Cultural Heritage and Digital Media: Highlights from EuroMACHS at Univ. of Turku , Fall 2012

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Studying the Past[muokkaa]


-- Ranke's philosophy is one of complete objectivity. Although his ideas are outdated, obviously, objectivity should be strived for.
  • Production and consumption of history
  • Approaching history through the lens of one’s own culture (experiences, expectations, etc.)
  • Sensory history -- all of the senses are significant in recording and remembering the past. The interpretation of sensory experiences is dependent on individual time and place.
Producing Sense, Consuming Sense, Making Sense: Perils and Prospects for Sensory History (Mark Smith)
ex: The Lemon Problem -- The exact same lemon would taste different to a person before and after he had tasted sugar
-- Evoking the senses is profitable in marketing.

Medievalism in Today’s World[muokkaa]

ex: Lord of the Rings, black metal music, World of Warcraft


  • “The Obligation to respect and remember the past originates not from the past but from the present.” Marjo Kaartinen
  • Understanding the past is different from approving of the past
ex: book with gory details of the Holocaust considered obscene


  • Oral history can give a holistic view of the past.

Digital Archiving[muokkaa]

  • the “rightness of wrongness” -- If mistakes are made in recording history, whether they are made accidentally or intentionally, the historical document is still considered valid. Often times, when digitizing manuscripts, mistakes or falsifications are revealed. These are to be preserved as they can be telling of the recorder or the environment in which the document was recorded.

Digital Culture[muokkaa]

  • result of tensions and wars
  • expression, memes

Cultural Heritage in Marketing[muokkaa]

  • social media (the use of history in images)

Urban History and Heritage[muokkaa]

  • expression, need to build and rebuild
  • attitude towards poor and vagrant people
  • City planning (with, for example, the view of the cathedral in mind)
  • relationship between history and geography -- Modern humanists recognize that these two fields are interdependent; people affect the places they live and places affect the people who live there.
ex: why Finns are the way they are (cold, harsh climate, remote location, in between two large empires, economic hard times)
  • implicit vs. explicit
ex: If a bus were late in Turku, it would be noticed. If a bus were late in some other part of the world, where schedules are not as important, the lateness may go unnoticed and be considered completely normal.
  • A Case Study: How do the Baltic Sea region cities present their history and heritage on their websites?
When considering the websites of eight coastal cities in the Baltic Sea region, Rostock, Gdansk, Liepaja, Tallinn, Vaasa, Oulu, Sundsvall, and Malmö, it is interesting to compare and contrast the histories and heritages that are presented. Even more revealing perhaps, is comparing and contrasting how the histories and heritages are presented. One must keep in mind that the material on the website was chosen by a minority of the population and it is the image that that minority wants to present to the outside world.
The first thing that I noticed about the websites was the varying degrees of identification with the Baltic Sea region in the form of images of the sea and sea life itself. Out of the cities mentioned above, the visual association with water is greatest with the Rostock website and the least, as in none at all on the homepage, on Malmö’s site. The other Swedish city, Sundsvall has only a very small visibility of water on their homepage. Gdansk, Vaasa, and Oulu all display banners of water images. Liepaja and Tallinn have rotating images in their banners that display water only a percentage of times one visits the site. These difference, I think, tell a lot about the identity the people of the cities perceive of themselves and what they want to portray to others.
It would seem in the case of Sweden, a country that has not been caught up in the turmoil of war for hundreds of years, the cities examined here identify themselves less as “Baltic”. Maybe the lack of involvement with the wars has given Sweden a slightly different identity than the other countries in this study. Rostock, on the other hand being part of a country that has been at the center of war in the last decade, incorporates the sea the most into its online image. This is surely also because it seems to be the main gateway of continental Europe to the Baltic Sea region.
Another obvious difference between the examined websites is the portrayal of history. Rostock markets its history by telling interesting tales of the Stassi and connecting itself with the horrors of war. This must be because overtime, the city has begun to see itself as having “moved on” and now something modern and different than its troubled past.
Gdansk strongly emphasizes history on its site. It tells its story as a victim of war and a freedom fighter. It claims that freedom from communism in Europe began in Gdansk in 1980. There is an informative historical timeline and lots of photos.
Liepaja, similarly, tells its story as a victim. There are links to a most interesting story about part of the city that was entirely closed off and used by the Soviets. A war prison has even been turned into a “prison hotel” where one can “experience” Soviet prison life for a day. This is advertised on a link from the site.
Tallinn, like the previous two cities, advertises its role as a victim and promotes the story of its “Singing Revolution”. The website is more playful than the others, displaying fun facts about the city in its banner.
On their websites, the Finnish cities of Vaasa and Oulu have much less about history. On the Vaasa site, one must follow a series of links to get to any historical information, and there is not very much to be found, even then. Oulu displays even less history, but instead presents itself as a completely modern city, technology oriented. It displays cultural heritage by including a welcome note from the Mayor that testifies to the “Northern Hospitality” the city claims to have. The Oulu site also links to modern cultural heritage by including information about the Air Guitar World Championship held there.
The Swedish cities of Sundsvall and Malmö, like the Finnish cities, have little information about history or heritage on their websites, perhaps even less than the Finnish cities. Instead, the Swedish websites are very straightforward, practical, and comparatively dull. Perhaps their less colorful and dramatic pasts have shaped the cultural identities into plain and practical.
Overall, based on this simple case study, it seems that, generally, the more involved the city has been in wars in the past decade, the stronger their “Baltic” identity is. Additionally, the stronger their “Baltic” identity is, the greater the cities portray their history and heritage on their websites.

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