Meet the Members Council: Peter Soemers
Hear directly from each of your elected Members Council representatives, and get to know them a little better.
In December I was elected as a member of the Members Council. It felt like an unexpected Olympic medal, because I don't work in a cultural heritage institution. I earn my living as a simple application manager at the Dutch central government (databases for CRM, patents and subsidies). In my spare time, I'm a lover of visual art and an avid museum visitor. Since museum professionals have become accessible to people like me via social media, I have learned about OpenGLAM and Europeana; eventually they became my passion! By opening up minds and collections to the outside world cultural heritage institutions have won gold!
However, the purpose of being a Councillor is not to parade with a medal on stage but to support Europeana in every way possible. What can members of the Network Association expect from me?
I'm excited every time content and projects of Europeana touch hearts. I am delighted to hear the testimonies of people who took part in the collection days of Europeana 1914-1918. Their family history is now part of Europe's history. They are people like us; their fate could have been our fate... I sincerely hope that the collection days of the Europeana Migration campaign will also be enriching lives by telling stories.
Screenshot/still from 'The impact of the war' by Harry Verwayen, Europeana, CC BY-SA.
Taking and using roots
I want to focus on so-called end users, small institutions, private collections and the general appearance of Europeana. Does that make sense? I think so. Europeana resembles a big oak tree. It has solid roots, consisting of connections with cultural heritage institutions, partner organisations and member states. But without having and taking longer, thinner roots, really interacting with the soil ('collaborative platform' of users), the tree could wither. Ultimately, cultural heritage must reach the hearts of individual people; that was also a conclusion of the 2016 Amsterdam symposium 'Ready to reach out' (e.g. Martine Reicherts).
One of the ways in which I try to do this is making personal connections with cultural workers and bloggers. Via Twitter, blogposts and also via the modest Europeana Trusted Blogger pilot. As a Councillor, I hope I can do more.
textil, cloth. Världskulturmuseet. CC BY-NC-ND. Textile from artwork 'Hardship and hope: Crossing the U.S. Mexico Border' (2010): 'Each object found embedded in the sand carries a personal untold story'.
I like to see Europeana in the perspective of our fundamental human responsibility for each other. History shows dictators and terrorists constantly trying to expand their power by depriving people of their identity. By making cultural heritage publicly available, Europeana tries to do the contrary, giving every person the opportunity to discover and shape his/her own identity. Who I am is a layered thing, consisting of many influences and my own choices. Our shared European identity is an important layer - although it sometimes seems to cover tectonic plates rubbing against each other. Culture does not always connect people. This has to be counterbalanced by our most fundamental common identity: being human. This should always be in the lead.
Therefore, my 'holy book' for my commitment to a network wanting to be relevant to society is the 'Europeana Dream' of Nick Poole, former Chair of the Network:
Europeana, take up your responsibility!