Interview with Aleksandra Strzelichowska, senior online marketing specialist at Europeana, based in The Hague, Netherlands. She has a bachelor degree in Literature, languages and linguistics, and a master degree in European Studies.
What is Europeana?
We are a European platform for cultural heritage, an initiative of the European Union founded in 2008. Our goal is to get more cultural heritage content online from all over Europe. People can use this content for research, education, creative activities and just for fun. We have content from more than 3,500 cultural institutions such as museums, libraries, archives and galleries. We organise online exhibitions, we write blogs, we share content via social media and we organise contests. About half a million people per month visit our website. Furthermore, we also help cultural institutions in their own digital transformation.
How well does Europeana cover all the EU-countries?
We do have cultural heritage from all EU-countries and even beyond. However, the extent to which content can be freely used by people differs between countries. Especially the Nordic countries have a tradition of sharing content widely. We also have a website especially for professionals: Europeana Pro. One of the things we do for professionals is to share the best practices from cultural institutions which already went through a digital transformation.
What type of digital entertainment has Europeana already offered during the lockdown?
Already before the lockdown we had various formats for engaging people with culture in an entertaining way. When the lockdown started, we quickly thought about how to use the content we already had in a way that was relevant for people during the lockdown. For example, we created a gallery related to washing hands throughout history. Another gallery showed cultural items related to toilet paper. Still another was related to social distancing. We created a set of games, such as spotting the differences between two slightly different versions of the same painting. We also made virtual jigsaw puzzles, and we promoted again the colouring books, photo contests and calendars that we had already made before the lockdown.
What have you learned from the lockdown period?
This period has proved that it is very well possible to create an online interaction with art and culture in a way that is rewarding, interesting and funny. Without people having to travel, we can show culture to people everywhere in the world. And we can also reach different audiences from the ones that visit cultural institutions physically.
What will stay after the lockdown?
During the lockdown we observed an increase of visits to our website, including a 50% increase of visits to our blog where we shared cultural heritage stories, games etcetera. We can actually measure what content people visit and click on. Based on this, I am sure that all kinds of games and puzzles will stay. We have also learned that in a situation like the one we faced, people like lighter content that actually relates to the moment in which they find themselves, such as the toilet paper gallery we created. People enjoy the combination of entertainment and education.