Remote Voices in the Online Space of Transnational Archives

Natalia Grincheva, National Research University "Higher School of Economics", Moscow, Russia

Since 2005, Europeana has been developing as a unique European cultural heritage online archive providing a gateway to millions of books, paintings, films, and museum objects from many countries. At the end of 2012, the Europeana digital library contained 23 million cultural artifacts from more than 2,000 institutions representing 34 countries in Europe and around the world. The contributors to these online transnational resource range from major international institutions with established reputation, like the British Library or the Louvre Museum, to regional archives and local museums from remote provincial places, which are hardly known to global travelers and cultural tourists. One of these museums, represented on the Europeana portal, is the Radischev Art Museum located in Saratov, a small city from the South West Russia.
The Radischev Art Museum is one of the oldest museums in Russia, which was opened in 1885. It contains more than 25,000 unique art pieces from the collections of Russian, European and Eastern art belonging to the period from Antiquity till the XX century. Being located in Saratov, where old cultural traditions stem from nearly a hundred of different ethnic backgrounds, the Museum represents a unique archive of Russian cultural history, preserved through more than five centuries by local people. At the moment, Saratov is emerging and rapidly developing as one of the important cultural centers in provincial Russia. Since the city has long been famous for its unique and rich culture, the regeneration of cultural tourism is the first priority task for the region, which can support the economy and empower people to develop their local communities. The role of the Radischev Art Museum in developing cultural tourism is very important. In a strong competition with other regions and cultural institutions in rapidly developing Russia, the Museum highly values the enormous potential of social media and digital technologies, which can promote the local cultural resources to the outside world. Thus, contributing its digital content to the Europeana online library the Radischev Art Museum strives to become a part of the European repository of cultural heritage, which can potentially attract interested individuals to explore further the hidden gems of provincial Russia.
My talk will aim to describe the efforts of the Museum to adequately represent itself in a transnational online space of cultural visual information, where it needs to compete with widely promoted cultural giants dominating the visual online space with broadly circulated electronic copies of famous paintings and artefacts. The main goal of my project is to identify, describe and analyze the major problems and challenges of the small museums that become a part of transnational online archives. Based on the case study of the Radischev Art Museum, my talk will propose some important strategies, which small museums can employ in order to enhance their potentials in the online struggle for attention and recognition and to build a strong presence in the cultural informational environments of contemporary audiences.

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