CONFERENCE ON THE CURATING AND ANALYZING OF DIGITIZED COLLECTIONS USING THE EXAMPLE OF JAN TSCHICHOLD'S ESTATE
In the following texts you will find a summary of the content of the presentations given at the conference held on September 15-16, 2021 at the German National Library in Leipzig.
Sascha Collet: The importance of stories for science
Knowledge is a public good. However, it is often gathered in complex processes that are difficult to understand for the general public. Science communication faces two challenges: to present this complicated information in an exciting way and to anchor it in the memory. Many studies have been conducted on the latter, and they all agree: It is easier to remember things by being active yourself than by just reading them. In the digital communication of scientific data, interactive charts and infographics can therefore help to internalize things. However, it is important to create an incentive and thus "prepare" the memory for this impulse. It can be achieved through digital storytelling. Here, the user scrolls through arcs of tension, at the apex of which are interactive elements that invite the user to deepen and understand the information through his or her own exploration. This type of storytelling is called "data scrollytelling“.
Since 1933 Jan Tschichold, after his emigration to Switzerland due to the rise of the National Socialists in Germany, worked as a part time teacher at the Gewerbeschule Basel. With him he brought his typographic model collection, which included 34 boxes with almost 1,600 documents. Within about two decades, starting in 1919, he collected advertisements, brochures, business cards, invitations and more from 45 graphic designers from all over Europe. Among them are pieces from well-known names such as Herbert Bayer, El Lissitzky, and Kurt Schwitters. The collection offers an excellent and unique insight into the "new typography", which was sold by Jan Tschold in 1936 for 400 Swiss francs. The purchaser was the Gewerbemuseum Basel, where the collection was repackaged, labeled, and stored together with other model collections. In 2020, a comprehensive joint project between the Basel Library of Design and the University of Erfurt was launched with the aim of digitizing the collection and thus making it accessible to the public. Since then, all documents have been digitized and cataloged using RDA, the standard rule book for descriptive cataloging. In another step, these digital copies will be made available to the public in the swisscovery catalog. The project will end in spring 2022 with an exhibition in Basel and the simultaneous publication of a book.
Douglas McCarthy: Digital cultural engagement: notes from Europeana
Over the past two decades, Douglas McCarthy has worked internationally in public museums, private art collections and image archives in a variety of roles. Douglas supports Europeana’s mission by working with partner institutions to showcase their collections to online audiences.
In recent years museums have devoted significant amounts of time and investment to digitising their collections, and to making them available online. At this point, it is reasonable to ask – what’s next? What kind of engagement should museums expect? How many people are viewing online collections, and what are people most interested in?
The wider context for museums publishing content is a vast ocean of online cultural heritage material: content from other cultural institutions, academics and researchers, motivated non-aligned users (on Wikipedia, for instance) and third-party republishers of visual content (such as Pinterest). In this congested online environment, dominated by commercial interests, it can be challenging for museums to stand out from the crowd.
The Europeana website is Europe’s platform for cultural heritage, presenting over 50 million items from over 3000 institutions. It aims to engage people with cultural heritage online – for learning, for work or just for fun – and inspire new perspectives about history and culture. Storytelling, whether it’s digital or not, is all about making connections between people and ideas. Every day, the Europeana website highlights interesting and relevant cultural heritage collections, using editorial (blogs, galleries, exhibitions), educational resources and primary collections. Its editorial approach is topical, agile and experimental, taking advantage of trends.
Europeana is currently, like many organisations, investing time and resources in diversity and inclusion. It wishes to promote intercultural dialogue and understanding, to facilitate discussions on awareness and change, and make people feel like they are part of a closer community. Seasonal campaigns on topics such as Women's History and Black History Month are also important elements of Europeana’s yearly programming.
Finally, Europeana is dedicating significant efforts towards fostering audience participation, by making it possible for users to create and publish online galleries on the Europeana website, for example. In 2020, Europeana ran the first Digital Storytelling Festival, in partnership with India’s The Heritage Lab, a creative contest for people to write stories using open access cultural heritage. Providing open access to digitised public domain collections remains incredibly important, yet something that many museums have not embraced at the present time.