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portrait of Tamara Butigan

Tamara Butigan

Head of Digital Library Department , National Library of Serbia

Turning digital art into designer face masks

As part of our Discovering Europe season, last week we explored how cultural heritage institutions across Europe are starting to open their doors. In this post, Tamara Butigan takes a look at a special reopening initiative from two Serbian museums who are using digitised art from their collections on face masks, offering people a new and timely way to engage with their content. 

main image

Title: Alexander Archipenko, Two women, 1920 (paper mask)

Creator: hoto by Dušan Radovanović

Date: July 2020

Institution: National Museum in Belgrade

Country: Serbia

CC BY-NC-SA

As we saw in Europeana’s Masks and head coverings gallery, masks are as old as humankind and have been used for protection, ceremony, tradition and fashion. But the Covid-19 crisis has triggered a renaissance of masks, and two Serbian museums have recently launched the production of fashionable and comfortable masks based on their collections.

The National Museum in Belgrade (NMB) was closed to visitors between 16 March to 22 April. The Museum then opened its doors again, but with certain conditions: all visitors have to pass a disinfecting area and disinfect their hands at the museum entrance, and body temperature readings are mandatory both for employees and visitors. Finally, face masks are compulsory - but it is now possible to buy beautiful masks based on the museum's collections in the museum shop.

Sell-out masks

Biljana Djordjević, PhD, Museum Advisor, Head of Documentation Department and Museum Shop Manager at NMB tells us about it: ’Gordana Grabež, executive director in NMB, is responsible for the production of masks inspired by the NMB collection. Her first idea was to equip our staff with the appropriate masks, so we have given two masks to each museum employee and the rest are being sold in the museum shop. Since launching the masks, they have been extremely well received and are in high demand: each collection is sold out in two days after appearing in the shop.’

Socially responsible 

‘They are very comfortable to wear and can be used repeatedly, as they are made of special washable paper. At a price of 1.70 EUR, they’re affordable for the general public. The National Museum, as a socially responsible institution, made a policy not to earn money on this product, but to raise awareness among citizens about the importance of wearing masks in this challenging time. At the same time, the National Museum is educating citizens via captions of the art works on the masks, because people normally prefer to know what is on their face! We’re using around 40 motifs now, and also have four designs for children’s masks.’

Title: Mihailo S. Petrov, Predeo, 1921(paper mask)

Creator: Photo by Dušan Radovanović

Date: July 2020

Institution: National Museum in Belgrade

Country: Serbia

CC BY-NC-SA

Luxury masks

The Ethnographic Museum in Belgrade (EMB) ran a similar project as its response to the Covid-19 crisis, but using silk masks in cooperation with their partner Maruska Studio. These masks are more expensive (7.20 EUR), but are very elegant and dedicated to special occasions. NMB is also in partnership with Maruska to create silk masks, as seen in the photo below.

Title: Robert Delaunay, The Runners, 1924 (silk mask made by Maruska)

Creator: Photo by Dina Vučaj

Institution: National Museum in Belgrade

Country: Serbia

CC BY-NC-SA

The Ethnographic Museum also offers paper masks based on ethno motifs from Zaječar and old Serbian ornaments. 

Title: Serbian ethno motifs from 19th Century (paper masks)

Creator: Photo by Dina Vučaj

Institution: Ethnographic Museum in Belgrade

Country: Serbia

CC BY-NC-SA

All of the images used on NMB's masks are available digitally and are freely accessible to all. Explore them on the NMB’s websitе. And why not take a look at Europeana's freely reusable collections and find images to turn your own face into a masterpiece?

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