March 22-25, 2006
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Demonstrations: Description

The Town and Again - Images of the Urban Finland. National digitisation and content production project (2002 - 2005)

Riikka Haapalainen, Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma / Finnish National Gallery, Finland

The relationship between Finns and the city has traditionally been ambiguous: while the city has a tremendous attraction, there is also a need to flee from it. The Town and Again www-site ( tells about the past and present of urbanisation as seen through visual arts. In what way have Finnish artists sought to portray the city? What type of urban existence is absent from the artistic imagery?

The project is so far the greatest undertaking in content production carried out by the Finnish art museum field. It was divided into two entities: digitisation and photography project and multimedia production. The project is headed by the Finnish National Gallery Art Museum Development Department (KEHYS) together with the Central Art Archives and a network of several significant art and cultural history museums, other collections and archives, as well as universities. The funding for the project comes from the Ministry of Education information society programme.

The project has compiled samples for photography and digitisation to build an archive of electronic images, sounds and texts, the core of which will be formed by artworks related to cities and urbanity in a variety of ways, dating from the 19th century to the present. The digitisation and photography project increased the amount of collection material digitised and photographed in partner museums and created a common keyword system for collection and information contents, for example, with the aid of the Iconclass classification system and the ontology created specifically for the project. This way, the diverse contents held in museums and archives can be better accessed by a wider audience.

The material compiled in the digitisation project was then produced into a The Town and Again www-site. The starting point for the multimedia program is the artworks, the subject matter of which is elaborated on by linking them for instance to literature, documentary photographs and urban soundscapes. The site is the first to bring collections of several museums and archives on such a wide scale to the same operating and browser environment, thus enabling their simultaneous viewing and comparison. The way the materials are linked imitates the mixture of randomness and order, chaos and control, that is the urban experience. It also allows for new and unexpected insights into the well-known classic works of art. The multimedia production is supported by the innovative Wandora document management system, created by Grip Studios Interactive, utilising the semantic network technology.

The www-page presents urbanity as being in a constant state of flux. The script follows, for example, the historical waves of Finnish urbanisations: how the country went through the urbanisation process time after time, but with different meanings and emphases. Furthermore, the program creates associative routes into urbanity, bringing to the fore the emotions, conflicts and tensions taking place in urban spaces.

The Town and Again www-site will be launched in February 2006 in Finnish and English. Its main target audience is the museums' keenest and largest audience group, the middle-aged, well-educated city people. The program and script will, however, be designed following the Design for All concept to meet the needs of all user groups. The content production is based on findings from a focus group interview, completed in 2003, surveying the wishes and needs of the end users of the program.

Demonstration: Demonstrations [Close-Up]

Keywords: semantic web, cross-institutional collaboration, Iconclass, urbanization, art history, user-centered design