European Culture Forum: kicking off the European Year of Cultural Heritage and the Europeana Migration campaign
Cultural sectors' key players gathered in Milan to discuss possibilities for cultural collaboration during the European Year of Cultural Heritage.
‘Our Heritage: where our past meets our future’: this was the slogan of the European Culture Forum in Milan, the biennial flagship event organised by the European Commission held on 7 and 8 December, which also marked the official kick off for the European Year of Cultural Heritage. Over 2 days, 800 cultural sectors' key players got together for fruitful exchanges on European cultural cooperation. Such was the importance of the event to the sector that hundreds more professionals joined the proceedings by live link in a second venue close by. As the digital face of the Year, Europeana was a key part of these conversations: here are some of the highlights.
Working together on cultural cooperation in Europe
Over 2018, The European Year of Cultural Heritage will put the spotlight on Europe's wealth of cultural heritage to enable people to become closer to and more involved with their shared cultural heritage. Tibor Navracsics, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, officially declared the European year of Cultural Heritage open, highlighting the need for cooperation to bring thousands of initiatives and events to people across Europe: ‘We need to preserve and treasure our cultural heritage for the next generations. This year of celebrations will be a wonderful opportunity to encourage people, especially young people, to explore Europe's rich cultural diversity. It allows us to understand the past and to build our future.'
‘My story, our heritage’
Because this Year is for all generations of Europeans, a series of testimonials entitled My story, Our heritage invited younger people to share their experience of how cultural heritage has impacted their lives. Clara Röpke, a 17-year-old highschool student from Berlin, who hopes to become an archaeologist, flew the flag for Europeana1914-1918.eu. Taken by her school teacher to the Transcribathon Campus in Berlin, she became addicted to transcribing as a means of making the First World War come alive ‘I approached the programme with an interest in history, but I didn’t anticipate what an impact old letters would make. The story I discovered was not just data, it touched me on a personal level.’ She worked on the transcription of the story of a man barely older than her during WW1. On becoming an adult, he was forced to give up his dream of taking over his father’s restaurant and join the war effort. He survived the war, but coming home four years later, the restaurant didn't exist anymore, his dream had been crashed. ‘This got me thinking about how we learn history in school, and the crucial details we often tend to forget. These were people with thoughts and feelings, and we can still learn from them. These stories need to be preserved. How are we supposed to make the best of our future if we don’t regard the past with care?’
Building up a collection dedicated to European Migration
Emphasizing the role that digital can play in making our cultural heritage accessible, she mentioned that the EU has been very visionary in providing the money for digitisation and for Europeana - We lead and are copied across the the world. She went on to say participation is not exceptional but normal - taking the words of Professor Sacco ‘if we don’t socialise people into production we are missing the point…’ She said we need to empower people to geotag our monuments, to describe musical genre’s so that our old sound recordings are actually retrievable online.
To encourage people’s participation in the European Year of Cultural Heritage across Europe, Europeana announced the launch of the Europeana Migration collection. Inviting people to contribute with their families memorabilia, this collaborative digital project aims to show that culture is the product of multicultural influences down the centuries: ‘We are all made up of multiple cultural influences. With Europeana Migration, we will collect these personal stories and combine them with material held in museums, galleries and archives to create a culture for the future’.
GIF IT UP
The Forum also presented the opportunity to showcase both openly licensed content from Europeana and the creative possibilities for its re-use to the 1000+ plus audience. At key points on the opening day, three specifically created animated slideshows featuring GIFs made using Europeana content and submitted to the international GIF IT UP 2017 competition were shown in the main plenary hall, literally bringing cultural heritage alive for the audience. And Europeana’s social media lead: Aleksandra Strelichowska was on hand to share with the audience the importance of opening up heritage to encourage others to share and create with it.