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Europeana enables people to explore the digital resources of Europes museums, libraries, archives and audio-visual collections. It promotes discovery and networking opportunities in a multilingual space where users can engage, share in and be inspired by the rich diversity of Europes cultural and scientific heritage. On this blog you will find short updates on Europeana content, special events and things we are working on.
Updated: 1 hour 8 min ago

Pictures in Focus: Street view in Amsterdam by George Hendrik Breitner

Mon, 19/02/2018 - 11:12

Today, Pierre-Edouard Barrault, Data Ingestion Specialist at Europeana and keen photography enthusiast, talks about a striking photo taken in Amsterdam at the beginning of 20th century by the Dutch painter and photographer, Gerges Hendrik Breitner.

Street photography could well be the oldest form of photography, as the medium was initially invented to capture and study life in its purest form. The first still and moving pictures were mostly aimed toward illustrative outcomes, such as the work of the Lumière brothers  (who captured common street scenes, e.g. their employees leaving their factory), Eugène Atget (who documented Paris in the pre-Haussmannian era) or Eadweard Muybridge (who developed photographic techniques to study movement).

Capturing the intangible and elusive features of life has always been somewhat difficult to crystallize into absolute theories and definitions. Therefore, the ability of an artist to go beyond established aesthetics in order to simply demonstrate, in new and fresh manners, what life really looks like, has continuously been praised.

An impressionist painter and photographer alike, Georges Hendrik Breitner, was the creator of many powerful pictures of life in the Netherlands at the end of the 19th century. He focused on street scenes, portraits and intimate shots, often as reference material for his paintings – which earned him great acclaim. But his photographic oeuvre, beside and beyond underpinning his painting process, also set the course for future documentary photography. Beyond its artistic value, this oeuvre also serves as a very early testimony of proper street photography codes and offers a compelling vision of the laborious life of Dutch (anonymous) people at the beginning of the industrial age.

Straatgezicht op de kruising Lindengracht Lijnbaansgracht in Amsterdam, George Hendrik Breitner, ca. 1890 – ca. 1910.
Rijksmuseum, public domain

Straatgezicht op de kruising Lindengracht Lijnbaansgracht in Amsterdam (Street view of the intersection of Lindengracht Lijnbaansgracht in Amsterdam), in my view, represents all of those characteristics. First, the simplicity of the frame drags the spectator in, owing to the crossing of two strong diagonals right at the focal point of the scene: a lady, probably on her way to a next task during her working day. Despite the fact that the shot depicts other moving elements as a wall (the wagon in the background and the boy on the right), the intensity of this leading lady is striking.

Her determined gait and dismissive gaze – barely acknowledging the presence of the camera (at a time when such an apparatus was rather noticeable and still very uncommon) are enough to make this picture a compelling showcase of life: undisturbed in her daily routine, wrapped like a Greek goddess by her floating apron, this woman is called by a duty and a purpose we will never know. It’s easy to look at this image and to get reminded of our own hectic daily life. Or to get us pondering on social inequalities. All this in one picture of a street corner: that’s the magic of photography.

Enjoy more photographs by Breitner in this Europeana Photography gallery.

#ColorOurCollections and Europeana EYCH Colouring Book

Mon, 05/02/2018 - 12:14

Find your crayons. Sharpen your coloured pencils. Arrange your felt pens. #ColorOurCollections is back!

#ColorOurCollections is a week-long colouring fest on social media organized by libraries, archives, and other cultural institutions around the world. Using materials from their collections, these institutions are sharing free colouring content with the hashtag #ColorOurCollections and inviting their followers to colour and get creative with their collections.

This year, we created a European Year Of Cultural Heritage Colouring Book. It features openly licensed content from fourteen cultural institutions across Europe and shows different shapes and form of cultural heritage.

To join the activity, download the book here, have fun colouring and share your coloured pages on social media with the hashtags #ColorOurCollections and #EuropeForCulture!










If you have to ask what jazz is…

Tue, 30/01/2018 - 11:10

Art Blakey, drummer and leader of the Jazz Messenger, at the Umeå jazz festival in 1979. Riksantikvarieämbetet, CC BY

“If you have to ask what jazz is, you’ll never know.” So spoke the trumpeter Louis Armstrong, when asked to provide a definition. As the subject of jazz straddles the months of January and February in 2018 on Europeana Music, we take at look at the sounds, images and footage of jazz on Europeana, provided by so many cultural heritage institutions from across Europe and beyond.

To highlight the genre of jazz, there are a couple of galleries: first, a selection of portraits of the Jazz Greats, including Louis Armstrong, Art Blakey, Ella Fitzgerald and more; and secondly, a gallery of ephemera, showing the range of posters and some paintings which were inspired by jazz.

It’s worth noting that, as jazz is a relatively recent musical genre, much of the material is still in copyright. So, it’s really heartening to discover that there are so many jazz-related sound recordings, photographs which have been made accessible on Europeana.

There are also some excellent videos. For example, here’s a short clip of vibraphonist Gary Burton’s quartet from 1970. They start playing from 1’35” – it’s well worth the wait! And here you can see bassist Charles Mingus and his band perform “Better Git It In Your Soul” from 1962.

There are there are 59 entries for Duke Ellington’s “Mood Indigo” alone on Europeana – one particularly wonderful version is sung by the basso profundo Paul Robeson.

We can’t provide a better definition of jazz than Louis Armstrong, but hope you have a chance to look at the amazingly diverse content that represents the genre on the Europeana pages.

5 Europeana Art highlights from 2017

Fri, 22/12/2017 - 10:46

As the year draws to a close, we look back on the past twelve months and celebrate five significant moments for Europeana Art. In chronological order:

1. Art Nouveau season

L’Art Gothique by Louis Gonse (detail), 1900. Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg. CC0

2017 began with fireworks: a four-month season dedicated to Art Nouveau. Its centrepiece was the exhibition Art Nouveau – A Universal Style which surveyed Art Nouveau across Europe and showed masterpieces alongside fascinating lesser-known works. Featuring almost fifty artworks from more than twenty museums, the exhibition is available in six languages.

During the season we published a series of fascinating guest blogs written by our partners: museum curators, collections managers and Art Nouveau experts shared insights into the genre. We did a spot of writing too, publishing guest posts with our friends at DailyArt and highlighting works on their excellent app.

2. Art Up Your Tab

Flowers and bird, 1916. Watanabe Seitei. Rijksmuseum. Public Domain

We had a lot of fun this year with Art Up Your Tab, the nifty plug-in that shows a full-screen image from Europeana every time you open a browser tab. Never boring or predictable, Art Up Your Tab makes a lot of people’s days just a little bit more fun. Get the plug-in.

3. Magnificent München

Le Déjeuner, 1868. Édouard Manet. Neue Pinakothek München. CC BY-SA

A highlight of 2017 was Museums in the Digital Sphere: Opportunities and Challenges at the beautiful Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich. Tasked with analyzing the needs and desires of museum visitors in the 21st century, a sparkling array of speakers (including our very own Douglas) addressed topics such as digital collections, transparency and open access. Watch the whole event on the Pinakotheken site and, whilst you’re there, check out their snazzy collections website. 

4. The Mauritshuis arrives in style

The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp (detail), 1632. Rembrandt van Rijn. Mauritshuis. Public Domain

Each time a new collection arrives in Europeana, we get a little excited. When it’s openly licensed and available in high-resolution, we get even more excited. So when we published the collections of the Maurithuis in Europeana, well – you can just imagine!

The Mauritshuis is of course famous for its amazing paintings by Dutch and Flemish masters from the Golden Age: Rembrandt, Vermeer and so on. The digitised images are available in very high-resolution and released under a Public Domain licence. Another victory for OpenGLAM – bravo!

5. Finnish friendship

Hanna-Leena (3rd from left) and the Europeana team

In late autumn, we had the pleasure of welcoming Hanna-Leena Paloposki to Europeana on a two-month professional residency. Hanna-Leena is the Chief Curator and Archive & Library Manager at the Finnish National Gallery in Helsinki. Hanna-Leena brought an in-depth knowledge of Finnish art and the Gallery’s collections to Europeana. Her extensive art historical research, exhibitions and publications experience was invaluable.

Hanna-Leena left us with a beautiful gift in the form of an exhibition. An Ecstasy of Beauty follows Finnish artists’ travels beyond Europe in the late 19th and early 20th century. Visitors look through artists’ eyes and the prism of this era, going on a journey to Africa, America and the Caucasus. Read Hanna-Leena’s reflections on her time at Europeana.

2017: Top 20 searches on Europeana

Thu, 21/12/2017 - 08:30

With 2017 coming to a close, it’s time to look at what you’ve been searching for this year on Europeana Collections.

Since January, there have been millions of searches in Europeana Collections from all over the world. With more than 50 million artworks, objects, books, sounds and videos, from more than 3,500 European cultural institutions, there’s a lot to be found.

So this year, what were you all looking for? Here, we’ve compiled your top 20 searches from 2017.

1 – Paris

Perenially popular Paris, a beautiful city of arts and culture, has featured in our top 20 for the past five years.

Map from “Dictionnaire historique et topographique de Paris”, The British Library, Public Domain Marked

2 – Funny

In 2017, it seems many people were looking for something to make them laugh or smile

My Big Book of Funny Bunnies, Jean Tourane, Museon, CC BY

3 – Japan

Japan has inspired and fascinated travelers and artists alike for centuries

Honshu Island, Volcanoes of North America, The British Library, Public Domain

4 – Hungary
5 – Budapest
6 – Marc Chagall
7 – Greece
8 – Picasso
9 – Vincent Van Gogh
10 – Portrait
11 – Genazzano
12 – Romania
13 – Mona Lisa
14 – dog
15 – Portugal
16 – Granada
17 – Rembrandt van Rijn
18 – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
19 – Map / maps
20 – Monet

César Franck: the “Pater Seraphicus” of modern French music

Mon, 18/12/2017 - 08:59

On this International Migrants’ Day, Sofie Taes, musicologist & co-curator of the Europeana Photography Collection for PHOTOCONSORTIUM/KU Leuven, zooms in on the life and work of a brave Belgian who altered the course of French music history.

De componist César Auguste Franck, Jacques Hersleven, KIK-IRPA, CC BY-NC-SA


In the twilight of the Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871), in which it led significant losses against Germany, France explored different avenues to reinforce its national identity. Music was a key element in that strategy as, at the time, the work of German composers took pride of place at concert stages all around Europe. Throughout the 19th Century, France hadn’t been able to counter that dominance with an authoritative repertoire of its own.

The Société Nationale de Musique, established by Camille Saint-Saëns and Romain Bussine on 25 February 1871, aimed at accomplishing just that. By organising concerts featuring national composers, the society created opportunities for new work to be heard and for French music to gain a following of its own. The broader movement aimed at furthering a strong national music culture, operated under the motto “Ars Gallica”, literally meaning “a French Art”.

Many a notable composer supported the cause, among which Jules Massenet, Gabriel Fauré and Henri Duparc. Little known, however, is the fact that one of the main governors of this French renaissance was a Belgian!

Back and forth: hunting for a home

César-Auguste-Jean-Guillaume-Hubert Franck (1822-1890) was born in Liège – a city in the southern part of today’s Belgium – into the family of a Walloon father and a mother of German descent. His striking musical talent earned him a spot at the conservatory of Liège, which he entered at the age of 8. He developed as a pianist so prosperously that in 1834 his father – who wanted him to become a famous virtuoso – took him on tour. Having subsequently been sent to Paris to study with Bohemian composer Anton Reicha, César Franck was joined by his family in 1836 and applied to enter the conservatory. Initially refused on grounds of nationality, however, Franck had to wait for a whole year while his father secured naturalisation papers. He was eventually enrolled on 4 October 1837.

Gaining several honors for his musical accomplishments in the next few years, Franck could start contemplating entering the competition for the much-coveted Prix de Rome: a yearly contest for young talents, with a study-leave in Rome as the grand prize. At this time, Franck had already completed his first compositions, and would probably have devoted such a ‘sabbatical’ to explore his increasing fascination for the organ and his talent for writing chamber music. However, his father remained set on a career for him as a star on the stage. As a consequence, he was removed from the conservatory in 1842 and taken on another concert tour in Belgium with his brother, a violinist.

Soon, however, the life of Franck would take a definitive turn: seeing his career as a virtuoso dwindling rapidly due to psychological pressure, physical issues, bad press reviews and a demanding teaching practice, Franck freed himself from his father. He left Belgium, married actress Félicité Saillot in 1848 and settled down in Paris, where he would lead a simple, ascetic life and became one of the most revered artists of his time.

Franck’s gang

His appointment at the conservatory (1872) was the peak of Franck’s career and a milestone in the development of French music: contrary to his predecessor, Charles-Marie Widor, Franck focused his organ lessons not on playing technique and virtuosity, but on the style, form and structure of music – his lessons thereby quickly evolving into an ‘unofficial’ composition course. The circle of friends and pupils that gathered around Franck (nicknamed ‘le brave père Franck’ and ‘pater seraphicus’ because of his gentle nature), shared his mission to try and outweigh the superficiality and routine of the Parisian music scene. Like Richard Wagner, Franck wanted to direct the dialogue between composer, performer and audience toward genuine emotional expression under the watchword “je veux être ému”. Finally, he favored early (religious) music and serious counterpoint as the basis of music education – concepts that were to become central to the program proposed by the Schola Cantorum, founded by Franck-pupil Vincent d’Indy.

Style and substance: a composer’s signature

With his breathtaking organ playing, highly individual teaching method and the talented students of the ‘bande à Franck’, César Franck has extensively influenced the course of early modern French music history. Yet it is as a proficient and original composer that he is most fondly remembered today.

Franck was a keyboard wizard, thus his compositions for organ and harmonium in particular reflect the technical mastery and the sometimes startling modernity of his musical language. He also has a true gift for writing wondrous melodies – often jagged yet streamlined, meandering fancifully before reaching their necessary conclusion. Wagner’s ‘unendliche Melodie’ as well as his adventurous, strategic use of harmony served as a great inspiration to Franck, as is clearly portrayed in works such as Les béatitudes, Les Eolides, Le chasseur maudit, Les Djinns and Psyché.

An autograph manuscript of César Franck’s “Les Eolides” (public domain, BnF)

Furthermore, Franck has written some of the most powerful and lasting chamber music of the early 20th century. His Piano Quintet in F Minor (1879), String Quartet in D Major (1889) and Sonata in A Major for Violin and Piano (1886 – a present for another Belgian, Eugène Ysaÿe) practically fulfil the French dream of a “strong national repertoire” on their own.

Finally, as Franck’s is a style favouring the complex, the motivic and the rhapsodic, it is almost logical that his Symphony in d stands as one of the most striking examples of cyclic symphonic writing in history. Marrying the French cyclic form with a German symphonic style, the work remains a favourite with performers and audiences to this day. Never to be forgotten by those who dared to discover, the symphony is a fitting monument to a noble genius and a warm-hearted craftsman, who overturned a troubled youth to embrace international styles and create a musical legacy of lasting importance.


Dive into Europeana to listen to the sea

Thu, 14/12/2017 - 14:04

A fishing boat at sea. From “La pêche traditionnelle varoise dans les années 1970” | Henri-Paul Brémondy

In December, the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS) present music and sound archive collections, picked up from the following centres : Centre de recherche en ethnomusicologie (CREM), the Centre de Recherche sur l’Espace Sonore et l’environnement urbain (CRESSON) and from the phonothèque de la Maison Méditerranéenne des Sciences de l’Homme (MMSH).

The CNRS preserves and disseminates field investigations materials produced by researchers in humanities and social sciences. We made a curated selection from collections recordings on fishing or littoral zones issues related to music and singing.

The collections Sea songs from Val Germanasca, Italy and Various Versions of “La batelière” present a particular example of the “sea songs” collected far from the shore. Indeed, these collections took place in a Waldensian valley of Piedmont, the mountainous Val Germanasca. The recordings were collected in the 1980s, during an investigation carried out jointly by the Department of Ethnology at the University of Siena (Italy) and the Department of Ethnology at the University of Aix-Marseille (France) under the direction of Christian Bromberger, ethnologist.

As the fossils in the mountains are witness of the past geological eras and the ancient presence of the sea, in the same way men and women of these regions  retain today some of the maritime presence that they have experienced in their history.

Thus, the story of the old captain who was too old to travel (Adieu mon beau navire au grand mât pavoisé), or the supplication to Neptune, sent by the sailors to the god of the sea to escape the shipwreck (Chants des gens de la mer), are sung here by mountain dwellers, a time emigrated to a more hospitable coast, then returned to their family in Piedmont.

The linguistic analysis of these songs also demonstrates the strong attachment that people living in the valley had to French language. They inherited it from French origin Waldensian communities as resulting from links forged over generations with neighbouring French regions. These communities give great importance to reading,  to the written text and learning the Bible. This is a determining factor that has made possible preservation and transmission of richly sung repertoires. Most people preserve a songbook inherited from their parents. They keep referring to it, even if they know by heart the song they are going to sing…. You can listen to a Berceuse that deals with a mother’s fears for her son. Her husband is a fisherman and she is afraid her baby will one day become a sailor, and never come back home. The different versions of the song “la Batelière”, still show a deep rooting of these themes in family life.

The CNRS holds many other archives, where the sea is a significant part of everyday life but also of the imagination of the witnesses.

The CREM’s ethnomusicologists allow us to listen to music, tales, stories coming from different parts of the world and from various times. Among them, we can listen to a popular fisherman song that was collected during the universal exhibition of Paris in 1900 or a siberian song, Air Traditionnel Des Hommes Nénetz, as well as the Danse des pêcheurs recorded during a field research in Indonesia or the Chant de pêcheurs. Puxada de xaréu from Brazil. Finally, there are several recordings of sea soundscapes and marine animals.

As far as the latter is concerned, CRESSON’s sound recordings are also available in Europeana. The Grenoble centre dedicates its research to sound space and the urban environment and keeps several recordings related to the sea.

It is up to you to interrogate the archives to listen to the sounds of the sea which are kept there, as one could listen to the ocean murmur in a seashell…

A fisherman, with fish. From “La pêche traditionnelle varoise dans les années 1970” | Henri-Paul Brémondy

Plongez dans Europeana pour écouter la mer

Thu, 14/12/2017 - 14:02

Pêcheur avec filet de pêche sur un bateau – Photographie en lien avec le corpus sonore “La pêche traditionnelle varoise dans les années 1970” | Henri-Paul Brémondy

Au cours du mois de décembre, une sélection d’archives sonores du Centre national de la recherche scientifique – CNRS  – celles du Centre de recherche en ethnomusicologie (CREM), du  Centre de Recherche sur l’Espace Sonore et l’environnement urbain (CRESSON) et de la phonothèque de la Maison Méditerranéenne des Sciences de l’Homme (MMSH) – sur la thématique de la mer sont mises en avant sur la plateforme Europeana à partir des fonds d’Europeana Sounds.

Le CNRS conserve et valorise des archives sonores d’enquêtes réalisées sur le terrain par des chercheurs en sciences humaines et sociales. Nous avons sélectionné ici, dans les recherches sur le littoral, la pêche et la mer, celles qui sont en lien avec la musique et le chant.

Les corpus Sea songs from Val Germanasca, Italy et Various Versions of “La batelière” présentent un cas assez particulier des “chants de mer” collectés bien loin du rivage… En effet, il s’agit d’enregistrements issus de collectes réalisées dans les années 1980, menées conjointement par le département d’Ethnologie de l’Université de Sienne (Italie) et le département d’Ethnologie de l’Université d’Aix-Marseille (France) sous la direction de Christian Bromberger, ethnologue. Ces collectes portaient sur une vallée vaudoise du Piémont, dans la région montagneuse du Val Germanasca.

Comme les fossiles affleurant dans les montagnes témoignent des ères géologiques passées et de l’antique présence de la mer, de la même façon les hommes et les femmes de ces régions conservent aujourd’hui un peu de la présence maritime dans leur histoire. Ainsi, l’histoire du vieux capitaine trop âgé pour voyager (Adieu mon beau navire au grand mât pavoisé), ou la supplique à Neptune, envoyée par les marins au dieu de la mer pour échapper au naufrage (Chants des gens de la mer), sont ici chantés par des montagnards, un temps émigrés vers une côte plus hospitalière, puis revenus vers leur famille au Piémont.

L’analyse linguistique de ces chants démontre également le fort attachement à la langue française hérité des communautés vaudoises d’origine française et issu de liens tissés au fil des générations avec les régions françaises voisines. Ces communautés vaudoises donnent une forte importance à la lecture, au texte écrit et à l’apprentissage de la Bible. C’est un élément déterminant qui a pu rendre possible la conservation et la transmission de répertoires chantés d’une très grande richesse. En Pays vaudois, le cahier de chansons hérité des parents par les informateurs est toujours au centre de l’enquête. Ils s’y réfèrent sans cesse, même s’ils connaissent par cœur la chanson qu’ils vont interpréter…. Vous pourrez ainsi écouter une Berceuse qui évoque les craintes d’une mère pour son fils. Son mari est pêcheur et elle redoute que ce bébé ne devienne un jour, à son tour, marin et ne parte lui aussi sur les flots. Les différentes versions du chant “la Batelière“,

témoignent encore d’un enracinement profond de ces thématiques dans la vie familiale. Pour Christian Bromberger, « la condensation à travers l’histoire d’apports hétérogènes des différentes migrations, [offre plus qu’un] répertoire spécifique de chants indigènes, [à travers] la richesse et l’originalité du patrimoine vocal du Val Germanasca et des autres vallées vaudoises du Piémont ».

Le CNRS conserve bien d’autres archives, où la mer se retrouve comme un élément prégnant de la vie quotidienne mais aussi de l’imaginaire des informateurs.

Les ethnomusicologues du CREM donnent à entendre des musiques, contes, récits en, ou hors contexte, issus de différents lieux dans le monde et à diverses époques. On peut ainsi écouter parmi eux un Chant populaire de pêcheur collecté lors de l’exposition universelle de Paris en 1900 ou un air des peuples de Sibérie de l’ancienne URSS, Air Traditionnel Des Hommes Nénetz, ainsi qu’une Danse des pêcheurs enregistrée lors d’une enquête de terrain en Indonésie ou le Chant de pêcheurs: Puxada de xaréu qui provient du Brésil. Signalons, enfin, plusieurs enregistrements de paysages sonores de mer et des animaux qui y vivent.

En ce qui concerne ce dernier sujet, les fonds sonores du CRESSON sont également accessibles dans Europeana Sound. Le centre grenoblois consacre sa recherche à l’espace sonore et l’environnement urbain et conserve des enregistrements en lien avec la mer .

A vous d’interroger les archives pour écouter les sons de la mer qui y sont conservés, comme on pourrait le faire en plaçant près de son oreille un coquillage…

Winners of GIF IT UP 2017

Wed, 22/11/2017 - 13:58

Dear GIF-makers and GIF-lovers! Time to reveal the winners of GIF IT UP 2017!

Huge thank you to all the participants! It was a very tight competition and we were blown away by the amount of imaginative and amusing creations that were submitted  –  you can browse through all the gifs at  and GIPHY.

Thanks again to our great judges: Ari Spool (GIPHY Arts), Zuzanna Stańska (DailyArt), and Adam Green (The Public Domain Review) for taking time to evaluate over 150 entries! And a special shout-out to the other participating GIF IT UP digital libraries: DPLA, Trove, and DigitalNZ – this cross-continent cooperation was fun on its own.

The Grand Prize, runners up and First-time GIF-maker Award were determined by the judges, while the People’s Choice Award was determined by most public votes. So let’s meet the most GIF-ted participants this year:

Grand Prize Winner

This entry was created by Kristen Carter and Jeff Gill from Los Angeles, California using the source material from the Bibliothèque municipale de Lyon. This gif is made available under a CC BY-SA license.


Runners Up

This entry was created by Alex Segers (the Netherlands), combining the source materials from National Library of France (1 and 2), with Rijksmuseum. This gif is made available under a CC BY-SA license.

This entry was created by Brianne Charnigo (Virginia, USA) using the source material from the Nationalmuseum, Sweden. This gif is made available under a CC BY-SA license.

This entry was submitted by Judy Elfferich (Vught, The Netherlands) using source material from CODA Museum in Apeldoorn. This gif is made available under a CC BY-SA license.

This entry was created by Justine Grinberga (Liepaja, Latvia) using source material from the Circus Museum. This gif is made available under a CC BY-SA license.


First-time GIF-maker

This entry is by Alexander King (New York, USA) using source material from the Wellcome Library, London. This gif is made available under a CC BY-SA license.


People’s Choice Award

This entry is by Hannah Langford Berman (Vancouver, Canada) using source material from the National Library of Romania.  This gif is made available under a CC BY-SA license.


In the coming weeks, we will keep celebrating and featuring GIFs created from cultural heritage content. Missed the contest but interested in GIFs and GIF-making? Check our tutorials and start practising for next year!

Music and Mechanics – the exhibition goes live!

Thu, 16/11/2017 - 09:27

The phonoliszt violina, by Hupfeld – Rönisch (from the Musée de la Musique Mécanique, CC BY-NC-SA)

We are delighted to announce the launch of the new exhibition, ‘Music and Mechanics’ on Europeana. This has been a fantastic opportunity, not just to look for the different types of musica automata that exist on Europeana, but also to think about the relationships between manually operated or acoustic instruments and the mechanical instruments.

Of course, frequency plays an important part in the exhibition: the faster a wheel goes round, the higher the pitch that’s produced. Or, the faster an insect beats its wings, the higher the sound it’s going to make. But there are many ways in which sounds can be generated for both manual and mechanical instruments – either by friction, or by percussion, or by plucking, or other methods.

How do machines reproduce the same smooth tone as that produced by the violinist’s arm? And how do musicians get to control mechanical instruments, thereby taking their performance skills in a new direction? The exhibition takes just a few examples of the different types of mechanically operated musical instruments, but there are many more on Europeana Music: there are barrel organs, which play short pieces of music, “programmed” onto rotating cylinders or barrels; there are pianolas, which will play longer pieces of music from perforations in paper rolls; and, there are synthesisers – such as the iconic moog synthesiser – which have had so much influence on the last decades of music production.

We hope that you enjoy the exhibition and, also, that it inspires you to explore more of the instruments, recordings, photographs and manuscripts that reside on Europeana Music.

Five stunning European theatres for #LoveTheatreDay

Wed, 15/11/2017 - 10:03

15 November is #LoveTheatreDay. So here are five stunning settings to put on your cultural must-visit list. What’s your favourite theatre? Tell us @europeanaeu with #lovetheatreday

The Seebühne

First up, The Seebühne. This is a floating stage that gets erected every year for the Bregenz Festival. It’s on Lake Constance in Austria and has 7,000 seats (on dry land). The festival started in 1946 with two barges – one for the set and one for the orchestra, who performed Mozart. The picture below is from 1960 – the first year that ballet became part of the festival. Check out this Google images search for more recent productions – the stages are simply breathtaking in size, ambition and beauty.


Seebühne der Bregenzer Festspiele / Bühnenbild – Wiener Blut | Anonym, Vorarlberger Landesbibliothek, CC BY

Palau de la Música Catalana

To Barcelona now and the Palau de la Música Catalana. In 1997, this Art Nouveau building became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Designed by Lluís Domènech i Montane, for a Catalan choral society, it was built between 1905 and 1908. Look at the intricacy and attention to detail (and the height!) applied to just a corridor – pictured below. Makes you want to go and see the rest, right?  If you’re not in Barcelona any time soon, explore the auditorium with a virtual tour.


Corredor del Palau de la Música de Barcelona | Salvany i Blanch, Josep, 1866-1929, Biblioteca De Catalunya, public domain

The Royal Albert Hall

The Royal Albert Hall in London. Opened in 18971, the concert hall was designed to promote understanding and appreciation of the Arts and Sciences. To that end, an almost 250 metre long mosaic circles the building and depicts the advancement of the Arts and Sciences across the world. Explore the history of this building through its Time Machine!


Royal Albert Hall from [Modern London: the World’s Metropolis. An epitome of results, Business Men and Commercial Interests, Wealth and Growth, etc.] The British Library, public domain

The Odeon of Herodes Atticus

To Greece now, and almost the oldest theatre in our list. The Odeon of Herodes Atticus, or ‘The Herodeon’, in Athens. It was completed in 174 AD, but destroyed and left ruined less than 100 years later by the Heruli – an East Germanic tribe who attacked Greece from the Black Sea. Fast forward to a restoration project in the 1950s and the Athens Festival was born. In 2017, the festival saw 114 productions presented in venues across the city.


Odeion des Herodes Atticus, German Archaeological Institute, CC BY-SA

Hellbrunn Palace gardens

And finally to our last, and oldest, theatre. And probably one you’ve never heard of.  A theatre carved by nature out of rock. Despite the typo in the image title, I think this location can be tracked down to the gardens of Hellbrunn Palace, Salzburg. There’s no information to be found nowadays about performances here. The park is now home to water gardens with trick fountains! But I was enchanted by the image and just had to include it in this list. 


Vue du théatre taillé dans le roc, près du jardins de la maison de plaisance d’Hellenbrunn (!) pris du dehors. | Carl Gustav Hempel, Austrian National Library, public domain

Les sons de l’Asie et de Madagascar à l’Exposition coloniale internationale de 1931

Fri, 10/11/2017 - 10:58

Chaque mois, Europeana Music est animée par un invité afin de mettre en valeur la grande variété de musique disponible surEuropeana.

En ce mois de novembre, la Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) vous présente quelques sons de l’Exposition coloniale internationale de 1931 et vous fait voyager à travers le temps et l’espace à la visite des musiques de Bali, d’Inde, du Laos, du Vietnam, du Cambodge et de Madagascar.

Ecoutez l’enregistrement “Sabat-sabing“, joué par les musiciens ci-dessous. Toutes les informations relatives à cet enregistrement sont disponibles sur Europeana Music. 

Laos: orchestre de théâtre laotien, page 16, Exposition coloniale internationale de Paris (1931) Photographe : Paul Pivot. Source : Bibliothèque nationale de France (CC-BY-SA)

Tenue à Paris de mai à novembre 1931, l’Exposition coloniale internationale avait pour but de présenter au public ce que l’on considérait alors comme les bienfaits politiques, économiques et sociaux de la colonisation.

En cette même année 1931, le Musée de la Parole et du Geste (héritier depuis 1928 des Archives de la Parole fondées en 1911) était la seule institution en France chargée de la production et de la conservation d’un patrimoine sonore.

L’idée naquit alors d’une Anthologie musicale pour « profiter » de la venue à Paris d’un grand nombre d’ « indigènes » et enregistrer les langues, parlers, chants… des colonies.

On sait que la mise en spectacle des colonies a été un des éléments fondamentaux de l’Exposition coloniale, destiné à « vendre » auprès du grand public les bienfaits des colonies et de la Grande France.

On assiste de plus au début des années 30 à une véritable ouverture aux musiques du monde.

Madagascar. Cinq joueurs de valihas, page 48, Exposition coloniale internationale de Paris (1931)]. Photographe : Paul Pivot. Source : Bibliothèque nationale de France (CC-BY-SA).

Le Musée de la parole s’inscrit donc dans une histoire en train de s’écrire et va enregistrer 176 disques 78 tours de l’oralité : chant – paroles – venue des colonies

Particularité de cette anthologie, elle témoigne d’un discours scientifique – le Musée de la Parole et du Geste est étroitement lié à l’Université de Paris – qui s’inscrit néanmoins :

  • à la fois dans un discours de propagande, celui de l’Exposition coloniale ;
  • et dans un discours commercial, la firme Pathé qui contribue largement à ces enregistrements entend bien en profiter pour commercialiser ces enregistrements.

Au final ce que donne à entendre cette anthologie c’est une sorte de topographie, peut-être des colonies, mais surtout de la représentation qu’on peut en avoir en Occident : quand on écoute les enregistrements, on a à faire à des types d’interprètes et à des types de répertoires très différenciés, qui témoignent du plus ou moins grand degré de considération qu’on a pour les groupes de population concernés.

Parmi les nombreux pays présents à cette Exposition, l’Asie était fortement représentée avec notamment Bali, l’Inde, le Laos, le Vietnam et le Cambodge. Deux remarques peuvent être faites sur leurs musiques :

  • d’une part, on est face à des musiques savantes, voire extrêmement savantes, interprétées par des troupes professionnelles ;
  • d’autre part, ce sont des musiques de représentation : musiques rituelles, musiques de cour, de cérémonie, de théâtre…

Le continent africain n’y est pas en reste. Madagascar nous permet de découvrir des musiques populaires, où dominent les chœurs et la valiha, l’instrument à cordes dominant des musiques traditionnelles de Madagascar, mais interprétées par les membres d’un orchestre Mpilalao tout à fait professionnel, qu’on retrouve sur beaucoup d’enregistrements commerciaux de l’époque de marques comme Pathé, Columbia, Gramophone…

Il faut souligner qu’avec 21 disques enregistrés, soit 42 faces, Madagascar représente le plus gros corpus enregistré à l’Exposition coloniale.

Nous vous invitons à découvrir ces témoignages d’un monde révolu.

The sounds of Asia and Madagascar at the 1931 French colonial Exhibition

Fri, 10/11/2017 - 10:57

Each month, we invite a guest to write about a musical subject and highlight some of the material on Europeana Music. For the month of November, the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF – National Library of France) presents some sounds of the 1931 French colonial exhibition and makes you travel through time and space with music from Bali, India, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Madagascar.

Listen to “Sabat-sabing“, played by the musicians below. You can also read more details about this recording on Europeana Music.

A Lao Theatre Orchestra, page 16 from Exposition coloniale internationale de Paris (1931) Photograph: Pivot, Paul. Source: Bibliothèque nationale de France (public domain)

When its gates opened for 6 months in May 1931, the Paris colonial Exhibition was intended to display what was then considered as the positive impact of colonisation, in the political, economic and social areas.

In 1931, the Musée de la Parole et du Geste (founded in 1928, following the 1911-founded Archives de la Parole) was the only institution in France collecting and preserving sound archives.

Five valiha players from Madagascar, page 48 from Exposition coloniale internationale de Paris (1931)]. Photograph: Paul Pivot. Source: Bibliothèque nationale de France (public domain).

The idea was born to record a sound anthology benefiting from the fact that a lot of people from the vast French colonies were in Paris for the occasion. The Anthology would gather tales, songs and music in various languages; taking advantage of the fact that staging the colonies to the public was the promoters’ idea for the Exhibition. However, the Anthology was more grounded in sound and language studies, reflecting also a new interest in world music in 1930s France.

The Musée de la Parole et du Geste recorded 176 78rpm records of songs, speeches and music during this Exhibition. As it was closely linked to the Paris University, it was a serious scientific undertaking. Still, there were two underlying motives not so clearly expressed:

  • the anthology could be seen as a voice for the Exhibition propaganda.
  • The Pathé record company (associated to the Musée de la Parole et du Geste) intended to release commercially those 176 78 rpm records.

In the end, this anthology gives a kind of topography, perhaps of the colonies, but especially of how the West were seeing them: when we listen to the recordings, we hear different types of performers and very different types of repertoires, which reflect the greater or lesser degree of consideration given to those populations.

Among the many countries present at this exhibition, Asia was strongly represented with Bali, India, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. Two remarks can be made about their music:

  • on the one hand, this is artistic music, played by professional groups of musicians.
  • on the other hand, this is stage music, intended for theatre, court rituals, religious rituals etc.

Africa was present too. Madagascar allows us to discover some popular music through choir music and valiha, a local zither made of bamboo. Here, it was performed by a professional and well-known orchestra – Mpilalao – that also made recordings for Pathé, Columbia, Gramophone, etc.

In all, there are 21 records with music from Madagascar, making it the best represented culture in the Anthology.

Let’s not wait anymore before we hear those recordings of a bygone world.