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2 minutes to read Posted on Tuesday February 15, 2022

Updated on Monday November 6, 2023

portrait of Aisha Villegas

Aisha Villegas

Outreach and Communications Coordinator , Netherlands Institute for Sound & Vision

portrait of Sofie Taes

Sofie Taes

Research Assistant / Curator / Comms officer , Catholic University of Leuven

portrait of Maria Drabczyk

Maria Drabczyk

Head of policy and advocacy, Board member , Centrum Cyfrowe

Going the 'eXXtra' mile: novel outreach routes to European audiences

The Europeana XX - Century of Change project has significantly expanded the high quality curated collections on Europeana focused on 20th-century content. The project also encouraged engagement with cultural heritage through novel editorial formats and outreach activities - read on to find out what it achieved.

A group of people in a car
[Retrat en automòbil]
Girona City Council

An online showcase

The COVID-19 pandemic hit just as the Europeana XX project began in 2020, and partners acted fast to adapt project activities for online rather than real-life audiences. With novel publication formats and new tools and methodologies on and outside of Europeana, innovative modes of engagement resulted from what was initially a grave bump in the road.

To maximise the visibility of project activities and leverage the new collections contributed by partners, the project established a feature page dedicated to 20th century heritage on the Europeana website. As well as being a point of entry to the 20th century entity collection, the page contains a wide range of editorials. The themes aimed to reach a varied audience - from people interested in cinema history to educators looking for material on milestones in political history, and fashion lovers eager to revisit 20th-century trends.

Screenshot of the 20th century page on the Europeana website
Screenshot of the 20th century page on the Europeana website
Europeana Foundation
Screenshot of the 20th century page on the Europeana website

Novel formats

While blogs, galleries and exhibitions are by no means a new form for Europeana, galleries containing video material only were innovative indeed. Two exhibitions (A Century of technology and Family matters) and various blogs boasted a substantial amount of audiovisual material too. This was made possible by the migration of Europeana's blogs to Europeana's own platform, which made the use of copyrighted audiovisual material technically possible from 2021. This new functionality, combined with an agreement between XX project partners and Europeana that explicit permission of use by the content holder would allow for its inclusion, led to the publication of pieces of editorial which prominently featured audiovisual material.

Furthermore, the Europeana XX podcast and vlog series were the first ever to be produced with Europeana content. As the audiovisual collections at the core of the project lent themselves perfectly to these formats, the project team experimented with concepts, styles and storyboards, delivering a varied range of audiovisual heritage experiences accessible via the 20th century feature page. 

From curation to co-creation - new tools

The creation of this editorial was aided by the User Galleries tool, developed in close collaboration with Europeana Foundation. Now part of the Europeana website, the tool allows users to create a personal account, keep track of favourite items, build collections and make them ‘public’. For the Europeana XX editorial group, the tool substantially shortened the workflow connected with creating galleries: a curator can now completely finish a gallery and share its unique web address with the Europeana team for validation and promotion. Explore the feature through the video below.

For the Europeana XX editorial group, the tool substantially shortened the workflow connected with creating galleries: a curator can now completely finish a gallery and share its unique web address with the Europeana team for validation and promotion.

Another tool developed by Europeana XX to help curators was the recommendation engine and recommendation API, integrated into the Europeana website and added to the Europeana API offer. The recommendation engine implements metadata algorithms and takes into account a person’s sessions, allowing curators to create user galleries faster and with more diverse content. The Europeana website includes ‘favourite’ buttons which allow people to ‘like’ items which also providing feedback to the recommendation engine so that it can make adjustments in real time. Additionally, Europeana XX has developed the first multilingual embedding model for Europeana records, laying foundations for other AI based projects to experiment with Europeana data. 

Taking the Europeana experience off-site 

The User Gallery was also used to compile audiovisual collections for Subtitle-a-thons, a new online crowdsourcing platform which allows people to create and add subtitles to archival audiovisual content. Virtually hosted in Warsaw, Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Rome in collaboration with EUNIC partners, four challenges gathered international groups of language enthusiasts willing to test their subtitling skills in a gamified environment to increase the multilingual accessibility of audiovisual collections. 

To involve other communities, Europeana XX curated a number of experiences with user engagement tools. With the MuPop and QANDR apps, two pop-up exhibitions were created in Leuven and in the Hague, and an online interactive exhibition on 20th century Jewish women was made with the JStory platform. 

An exhibition visitor watches a video on a monitor
Visitors to the pop-up exhibition Women on the move, created by KU Leuven students
KU Leuven CS Digital
An exhibition visitor watches a video on a monitor

A workshop carried out in collaboration between EFHA and the Design Department (DIDA) of the University of Florence also took place in the context of the project. Students were encouraged to use the digital artefacts available in Europeana’s fashion collections to revive past brands through their heritage. Tutor Margherita Tufarelli and Renato Stasi, of the Fashion Design Laboratory 2 at UNIFI, said: ‘Cultural heritage materials in the digital format represent a special resource because they are renewable, implementable, recombinable: the more they are used, the more our common heritage grows and evolves.’

The workshop introduced archive use into designers’ training courses and aimed to familiarise them with existing structures, looking to the future with a vision of a continuously growing cultural heritage. The workshop reinvigorated the material kept by EFHA’s content providers and accessible through Europeana, presenting it as a resource for new design and creative productions. Margherita says: ‘The will to introduce archival research in the course stemmed from the desire to stimulate an approach of continuity with the heritage of the discipline (fashion) itself, considered not only something we observe but don’t touch, but actually something we continuously reconfigure and update.’ See the results of the workshop.

Get involved

The development of these new tools have not only facilitated the work of content creators and editors, but also turned end users into co-creators. The interactive exhibitions and gamification of crowdsourcing activities allowed people to interact with archival materials in new ways, shifting from passive consumers to active participants and collaborators. These activities, as well as new tools and methodologies, represent an important stepping stone in Europeana’s continuous exploration of exciting publication formats, novel connections with users and synergies with its ecosystem of professionals. 

You can discover all the tools developed through Europeana XX in the Europeana Pro Services and Tools section and explore collections and stories from the 20th century on the Europeana website.