On the 19th November, Europe saw the launch of a highly anticipated site devoted to European culture, Europeana.eu. Unfortunately, Europeana sprung to life with so much excitement that by the end of day one it was left on it’s last legs unable to handle the amount of interest – close to 10 million hits per hour it is reported. Just two days later, the site shut up shop temporarily and announced it would return in December after a much needed hardware review. Today, Europeana.eu relaunched albeit quietly and with much less fanfare.
Europeana.eu is devoted to providing free access to 2 million+ objects from various cultural landmarks from over 27 European countries. From museums and galleries to libraries and private collections, Europeana is striving to to have them all available online for the world to see. You would think that would be all, however they’ve pushed the format boundries too with access to audio, maps, manuscripts, books, newspapers, photos, paintings…I could go on.
With headquarters at the national library of the Netherlands, the Koninklijke Bibliotheek; Europeana was originally known as the European digital library network (EDLnet). A partnership of 90 heritage and knowledge organizations as well as IT experts from throughout Europe. Funded by the European Commission and with a reported staff of 14, Europeana.eu’s development began in July 2007 aiming to make Europe’s cultural history accessible to people across the globe irrespective of location or language. By 2010, the Europeana portal plans to provide access to 10 million digital objects in all EU languages, no easy feat.
The site itself is particularly well designed; clean, easy on the eye, nice use of colour and a strong focus on the core elements of usability. To start with I advise performing a basic search, you’ll notice the arrangement of objects in the center of the site with further refinement of the search to the left. In addition to search, you can browse by timeline, format of object, or ideas that “People are currently thinking about.”
A number of additional, possibly more “web 2.0” oriented features are to be provided once registration is enabled, but for now I highly recommend you give the site a visit – no matter where you are – and marvel at what 27 countries with pride for their respective cultures can do. Europe should be proud.