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2 minutes to read Posted on Thursday July 15, 2021

Updated on Monday November 6, 2023

portrait of Susan Hazan

Susan Hazan

CEO , Digital Heritage Israel

portrait of Georgia Evans

Georgia Evans

Senior Editorial Officer , Europeana Foundation

New European Bauhaus - an interview with Susan Hazan

The European Commission’s New European Bauhaus initiative wants to put sustainability, inclusivity and beauty at the heart of Europe’s future. Like its namesake, the New European Bauhaus seeks to find new solutions for a new era. Through conversations with cultural professionals, we are exploring the key role that cultural heritage can play. Susan Hazan, Chair of the Europeana Network Association, explores the continued relevance of crafts and the importance of cultural heritage networks to the initiative.

Susan Hazan weaving on a loom
Weaving Jerusalem, the Paley Center, 1991, © Susan Hazan

Can you tell us about your role as Chair of the Europeana Network Association (ENA)?

The Europeana Network Association is a democratic community of experts working in the field of digital cultural heritage, united by a shared mission to expand and improve access to Europe's cultural heritage. I took on the role of Chair six months ago, and was lucky to be able to join an impressive team of Board Members together with a talented group of Councillors who commit their time and energy to lead the Network on our creative and inspirational journey together. 

The Management Board quickly set ourselves a series of strategic priorities which include; supporting Europeana’s capacity building and digital transformation, a drive towards inclusivity and diversity, dedication to transparency, and an emphasis on accountability and democracy; and, last but not least, a goal to realise a clearer insight into our 3,000 strong membership and seek new ways to harness the potential of ENA members.

How is the New European Bauhaus relevant to the work you and ENA are doing? What role do you think that cultural heritage networks can play in the initiative? 

Drawing on the Bauhaus tradition and from my own experience, I feel that there is much to be learned through the knowledge we have gained from working with and the teaching of hand-worked crafts. This experience could be easily transposed onto digital crafts, especially as we recognise the urgent need to upskill ‘young’ people (of all ages) to be able to function in a digital world. This is not merely the need to function pragmatically, but the need for digital creativity – the empowerment gained through the principles of design and aesthetics. The Europeana Network Association is ideally located to lead such a drive. Nestled in Europe’s cultural institutions and embedded in the day-to-day digital transformation of the institutional activities, Europeana can foster digital transformation on the ground and inspire new generations of citizens to be not only digitally productive but digitally creative.

What does New European Bauhaus mean to you?

To someone living and working in Israel, Bauhaus is a household name. Known as the White City, Tel Aviv is home to one of the best-preserved collections of Bauhaus and International Style architecture in the world. It is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and protected as an outstanding example of new town planning and architecture in the early 20th century. When I think of the Bauhaus my personal association is all about art and especially crafts. I was familiar with the numerous artists in the Israel Museum collection where I worked for many years whose artworks figured prominently in our education activities and programmes. 

Susan Hazan in the New Media Studio, where two people work on a computer
New Media Studio. © Susan Hazan
Susan Hazan in the New Media Studio, where two people work on a computer

I would like to share a personal story – my own moment of digital transformation – which came back to me recently in sharp focus during one of the Europeana New European Bauhaus Cafés. Many years ago, I was a weaver by trade and exhibited as an internationally recognised textile artist. I created all kinds of colourful items of clothing, to sell in craft shops, to pay for more wool and more time to weave. It was never a profitable artistic career or cost-effective industry, so, as most artists and artisans do, I turned to teaching. This was how I first came to work in the Israel Museum – as head of the weaving studio. Inspired by the Bauhaus spirit, we believed in the purity of crafts; to be able to engage with the world through form, texture, and colour. We felt that it was the Museum’s responsibility to make sure that our students could take home a skill that would set them up for a creative and productive life.

However, some time in the late 1980s we realised that these traditional kinds of skills were no longer attractive to our students, and, in a pioneering move, Nurit Shiloh Cohen, Chief Curator of Education, decided that what we needed was a New Media studio! I was sent out to retrain and we purchased our very first set of Macs. From the early 1990s our little studio in the heart of the Museum trained students in the basics of digital production. Only several years later were we able to go online with our little shrieking modem and began to teach web design.

In a not-too-distant future shaped via the New European Bauhaus, what do you hope visiting a cultural heritage institution will be like?

I am waiting for the time that we remove the term ’digital’ from our lexicon and come to terms with the realisation that this is simply the way we do things; in libraries, museums, and archives across Europe.

How can the sector support this vision? 

It isn’t a vision; it is a reality and the less we concern ourselves with worrying about it the better we can integrate this way of doing things to become productive and creative individuals.

New European Bauhaus encourages interdisciplinarity - Commissioner Mariya Gabriel has described it as ‘a bridge between the world of art and culture on one side and the world of science and technology on the other’. How can the cultural heritage sector work with other sectors to make a contribution to the initiative?

In my role as a Senior Curator of New Media at the Israel Museum I realised over the years that each of these worlds spoke their own language and it was up to my team and I to find a shared vocabulary to enable fruitful conversation. In the museum we really had to bridge the different mindsets. Curators were speaking in jargon when they described their collections and the tech team had their own language and terms. It meant we had to constantly shift between the two worlds. That’s the lesson that could inform the digital cultural heritage sector as we work cross-sector on the New European Bauhaus - acting as a bridge to listen, and learn from one another in order to travel together in an informed and creative shared journey.