Thank God it’s Friday

Posted on February 13, 2015

Not just a digital archive or compendium of digitised collections

Flying to London last week, I read a piece in the International New York Times about a conference for young European entrepreneurs that took place recently, in Madrid. One of the young businessmen is Jordan Casey, who has often been named Europe’s youngest chief executive. He just turned 15 last November, and has already developed a popular video game and launched two business apps. Speaking to the New York Times reporter, he made a remark which grabbed my attention: “I really don’t see what university could teach me that I can’t learn for free immediately,” he said. “There are a lot of skills that you can learn yourself and just by using the Internet.”

Screenshot: Creative Time Presents: Kara Walker´s “A Subtlety”
© Google Cultural Institute

Later in the same day I had a meeting at the Google Cultural Institute. Google has partnered with hundreds of museums, cultural institutions and archives to host the world’s cultural treasures online. You can find works of art, landmarks and world heritage sites, as well as digital exhibitions that tell the stories behind the archives of cultural institutions across the globe. As a partner institution you can even curate digital exhibitions on this sophisticated website. Visit this website, it is important. Not just a digital archive or compendium of digitised collections, you can find things that you wouldn’t expect from the joyous world of advertising and perfection of the search engine.

For example “The Yemeni Manuscripts” by The Digital Bab al-Yemen (Freie Universität Berlin); an attempt to store and study the written heritage of Yemen. Or, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi extermination camp Auschwitz, listen to “70 Stories of Auschwitz” by Holocaust survivors, drawn from the Visual History Archive at USC Shoah Foundation. Last year, I missed Kara Walker’s “A Subtlety” installation in New York (I must always think of the famous sphinx near the pyramids in Cairo and Donald Duck’s girlfriend Daisy). Now I can wander through this exhibition at the Cultural Institute’s website.

On my way back from the Google meeting, other examples of great free resources came to mind: The photo archive of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, for example, or the app project by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, 82nd & Fifth. This features 100 curators from across the Museum talking about 100 works of art that changed the way they see the world. 11 museum photographers interpret their vision: one work, one curator, two minutes at a time.

I do not necessarily agree with Mr. Casey’s assumption that free content can replace a decent school or university education, but I really like his “can do” attitude: You can learn just by using the Internet! I am sure that schools and universities are using the endless resources of the web to enrich their curricula, and I am proud to work in the cultural sector, which contributes a lot to web resources. Museums in particular are at the forefront of this development, and there are many great examples of digital collections. There are also projects like the new “Digitorial” – a free educational online hub for new exhibitions at Frankfurt’s Five Star museums, the Schirn Kunsthalle, the Städelmuseum and the Liebighaus Skulpturensammlung.

It’s great that sponsors like Google (and many others) help to share knowledge, heritage, and culture with the world. The cultural sector needs businessmen to drive all these ideas forward, and to attain funding for projects. I am sure that a few years from now, Jordan Casey will be a supporter of a cultural foundation or educational program.

SC Exhibitions is part of a successful company, Semmel Concerts. Our work as a for-profit organisation enables us to support projects, and we will soon be revealing which project we will be supporting together with the Google Cultural Institute.

Have a good day!

Christoph Scholz
Director SC Exhibitions

NB: Here’s the link to the interesting article about the young business conference in Madrid

The Google Cultural Institute


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