Tag Archives: Culture

Throwing off the shackles of communism

A quarter century ago, the people of Central Europe liberated themselves, bringing down the Iron Curtain, choosing capitalism over communism, and democracy over dictatorship. This week, at an event in Prague, we unveiled ten online Google Cultural Institute exhibitions recounting the amazing and thrilling events from Poland in the north to Hungary in the south.

Communism represented an artificial transplant in Central Europe. Throughout history, the region enjoyed strong religious, economic and political ties with the West. The Museum Masaryk T.G. Lany brings its readers back to the founding ideas of democracy and freedom on which the Czechoslovak Republic was built through the legacy of the first Czechoslovak president.

All through the 1980s, pressure for change mounted. An independent free trade union called Solidarity swept through Poland at the beginning of the decade. Even though the government declared martial law to crush it, the light of freedom would only be dimmed temporarily. Dissidents appeared. Priests protested. Musicians revolted. The Czech Republic’s Vaclav Havel Library’s exhibition of black and white photographs captures not only the period of mass demonstrations in 1989 and the subsequent revolution, but also the visits and performances of cultural icons such as Frank Zappa and the US alternative troupe The Bread and Puppet Theater. For the citizens of Czechoslovakia, these first tastes of the Western world represented “the first free steps of a society.”

Starting in the spring of 1989, East Germans began fleeing to other Soviet bloc countries. The Hungarian government opened its border with Austria in May and the rush to escape was on. The Vaclav Havel Library exhibit captures the wave of citizens of the German Democratic Republic in September who inundated the surroundings of the embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Prague, waiting in anticipation for longed permission to travel to the West.

In June, the Polish government legalized Solidarity and held partially free elections. Solidarity won a landslide and formed the Soviet bloc’s first non-communist led government. The Polish History Museum has created an exhibit called "Tearing the Iron Curtain apart.” It includes a photo of the symbolic meeting between Poland's first non-communist Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki and the German Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl. Another exhibition from the Julian Antonisz Foundation shows experimental art from the communist era.

In November, the Berlin Wall crumbled and millions of Czechs crowded the streets. The Muzeum umění Olomouc has prepared a selection of images from photographer Petr Zatloukal, showing a behind-the-scenes look at the November events. The Muzeum policie České republiky showcases photographs of the uniforms of the riot police on 17th November 1989, as they watched, powerless, while millions of Czechs marched for their freedom. Dissident playwright Vaclav Havel emerged from prison to become president. The photographs from the Nadace Dagmar a Václava Havlových VIZE 97 exhibit maps Havel’s extraordinary journey from 1989 to 2011.

Slovakia also won its freedom and soon broke away from Prague to achieve full independence. Its the Museum of Crimes and Victims of Communism illustrates the path to freedom through photographs of unknown heroes who participated in country's Candle Demonstration.

The sweep of the events accelerated and the shackles of communism were gone by the end of 1989, not only throughout Central Europe, but also in the Balkan countries of Romania and Bulgaria. The Balts, within the Soviet Union itself, soon would form a human chain hundreds of miles long and win back their freedom. In Hungary, the Open Society Archives, is bringing online one of the world's largest archives from the Cold War, including propaganda films and surveillance documents, samizdat and opposition activist videos, publications and posters.

Take time to browse and learn. We believe putting historical material on the Internet and organizing it in a way that allows visitors to read and understand what it felt like to be in the midst of events not only gives more people access to important material but also preserves these perspectives for future generations. Today, memories of the Cold War may be fading and it is our duty to keep them alive as a reminder of the tremendous achievements of the courageous people of Central Europe.


YouTube music hits the right note

You watched the Belgian singer Stromae perform Papaoutai 200+ million times on YouTube, helping propel the song about his father to the top of the charts in France and into a global success. And that’s all just for one song.

This week, we’re making it easier to find new music on YouTube and rock out to old favorites by launching a new paid subscription service called Music Key. It lets you watch and listen to music without ads, in the background or offline and is available already in the United Kingdom, Finland, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain, with more countries to come soon. If you’re interested in getting more info on the beta, you can let us know at youtube.com/musickey.

Music Key represents a big step forward in our blossoming partnership with the music industry. We've struck new deals with the major producers, thousands of independent record labels, collecting societies and music publishers.  Thanks to your music videos, remixes, covers, and more, you’ve made YouTube the place to go for the music fan.

YouTube benefits both the established musicians as well as newcomers, sending them more than $1 billion.

Of course, YouTube is much more than music. Other types of content creators - from educational to comedy shows - also are finding an audience earning money in our partnership programs.  More  -one million channels today earn revenue through the YouTube Partner Program. Thousands of channels make six figures annually. We look forward to continuing to develop new online opportunities for Europe's creators. 

Posted by the YouTube Music team, which recently watched “Michael Jackson - Wanna Be Startin' Somethin' - YouTube Mix.”

Speeding up the Slow Food movement

Slow Food, founded in 1989 in Italy, has grown into a global, grassroots organization fighting the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions. We agree with its philosophy that everyone should have access to good, clean and fair food and are delighted to help bring its tasty Ark of Taste project online in an exciting new set of Google Cultural Institute exhibitions.

The exhibits tell the story of the endangered foods around the globe, from Brazil’s Babacu fruit to Ethiopia’s Boke black salt to Japan’s Dojo Hachiyagaki dried persimmon fruit. So far, we look at 31 products. Each exhibit uses photos, videos and testimonials to explain the culture behind the food.

At this week’s launch event, Slow Food founder Carlin Petrini emphasized how technology and tradition go well together. “Farmers need to use the new technologies to make themselves and their products known worldwide," he explained, adding that Google and Slow Food share a common vision that “digital networks need human networks and the human networks need digital networks”.

We hope this is just the beginning of a partnership that will help to protect and preserve the heritage of biodiversity in food. In coming months and years, Slow Food plans to add new products to the site. Take a tasty trip and see how technology is protecting our critical gastronomic heritage.

Remembering Irish participation in World War I

Earlier this year in our Dublin headquarters, we hosted the launch of an online tool to search the names and biographies of up to 50,000 Irish soldiers who died fighting in the British army during World War I. Today, we travelled with Irish Minister for Arts, Heritage and Gaeltecht Heather Humphries to the site of the Ypres battlefield in Belgium and took two important new steps to increase the project’s impact.

The In Flanders Fields Museum in Ypres has joined our Google Cultural Institute and posted an online exhibition about Irish World War I commemoration.
The new Cultural Institute Irish World War I exhibit
We also are joining with the Irish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in creating a new fellowship program to send students from Dublin on internships to Ypres. During its research, the museum discovered that the records were neither fully correct nor complete. So far, the museum has checked 11,060 out of the 49,000 names. Irish students will now come to Belgium to verify and update information on the rest of the list.
Today's presentation in Ypres
Minister Humphreys, right, discovers the new Cultural Insititute exhibtion
This is a big day in Flanders. Belgium is commemorating the centenary of the Battle of Ypres. The Allies stopped the German advance in the battle, and the two sides settled into four years of deadly, protracted trench warfare, with Ypres the site of some of the war’s bitterest and most brutal struggles. A total of 83 countries are participating in the commemorations, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

For some, the Irish role in these hostilities has been controversial because the soldiers fought in the British army, but returned to a changed Ireland following the 1916 uprising. At the project’s Dublin launch,  then Irish Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Eamon Gilmore T.D., hosted Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness. All three spoke movingly about how the project should help heal wounds.

Our idea is to engage the public and increase knowledge about these casualties. If you find an ancestor or locate a long-lost relative in the list send, documents, pictures, letters or any other relevant information, email [email protected]. The information will be verified and added to the website.

Other organizations provided invaluable assistance to make this project come to life. The Irish genealogical history and heritage company Eneclann contributed important images and research. And the Irish Embassy in Belgium led by Ambassador Éamonn Mac Aodha played a crucial role in promoting and facilitating. Google is proud to play a part in this exciting project helping to make sure that the memory of the names of those who died in World War 1 remain alive.

Supporting a new home for Poland’s rich Jewish history

For 1000 years, Poland was home to the world’s largest Jewish population and the centre of Jewish religious, cultural and political thought. The POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, whose core exhibition opens in Warsaw on October 28, highlights this rich history.

We took our StreetView technology inside the museum, which is housed in an award-winning new building directly opposite the memorial to the 1943 Warsaw ghetto uprising. We are happy to invite you to the first Museum View launch in Poland, available all around the world on the Google Cultural Institute. Enjoy a walk through the corridors.

View Larger Map

The online exhibit "How to make a museum" published by POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews invites you to discover the story of the creation of the museum, from the original idea in 1993 to the inauguration in 2014. You will go behind the scenes of this monumental project and learn about the process of gathering support in Poland and abroad, raising funds, organizing an international architectural competition, preparing the Core Exhibition, and developing the educational and cultural program.

The evening opening event will be live-streamed on YouTube from 7 to 9 p.m. on October 28. Watch it on the museum’s channel. The event, open to the public, will feature concerts by clarinetist David Krakauer and trumpeter Tomasz Stańko as well as a play directed by Andrzej Strzelecki based on Julian Tuwim’s poem „My Żydzi polscy” (“Us Polish Jews”).

The new museum represents an important step in reviving the memory of Poland’s rich, millenium long Jewish history. Developed by an international team of historians, museum experts and Jewish Studies scholars, it shows how Jews both prospered and suffered. As the Economist recently wrote, the exhibit “restores some balance” to the often one-sided debate that often focuses on the community’s destruction in World War II. We’re glad that Google tools can help get across this important message.

Honoring Finland’s Famed Architect Alvar Aalto

Alvar Aalto changed the way we see the world. Finland’s famed architect and designer not only built path-breaking buildings - during his long, fruitful life, he also designed some of the 20th century’s most innovative furniture, textiles and glassware. Today, we’re proud to announce a partnership with the Alvar Aalto Foundation to bring much of this genius’s important work online - allowing anyone, anywhere to virtually visit many of his his most important buildings and learn about his design breakthroughs.

This project means something special to many of us at Google. We have built one of our two largest data centers in Finland - and the architect of our data center building was none other than Aalto. The Finnish master originally designed our data center in Hamina as a paper mill. The mill closed in 2007. We took over the empty building, transformed and expanded it, investing so far almost a billion euros and creating hundreds of jobs in the region, while attempting to keep intact as much as possible of the Aalto heritage. Take a look. We’re publishing new Street View images of the renovated exterior and interior today on our main data center page.

Aalto designed many other buildings in the area around our data center - including the world-famed Sunila worker housing in Kotka. We long have shown the outsides of these buildings on StreetView. We’re now adding the interiors.

Many of Aalto’s most famous buildings are located hundreds of kilometers apart, making them difficult to visit. We toured the entire country to photograph his most important masterpieces. We went to his hometown Jyvaskyla in central Finland and photographed the Alvar Aalto Museum and Säynätsalo Town Hall.

View Larger Map

We went to Imatra and are presenting the famed Church of the Three Crosses.

View Larger Map

In the Finnish capital Helsinki, we captured not only Aalto’s own studio but also two important cultural buildings, Finlandia Hall and the House of Culture. At the Restaurant Savoy, Aalto brought Finnish nature into the center of Helsinki, designing still-in-production door knobs, clean-lined lighting fixtures, club chairs, and the famed Savoy vase, mirroring the outlines of a Finnish lake.

View Larger Map

The cooperation with Finland’s Aalto Foundation includes two new online exhibitions on our Google Cultural Institute platform. The first focuses on Aalto’s famed three legged stool 60. This much imitated model relied on one of Aalto’s most important innovations - a new process for bending wood that he applied to create organic shapes. The stool was designed in 1933 and was first used in two major early works of Aalto: Paimio Sanatorium and Vyborg Library before becoming an iconic piece of modernist furniture for people to furnish their homes with.

A second exhibition describes the renovation of the Vyborg Library. The building was immediately considered a modernist chef d’oeuvre, softening and humanizing the hard edges of German Bauhaus strictures into a new original, organic style, replacing steel with wood, and creating a warm, cosy atmosphere for the reader. When the Library was constructed, the city of Viipuri was in Finland. After World War II, Finland was forced to hand it over to the Soviet Union and it became Vyborg. The library survived the war but remained unused for twenty years and fell into disrepair. Finally in 2013 the renovation was completed.

Together, these initiatives demonstrate our commitment and confidence in Finland. This is a hard time for the country, with growth slowing and unemployment rising. At the same time, our Hamina data centre keeps expanding and Internet infrastructure represent an important ray of economic hope. As this project demonstrates, we are committed to the country and are delighted to use the Internet to promote Finnish culture.

Teaming up with Europeana to bring Europe’s culture online

It was a natural marriage. Our Google Cultural Institute based in Paris is devoted to partnering with institutions around the world to allow online access to art, archives and other, often previously hard-to-find culture. Europeana, launched in 2009, represents a bold European project bringing together more than 2,000 museums, archives, and other institutions, with their rich collections of millions of books, paintings, films and other objects.

Given these complementary missions, it is with great pleasure that we just have launched Europeana’s first exhibit on our Cultural Institute. Curated by the Austrian National Library, the new virtual exhibition is part of Europeana’s 1914-1918 project and represents the first Austrian contribution to our own Cultural Institute’s First World War channel.

The Austrian library exhibition guides visitors through the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph’s manifestos, from announcements for mobilisation, to administering shortages, to dealing with prisoners of war and refugees. “Putting the content online ensures that all of this history is preserved for future generations,” said Wiebe de Jager of Europeana. “Partnerships with prestigious platforms such as the Google Cultural Institute is one way to effectively share with people our common history that defined who we are and what we do.”

Online exhibition “To My Peoples!”, by Europeana in association with Austrian National Library
It’s a tremendous undertaking to bring Europe’s rich cultural heritage online, one that can only be achieved by both private and public effort. As this collaboration shows, both Europeana and Google share similar visions - allowing people around the world to explore Europe's cultural and scientific heritage from prehistory to the modern day.

Celebrating Czech culture online

Václav Havel was a playwright, essayist, poet, philosopher - and also a politician, first a leading anti-communist dissident and then president of Czechoslovakia. A new exhibit on this remarkable man just has been launched on our Cultural Institute. It shows the interior of his quirky, personalised office, full of brightly colored furniture and modern art, and recounts the trajectory of his remarkable life.
Vaclav Havel's quirky office
The new Havel exhibit is only one of a slew of new exhibitions celebrating Czech culture. Until now, the Culture Institute featured only two Czech galleries, the Kampa Museum and the National Gallery. Nine new Czech museums and organizations from all around the country have joined, bringing together up to 500 art works. Two new high definition gigapixel pictures are featured, including Jiri Sopko’s spectacular Dance. In addition to Havel, the life of the first Czechoslovak President Tomas Garrigue Masaryk is featured.
Tomas Garrigue Masaryk
Enjoy the exhibitions from the other Czech partner museums:

Along with the new Czech museum exhibits, we also launched new Street View imagery, including interiors of museums. Our launch event took place in the Decorative Arts Museum’s library.
The entrance to the Decorative Arts Museum Library
Launching the new exhibits
The venue will be closed soon due to reconstruction of its historical building - but it will remain visible and visitable online.

Enjoy the best of Slovakia with the Google Cultural Institute

Slovakia enjoys a rich, vibrant culture, full of beautiful music, famous painters, and both natural and manmade wonders. Last week at the beautiful Cafe Berlinka at the Slovak National Gallery, the Google Cultural Institute welcomed its first ever partners from the Central European nation. Eight museums and galleries from across the country have made available their content so that it can be explored in more detail by people around the world.

The exhibitions features works by famous Slovak painters; Ladislav Mednyánszky, Ľudovít Fulla, Martin Benka and sculptors such as Štefan Siváň and Jozef Jankovič. A super high resolution image of Mednyánszky's "Bank of a river in bloom" contraststhe botanical details on the river bank in bloom with the hazy river. Zoom into the barely there image of grazing cattle in the distance. We also have published Indoor Street View imagery of the Chateau Strážky and Bratislava City Gallery.

Another exhibition features the jewels of Slovakia's Natural History Museum including an ancient Egyptian mummy, a skull of Homo sapiens from the late Upper Palaeolithic and a Palaeontological collection with traces of dinosaurs.

Commemorating World War I

A century ago, a Serb nationalist assassinated Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, sparking World War I. Today, we are launching a new channel dedicated to commemorate the war’s centenary. It brings together World War I content, paintings, photographs, letters, documents, soldiers’ poems and more, from a range of Museum partners, ranging from the German Federal Archives to the Belgian Mundaneum to the Imperial War Museum.

A search for Franz Ferdinand brings up photos relating to the Archeduke’s assassination. They show the Franz and his wife Sophie arriving in Sarajevo. Outfitted in regal dress, treated with the pomp and circumstance of royalty, they stroll through the streets. A final image shows police arresting Serb assassin Gavrilo Princip.

Other exhibits explore the art around the conflict and personal impact of the conflict. Belgium’s Mundaneum has collected postcards sent from POW camps. The Imperial War Museum’s features Christopher Nevinson's bleak landscapes. The British authorities censored some of the paintings for being too “negative.” At the same time, the museum also features John Nash’s patriotic paintings.

The German side of the war is well represented, with more than 200 new items in 13 new exhibits. Items include photographs, newspapers, letters, army documents, ration cards, and unusual items like the anti war poem written by a German soldier which lead to his detention. Exhibits range from German policy around the Sarajevo assassination to the rise of German airships to problems of nutrition due to the conflict.

The exhibits are designed for for a wide audience and full of exciting details for specialists. More content will be added over the coming months and years as commemorations around the Great War continue.