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De Marco picks Les Gavroches for Europeana’s top treasures

From football boots to spaceships, from mediaeval comics to Caravaggio, EU ministers pick their top treasures in Europeana.

8 May 2012, 12:00am
Antonio Sciortino's Les Gavroches, seen here in its former location at the Upper Barakka gardens in Valletta.
Digitised versions of the very best of Europe's sporting, literary, artistic and cultural heritage will be in the spotlight in Brussels - and online - tomorrow Wednesday 9 May, on Europe Day.

EU culture ministers have chosen their top treasures to add to the 23 million books, artworks, photographs and other items on Europeana, Europe's digital library, archive and museum.

Their choices are as wide and varied as Europe's rich history.

Tourism, environment and culture minister Mario de Marco's choice was Antonio Sciortino's masterpiece Les Gavroches, which he created when he was only 24 years old.

The statue represents three poor street children who roamed the streets of Paris during the 1848 revolution, inspired by Victor Hugo's Les Miserables. The sculpture was inaugurated in Malta in 1907, and until some years ago it was displayed at the Upper Barrakka Gardens in Valletta, from where it was removed and brought to the National Museum of Fine Arts for conservation purposes.

Other choices by European culture ministers reflect the cultural richness of the 27 member states. Finland's choice of Nokia football boot studs celebrates how this sport became part of a global culture and a springboard for a global business giant. Both Lithuania and Slovenia have their eyes to the skies: Lithuania selected Artis Magnae Artilleriae by Kazimieras Simonavičius, a 1650 discussion of rocketry and pyrotechnics.

Slovenia's choice "The problem of Space Travel" from 1929 proposed a wheel-shaped space station design which inspired the designs in 2001 - A Space Odyssey. Austria's selection; Caravaggio's David with the Head of Goliath was part of the collections from Vienna's Kunsthistorisches Museum which took Europeana past the milestone of more than 20 million milestone.

Ministers from all EU countries have selected their top treasures to be unveiled in Brussels on 9th May. Many ministers have also given the story behind their choices in blog posts being published on the Europeana website over the coming days. First up was Alena Hanáková, Czech Minster of Culture, who chose the 14th century Velislav Bible. This 200-page book with hundreds of vivid drawings tells stories from the Old and New Testaments and the Legend of Saint Wenceslas in a graphic style that prefigures the Czech comic book tradition.

These items and the theme of cultural heritage as a driver of innovation are on the agenda at the high-level Brussels event. It will also launch Hack4Europe 2012 which challenges Europe's digital designers, programmers and developers to come up with innovative applications based on the open data and wealth of cultural objects in Europeana.

Today, Europeana (www.europeana.eu) gives people access to over 23 million books, paintings, films, recordings, photographs and archival records from over 2,200 partner organisations, in 29 languages. In October 2011, the European Commission challenged Member States to develop solid plans and build partnerships to place 30 million objects in Europeana by 2015.

EMANUEL CINI
I could not agree more. One can spend as I have hours in front of those three figures. A masterpiece!