related to them.

Featured image: Artworks need metadata to support research into them. Nineteenth and 20th-century plaster portraits from the Finnish National Gallery Collections displayed in the exhibition ‘I am not I – Famous and Forgotten Portraits’ at the Sinebrychoff Art Museum, Helsinki, in 2017
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Riitta Ojanperä

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Magnus von Wright, Crack Willows on the Waterfront, from Samling af Etuder för Landskaps, Djur och Blomstertecknare, 1839–40, lithograph, 25cm x 32cm Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Tero Suvilammi

The von Wright Brothers as Lithographic Artists

Erkki Anttonen, PhD, Senior Researcher, Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum, Helsinki

Also published in Erkki Anttonen & Anne-Maria Pennonen (eds.), The von Wright Brothers – Art, Science and Life. Ateneum Publications Vol. 99. Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum 2017, 73–91. Transl. Wif Stenger

The beginning of the history of Finnish lithographic art can be traced back to an entry by artist Magnus von Wright (1805–1868) in his diary from 8 March 1827, where he discusses trying his hand at drawing on stone for the first time while in Stockholm: ‘For the first time I drew on stone. – It was a pencil drawing.’[1]

At the time, lithography was still a new and revolutionary technique. It spread rapidly in the early 19th century, being employed widely for graphic work that required mass production, such as advertising posters, labels, postcards, maps, scientific illustrations, information communication, and in printing. The technique was an instant success in fine art printmaking too. The method had been developed between 1796 and 1798 by Alois Senefelder (1771–1834), an actor and playwright who was born in Prague but who worked in the early years of his career in Bavaria, mostly in Munich.

Lithography is a planographic printing method in which a design is drawn on the smooth surface of a stone block with a greasy crayon, or a sharp pen, or by applying an oily ink wash. Because oil and water repel each other, areas drawn with a greasy medium accept an oil-based printing ink, while the bare, wet surface repels it. The heyday of lithography was the latter half of the 19th and early part of the 20th century. Lithographic print shops were established all over the world, largely by publishers. It was not until the Second World War that the faster and more efficient offset method put an end to the last of the lithographic print houses in Finland.[2]

[1] Wright, Magnus von, 1996, Dagbok 1824–1834. Eds. Anto Leikola, Juhani Lokki, Torsten Stjernberg & Johan Ulfvens. Skrifter utgivna av Svenska litteratursällskapet i Finland, nr 600:1. Konstnärsbröderna von Wrights dagböcker 1. Helsingfors: Svenska litteratursällskapet i Finland, 8 March 1827 (58). The first lithographs of Finland were published 1823–24, when 15 large landscape washes depicting views from southern Finland by Carl von Kügelgen (1772–1832), an artist working in Russia, were printed as lithographs and published by Peter Friedrich Helmersen in St. Petersburg.

[2] For more on the subject, see, e.g., Johannesson, Lena, 1978. Den massproducerade bilden. Ur bildindustrialismens historia. Stockholm: AWE/Geber, 18–24.

Featured image: Magnus von Wright, Crack Willows on the Waterfront, from Samling af Etuder för Landskaps, Djur och Blomstertecknare, 1839–40, lithograph, 25cm x 32cm
Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Tero Suvilammi

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Ferdinand von Wright to Elise Heintzie, Haminalahti on 225 Jan, no year. Collection of Artists’ Letters. Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Ainur Nasretdin

Ferdinand von Wright, Letter-writer

Hanna-Leena Paloposki, PhD, Chief curator, Archive and Library Manager, Finnish National Gallery, Helsinki

Also published in Erkki Anttonen & Anne-Maria Pennonen (eds.), The von Wright Brothers – Art, Science and Life. Ateneum Publications Vol. 99. Helsinki: Finnish National Gallery / Ateneum Art Museum 2017, 159–65. Transl. Wif Stenger

The Finnish National Gallery’s archive collections include correspondence and other documents from artists Magnus, Wilhelm and Ferdinand von Wright. They are part of the collection of artists’ letters that is made up of artists’ documents both bought for and donated to the Finnish Art Society. The first batch of the brothers’ letters was acquired for the collections in 1890–91.

In this article I focus on letters written by the youngest of the brothers, Ferdinand (1822–1906), of which there are 104 in the collection. They provide a background to his art and help contemporary readers to approach him as both an artist and as a person. For von Wright, who lived far from the Finnish capital, letter-writing was the most important method of maintaining contacts. Letters have always been important source materials for historians. The chronological distance from the writing of the texts imposes an interpretational challenge, but, on the other hand, letters are generally written in order to overcome and withstand chronological and geographical gaps.[1] Source material is almost always a random selection, as not all documents are generally preserved.[2]

[1] Hyttinen, Elsi & Kivilaakso, Katri, 2010. Johdanto. Lukemattomat sivut. Kirjallisuuden arkistot käytössä. Eds. Elsa Hyttinen ja Katri Kivilaakso. Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seuran Toimituksia 930. Helsinki: Suomalaisen Kirjallisuuden Seura, 9.

[2] Researchers choose details of correspondence that are relevant to their own fields, leaving behind information that is irrelevant to their research and which no-one may ever make use of, or which may remain uninterpreted because of inadequate information. An example of this kind of irrelevant detail is that Ferdinand von Wright did not care for women wearing hairstyles with fringes, considering them a form of vanity. This was revealed when B. O. Schauman sent him photographs of well-known women, including an image of the internationally-successful Finnish opera singer Alma Fohrström (fan photos of the day). See Ferdinand von Wright to B. O. Schauman, Haminalahti 19 May 1887 and 14 June 1887. Collection of artists’ letters. Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery (= CAL, FNG). Why did Schauman send these pictures? Was it two elderly bachelors sharing their distant admiration for women?

Featured image: A letter from Ferdinand von Wright to Elise Heintzie, Haminalahti, dated 25 January, year not given, page 1. Collection of Artists’ Letters. Archive Collections, Finnish National Gallery
Photo: Finnish National Gallery / Ainur Nasretdin

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