Month: September 2021

nationaal museum van wereldculturen (NMVW) and wereldmuseum rotterdam (WMR)

image: Roller: this carved roller on a stand is for viewing hand scroll paintings. The tube is closed on both sides with dark brown wood and rotates horizontally on a brown wooden base. Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen, Netherlands – CC BY-SA via Europeana.


The Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen (NMVW) is an umbrella institution founded in 2014 that incorporates the formerly separate institutions: Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam, Museum Volkenkunde in Leiden, and the Afrika Museum in Berg en Dal, whose collections belong to the Dutch state. Since 2017, NMVW has a partnership with the Wereldmuseum in Rotterdam (WMR), whose collections belong to that city. Together these museums bring together the largest, most diverse and best collections of non-European art and material culture in the Netherlands, consisting of almost 450,000 objects and 750,000 images, including the most important anthropological material culture and photographic collection in the Netherlands.  Overall, the collections highlight the intercultural nature of all cultures and periods, and presents a resource for all those interested to learn about history, cultural diversity and creativity. The museum is for – and about  –  people.  NMVW believes that it is important to interpret the collections and understand historical processes in an open and critical way, in order to continue to build on the relevance of these world cultures collections in our custodianship, and to see their role in fostering understandings of citizenship in a global frame.

Chinese collections

The Chinese collections at NMVW and WMR consist of nearly 2000 images and over 20,000 objects, ranging from Shang dynasty oracle bones to contemporary art. Most of these continue to be housed in the repositories of the Museum Volkenkunde in Leiden, a precursor of which was founded in 1837 as one of the first academic ethnographic museums in the world. Museum Volkenkunde’s initial collection consisted of objects acquired by the physician Philipp Franz von Siebold (1796-1866), mainly from Japan, but also China and Tibet. The earliest Chinese collection was ammased during the eighteenth century by lawyer Jean-Theodore Royer (1737-1807). Royer tried to study Chinese language and culture, for which he acquired hundreds of objects such as Chinese books, paintings, ceramics, scholar’s objects, and clothing. Highlights include over 80 albums of watercolour paintings, of which at least a dozen can be dated to the mid-1770s. Another important early collection is that of Prof. Jan J. M. de Groot (1854-1921) who systematically collected religious and ritual artefacts during his fieldwork in Xiamen in the 1880s, later included in his ground-breaking publication The Religious System of China. The NMVW holds an outstanding collection of nineteenth- and twentieth- century paintings and calligraphy, many of which were acquired from Dutch sinologists such as Robert van Gulik and Erik Zürcher. Other noteworthy categories include export paintings on canvas and (reverse) glass, Yao religious paintings, Dongba manuscripts, numismatics, and over 500 prints dating from the 17th – 20th centuries in which there are a number of rare examples.

In the frame of PAGODE, a wealth of over 3.200 exquisite items in high resolution and open access were published on Europeana.


NMVW/WMR has always invested in digitizing its collection and publishing its collection online. We strongly believe that it is important to share information about our collections as widely as possible and be transparent regarding our collecting practices. Nearly all the collection objects on our website have published metadata. Because of sensitivities regarding rights or the objects themselves, we sometimes need to limit the amount of data we can share or at times we are not able to share a digital image of the object. We currently have images for 92% of our collection. In the coming years we will be working on improving the quality for our images, developing machine learning pipelines for generating better metadata for our photographic collection, experimenting with 3D scanning, modelling and using storytelling applications and AR applications aimed at a more general audience as well as researchers. We will be working on further implementing Linked Open Data (LOD) techniques during the coming years. On our website we provide professionals with computer readable datasets about our collection as well as our Wereldculturen thesaurus.


PAGODE – Europeana China is co-financed by the Connecting Europe Facility Programme of the European Union, under GA n. INEA/CEF/ICT/A2019/1931839

museovirasto, finnish heritage agency

img. Wuhan Yellow Crane Tower by Powkee Photographer – Finnish Heritage Agency, Finland – CC BY via Europeana.

Museovirasto (Finnish Heritage Agency) was founded in 1884 and is responsible for protecting environments with cultural history value, archaeological and architectural heritage, and other cultural property. It also collects, studies and presents national collections and both supports and develops the museum field nationally. Museovirasto is funded by Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture. Museovirasto promotes and supports the opening up of cultural heritage material on a larger scale, as well as better availability, easier accessibility and the free use of cultural heritage material. This is done by opening up material and inspiring people to experience and find it. Museovirasto also supports new models and tools for the freer and more versatile use of cultural heritage. Sustainable development, common well-being as well as digitalisation and developing new digital services, new manners of cooperation and our own customer understanding are all in the focus of Museovirasto. Finnish National Digital Library is one good example of both digital services and cooperation. National Library of Finland is responsible for Finna and Museovirasto is developing and using it with other GLAM organizations.

China collections at Museovirasto

The National Museum of Finland, which is part of Museovirasto, has in its archaeological, historical, ethnological and ethnographic collections about 2 million objects. Picture Collections of Museovirasto has over 18 million images in its collections. They consist of historical, ethnological, architecture and journalistic picture materials. Ethnographic collections include 40,000 objects  and about 200,000 images, collected from every continent, among them some important collections also from China and Central Asia. Some of them were collected already in the 19th century. Best known and most important are the collections of C.G. Mannerheim and the collections of FELM (Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission). Mannerheim served as a Colonel in the Imperial Russian Army and was sent to the East as a military intelligence officer in 1906–1908 – on horseback across Central Asia, through Tibetan territory and onwards to Beijing. Mannerheim posed also as a scientist and acquired a sizeable collection of objects from the peoples in the region and took over a thousand pictures. Pictures have already been digitized and can be found also on Europeana. The artefacts of the discontinued Kumbukumbu Museum of the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission (FELM) were added to the ethnographic collections in 2015. They include both objects and about 160,000 images. FELM started its work in China in 1902 and this collection tells both their work as well as their interest in Chinese culture and heritage. The work of FELM in China was concentrated in the Hunan province, but its collection has material also from other provinces and parts of China.

Digitization and use of the collections

Collections are digitized using different cameras and software (mainly Capture One Pro,  Adobe Photoshop® and Lightroom®) and digital files and metadata are preserved in the MuseumPlus collection management system. Metadata and files are ingested also to the servers of CSC (IT Center for Science), which preserves cultural heritage for future generations. Museovirasto publishes digitized collections mainly on Finnish national digital library, on its own platform and on Europeana. Images are published mainly using CC BY licence and most of them can be uploaded freely in high-resolution, best quality files on Finna. Selecting, cataloguing, digitizing and publishing material for PAGODE project would not have been possible without the work and knowledge of Paula Laajalahti, Simo Karisalo, Jaana Onatsu, Terhi Aho and Helena Ojala. Especially Paula did tremendous work mainly voluntarily and spent few years going through over 10,000 images of the FELM collection. Minna Rönkä from the Finna team of the National Library also helped a lot in publishing our PAGODE data set on Europeana


PAGODE – Europeana China is co-financed by the Connecting Europe Facility Programme of the European Union, under GA n. INEA/CEF/ICT/A2019/1931839

kadoc documentation and research centre on religion, culture and society

img. glass positive illustration from the collection of photoreportages by Piatus Dionysius Wantz – KADOC-KU Leuven, Belgium – CC BY-SA via Europeana.

KADOC is the interfaculty Documentation and Research Centre on Religion, Culture and Society at KU Leuven. Established in 1976, KADOC is an international centre for the study of the interaction between religion, culture and society in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It preserves and discloses an extensive archival collection and heritage library that emerged from the interplay between religion, culture and society in a Belgian, European and global context. Political and social developments such as the welfare state, civil society, democratization, European integration, and secularization are documented in the collections of political movements, trade unions, NGOs, and religious congregations. Its ‘international’ collections document a wide range of interactions between Europe and the Americas, Asia and Africa as intermediated by political movements, churches, NGOs and individual actors. KADOC stimulates international research by organizing conferences, maintaining relations with European universities and partner institutions, by publishing innovative studies, and by hosting junior and senior researchers from across the world.

Amongst the international collections preserved by KADOC, the material pertaining to China stands out for its diversity and its relation to major historical events. Particularly the archives and libraries of missionary congregations active in various regions in China offer a rich insight into the interaction between China and the West over the course of the long nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Both published and unpublished sources (e.g. schoolbooks, catechisms and correspondences) show how Belgian missionaries, predominantly Scheutists, Franciscans and Jesuits, manifested themselves culturally (e.g. education and catechesis) and physically (e.g. architecture and clothing). Yet, while striving to increase their influence on local communities, missionaries also extensively documented their environment, either through ethnographic observations or through the medium of photography, thereby transmitting a unique panorama of local religious traditions, industries and cultural expressions. A gripping illustration of this documentary zeal is the extensive glass plate collection of the Belgo-Luxembourgian Dionysius Piatus Wantz (1884-1986), a Franciscan missionary who worked in the region of today’s Hubei province from 1904 until 1933. Missionary archives and photographic collections reveal unique information about some major historical events that missionaries were witnesses to. A photo album preserved in the Archive of the North-Belgian Jesuit Province, for example, shows the construction of the Jinghan railway between Beijing and Hankou (Wuhan) between 1899-1902. A photo-album dedicated to the Boxer Rebellion and to the memory of its victims, preserved in the Scheutist archives, offers an unexpected perspective on China’s impactful anti-imperialist resurrection between 1899 and 1901.

KADOC is committed to disclosing and harnessing both analogue and born digital heritage through the online publication of content and metadata. Much emphasis is placed on to the contextualisation and linking of data, in accordance with international standards, preferably as open data and allowing full-text search. KADOC collects born-digital heritage in cooperation with archive creators and commits to digitising analogue collections, either at the request of readers, systematically or project-based. It invests in LIAS, a digital ecosystem for the management, preservation, and provision of digital sources. KADOC publishes its heritage through its own catalogues and through platforms and consortia such as Europeana and Wikidata. It also curates thematic collections and online exhibitions through its own web platform and its Dutch counterpart In this way, KADOC aims to bridge the gap between specialists and a wider audience. To ensure that its collection reflects social and technological evolutions, KADOC keeps a finger on the pulse of access trends, invests in incorporating new media, and integrates new technologies in its work processes.

PAGODE – Europeana China is co-financed by the Connecting Europe Facility Programme of the European Union, under GA n. INEA/CEF/ICT/A2019/1931839

icimss: photographs about china from poland

img. Gulang Yu, an old colonial villa, CC-BY-SA ICIMSS, ph. Adam Kola

ICIMSS is a scientific association established in 2002. Its activities are focused on information, education and culture. Among the various activities, ICIMSS has created a portal, the Private Collections Library – , which belongs to the network of Polish digital libraries. From this catalogue, 147 records were transferred to Europeana included photos from Harbin, the Chinese city  established in 1898 by Polish engineers working on the construction of the Chinese Eastern Railway. The photos digitized by ICIMSS show the activities of the Polish community in the 1920s and 1930s.

An exciting and unexpected result of making these photos available to the public was the request of a lady from the Czech Senate, who recognized her grandfather’s brother, who appeared to be the husband of the owner of the photo delivered to Europeana. Thanks to this collection, both ladies met in Poland.

ICIMSS and Chinese cultural heritage

The second portal,, offers more contemporary digital-born images. 1,200 of the nearly 96,000 photos available online were taken by Adam Kola during one of his numerous trips to China over the past twenty years. The collection of photos comes from a monthly fascinating journey in 2008 through numerous Chinese provinces and cities. What can be seen in this collection, and even more visible from the perspective of twenty years, is a constant and rapidly progressing change in China.

Kola’s first journeys at the turn of the 21st century took place just before the country’s radical change. China’s creativeness and rapid modernization were just beginning. The countryside was radically different from the cities in terms of its distinctiveness, multiculturalism, other traditions and customs. Cities, in turn, have been subjected to the force of globalization. The year 2008, when the photographs from the collection were taken, is already marked by a change, a strong emphasis on modernity.

However, everywhere one can discover Chinese customs (tai-chi training in a downtown park), local colors (such as thousands of bicycles on the streets, now increasingly replaced by scooters and mopeds, not to mention cars), traditional architecture (pagodas, temples, old Hutongs). The photos show iconic places (such as the Great Wall), but also those that disappear from view in the stereotypical view of the country – the world of ordinary Chinese life: work, food, school, art, travel, mourning, prayer, the elusive beauty of everyday life .

The collection is a unique record of a specific part of the Chinese world. Together with the photos taken by Kola during other journeys, it provides a collective portrait of a period of significant transition for the Chinese people.

The journey of many thousands of kilometers led from Beijing (and its vicinity), then to the so-called Chinese Venice – Suzhou (with a magnificent museum designed by Ieoh Ming Pei, author of the famous Louvre pyramid), Shanghai, and then to the south of the country. From this region there are photos from Fujian provinces, including Fuzhou, Xiamen and the nearby Gulang Yu Island, and the charming Hakka homes of Yongding. The South of China incorporated a visit to the Pearl River Delta, including Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Macau. The journey then led north-west to Guilin, Toruń’s partner city. There you had to visit Yangshuo, one of the most picturesque places in China. The other road led to Sichuan, the provincial capital of Chengdu, and various places around the city.

The final part of the journey led north-east – to Xian, the former capital of China and one of the most influential cities in history. It ended with a trip to the aforementioned Harbin, where Adam Kola’s “Chinese aunt” lived among the local Polish community a century ago. Thus the journey came full circle on the map of the Middle Kingdom. It has historically returned to the place of an important, yet still underestimated and forgotten history of Poles.

PAGODE – Europeana China is co-financed by the Connecting Europe Facility Programme of the European Union, under GA n. INEA/CEF/ICT/A2019/1931839

musée historique lausanne / historical museum of lausanne

img. Homage to the Emperor and the Empress. Watercolor depicting the imperial couple, China 1820-1907. In Copyright, Musée Historique Lausanne.

The Historical Museum of Lausanne (MHL) was recently renovated. It reopened in April 2018 with a new permanent exhibition entitled Lausanne, the Exhibition. As it is housed in Lausanne’s old Bishop’s Palace – a monument of national importance (with the highest rating in Switzerland’s inventory of historical monuments) – the utmost care had to be applied to the substance and integrity of the building.  Due to its historical content and location within Lausanne’s old town, MHL juxtaposes past and present, allowing visitors to step back and forth in time. From its hilltop perch overlooking a modern European city, the MHL showcases history and the importance of passing historical knowledge on to future generations.

The role of the Historical Museum of Lausanne goes far beyond safeguarding our local heritage. Taking its cues from a city in flux – no less so than in the 19th century – and the wondrously complex urban-planning challenges that we face, the Museum explores Lausanne’s past and present, drawing links between art, history, economics, architecture and politics. It also focuses increasing attention on Lausanne’s current inhabitants – the people who make the city what it is today – and provides a welcoming space for the visiting public.

The MHL’s missions are collecting, preserving and highlighting all matter concerning Lausanne history. It forms collections in all main fields where local society expresses itself. The MHL preserves and restores collections in order to transmit them to future generations by studying, researching and showcasing them through publications, exhibitions, loans and information (consultations, survey), the museum provides accessibility by raising the awareness of visitors. MHL contributes to the advance of scientific knowledges and the expansion of cultural life in Lausanne, Switzerland and further afield. If its collections reflect mainly the past of the region, they also include Asian artworks, as well as Chinese, provided by private collections, or brought back to Lausanne by travellers.

Musée Historique Lausanne and Chinese cultural heritage

As part of its collection, the Historical Museum of Lausanne owns the work of Géa Augsbourg (1902-1974), a Swiss artist of the 20th century. After his death in 1974, the Association of Géa Augsbourg’s friends (l’Association des Amis de Géa Augsbourg) was created. In 2007, the Association offered the fund to the Historical Museum of Lausanne, which contains hundreds of pieces of art including oil painting, drawings, engravings, ceramics and photographs. Géa Augsbourg was a painter, artist, journalist and ceramist and had a great network of friends and acquaintances including Marc Chagall and Pablo Picasso. During his life, he made an important contribution to the art world, both in Switzerland and throughout the world, looking for new forms of graphism.

In 1959, Géa Augsbourg went to China with two Swiss friends to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China. The three men visited Beijing and the provinces of Shanxi and Sichuan. Géa Augsbourg completed more than 180 watercolours, gouache, ink paintings and sketches of what he saw during his travels. His artistic style was influenced by traditional Chinese art, such as using ink and a traditional Chinese stamp. Most of his production depicts people (portrait or group), but also animals and nature.

Géa Augsbourg was a privileged observer of the deep mutation of China. His work is a great testimonial of this period. His stay in China, from September to October 1959, is concordant with a very important time in modern Chinese history. It is the moment of the Great Leap Forward (1958-1959) which had the purpose to change China from an agricultural into a great industrial country. In April 1959, Mao was removed from power and replaced by Liu Shaoqi, who reoriented the economy towards agriculture. This period also correlated with the breakdown of China’s relationship with the Soviet Union. The drawings of Géa Augsbourg show us how China was changing, depicting the countryside and peasants, but also factories and workers.

In addition to the artist’s works, further ‘treasures’ by Géa Augsbourg were found by the museum, such as an old Chinese pith painting album. Many of these albums have been disassembled, in order to sell the paintings separately. Even now, the museum does not really know how the album arrived in Géa Augsbourg’s hands.

PAGODE – Europeana China is co-financed by the Connecting Europe Facility Programme of the European Union, under GA n. INEA/CEF/ICT/A2019/1931839

leiden university libraries

image: Plan of the Court of the Emperor of China in Peking – Leiden University Libraries, Netherlands – CC BY via Europeana.

Founded in 1575, with the donation of a copy of the Polyglot Bible by Prince William of Orange, Leiden University Libraries (UBL) has grown into a knowledge node for Leiden University, where information is produced, kept, used and shared – both physically as virtually. Not only does the UBL provide a solid base for Leiden researchers and others to find their own way in the challenging world of research data and global information infrastructures, it also looks ahead to future developments and opportunities, to further develop and improve its services for education and research. With these scholarly information services, the UBL acts as a trusted partner in knowledge for researchers, teachers and students. Open to the world, the UBL also develops effective ways of collaborating with other libraries and cultural heritage institutions on a local, national and international level. UBL’s reputation is also based on its world-class collections with strengths in many distinct collecting areas from medieval prayer books to contemporary Asian Art. Of particular note are the medieval manuscripts, collections of Caribbean, Science, Law and Political theory, European history and European languages, Middle Eastern and Asian cultures and languages. As for Asia, the rich Southeast Asian Special Collections focuses on the Malay world, in particular on the Nederlands-Indies/Indonesia, while the Chinese Special collections are of world renown.

Chinese collections

Many rare books and manuscripts have enriched the UBL Chinese Special Collections since the first printed Chinese book entered its holding at the beginning of the 17th century. The corner stone of the Chinese collection at the UBL is indubitable the Van Gulik Collection. It reflects the interest of the Dutch sinologist, diplomat and writer, for Chinese culture in general and for Chinese popular fiction, fine art, and music in particular. This collection contains rare documents collected in China and Japan, and used by Van Gulik for his sinological studies or fictional work. Also noteworthy are the collection of Yao manuscripts (mostly Taoist text from the Yao people, written in Chinese characters), the Gützlaff collection (109 Chinese protestant works from before 1855), the Gumbert collection of translations in Western languages of the Daodejing, the KNAG collection (named after the Royal Netherlands Geographical Society, it features the personal Chinese library of four 19th century Dutch sinologists who worked as interpreters in the Netherlands Indies), the collection of Sino-Vietnamese books, and the collection of Unofficial poetry journals from the People’s Republic of China (an internationally unique collection, covering a period from 1978 to current). In 2019, the UBL launched a digitisation project aiming to make as many titles from this collection available online worldwide, and collaborates since 2020 with Fudan University Library in Shanghai at its completion. This project embodies both the international and digital ambitions of the UBL.

In the frame of PAGODE, a carefully selected collection of ancient maps, books and tablets was digitized at the highest standards and published in Europeana as IIIF content and open access, allowing for the best user experience and interaction with these complex visual objects

Digital Ambitions

Currently, the UBL has indeed made ca.  450,000 cultural heritage objects (more than 90TB) available worldwide for education, research and the general public through its website . This service features both digitised and born-digital material from the UBL. The website provides access to Leiden’s rich and diverse collections, including the mythic epic La Galigo (which is enlisted on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register), Maps and Atlases, Anatomical Drawings, Scholarly correspondences from previous centuries, Photo Albums, Western Medieval Manuscripts and Southeast Asian Pop Music.

The UBL uses international and open standards in order to make this material available as widely as possible. In addition, new functionalities are being developed, such as specific options for maps and other geographic material, videos of interactive objects, extensive download options so that these collections can also be searched using computational techniques, and applications (for instance to make annotations) based on the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF). One of the founding members of the IIIF Consortium, the UBL is currently working on a project to aggregate its content to Europeana using IIIF technology.


PAGODE – Europeana China is co-financed by the Connecting Europe Facility Programme of the European Union, under GA n. INEA/CEF/ICT/A2019/1931839

pagode at museo della grafica

img. from the event

As a complementary event in the framework of PAGODE final conference, an exclusive invite-only meeting at the Museo della Grafica in Pisa was organized on 23rd September 2021, to present the two major outcomes of the project: the virtual exhibition China in Perspective, showcasing gems of chinese heritage preserved by renowned European cultural heritage institutions, and the prestigious book that accompanies the exhibition.

The project coordinator dr. Mauro Fazio of the Italian Ministry of Economic Development, the technical coordinator dr. Antonella Fresa of Promoter s.r.l. and the Museum’s director prof. Alessandro Tosi met with a selected number of stakeholders to share thoughts, experiences and impressions from this exciting project, that highlights Chinese heritage in Europe via Europeana, the digital gateway to European cultural heritage collections. Remote participation of Sofie Taes, curator of the China in Perspective exhibition, allowed participants to get a glimps of the concept and rationale which drove the creation of the exhibition and the corresponsing chapter in the book.

PAGODE – Europeana China is co-financed by the Connecting Europe Facility Programme of the European Union, under GA n. INEA/CEF/ICT/A2019/1931839

promoter digital gallery: a section about china

img. Travel in Tibet #43 | Viaggio in Tibet #43 by Situ Zhaoguang – 1976 – Promoter Digital Gallery, Italy – CC BY-SA.

Promoter S.r.l. is an SME based in the region of Pisa, bringing together competencies and experiences in the areas of digital transformation, multimedia innovation, business promotion and project management. Promoter has a keen interest with photographic heritage, and in 2014 organized a crowdsourcing action for the digitization of family albums from citizens in the area of Pisa. The digitization action run for three months, hosted at the premises of the Museum of Graphics in Pisa, on the occasion of the successful photographic exhibition “All Our Yesterdays”, showcasing masterpieces of early photography from important archives and photo-agencies in Europe. The crowdsourcing associated with “All Our Yesterdays” resulted in over 1.000 photographs digitized at the highest standards, and released by their owners to Promoter under a Creative Commons license for the purposes of online dissemination and non-commercial reuse. A selection of this archive is presented in the and is also published on Europeana portal.

Chinese heritage at promoter digital gallery

In the Promoter Digital Gallery is also available a collection of Chinese-related content. This is the result of a digitization in high quality action of the illustrations contained in the book “Viaggio in Cina” by J. Thompson and T. Choutzé, illustrated with 167 engravings. In the book the name is misspelled as “Thompson”, but the author is the Scottish photographer and traveller John Thomson (1837-1921), while T. Choutzé (朱茨) is the pseudonym of Gabriel Devéria (1844-1899), a French diplomat and interpreter who worked and travelled in China. The book was created by Fratelli Treves Editori toward the end of 1800 and published in various editions in the early 1900.

Additionally, the collection includes a selection of highly relevant, and previously unseen, original photographs depicting life of Chinese renowned sculptor Situ Zhaoguang. The photographs digitized from the personal photoalbum by Situ Zhaoguang were made available expressly for the PAGODE – Europeana China project by Zhaoguang’s son Situ Xiaochun. 

All this China-related material is published on Europeana at the highest standards of quality and fully reusable under the license CC-BY-SA.

PAGODE – Europeana China is co-financed by the Connecting Europe Facility Programme of the European Union, under GA n. INEA/CEF/ICT/A2019/1931839

benaki museum: beautiful chinese collections

image: Headrest of Cizhou-type with painted decoration under glazed earthenware. ‘Sacred fungus’-shaped headrest. Cizhou-type stoneware with white slip and painted and incised lotus and scroll decoration under a clear glaze. North China. Jin dynasty, AD 1126-1234. Width 30.5 cm. Donated by George Eumorfopoulos (GE 2275) – Benaki Museum / Μουσείο Μπενάκη, Greece – CC BY-SA via Europeana.

The Benaki Museum is among the most extensive and innovative museum organisations in Europe. Diverse cultures engage in dialogue with Greek culture and contemporary art movements across a network of venues all over Athens—and beyond. It was founded by Antonis Benakis in 1930 and subsequently donated to the Greek state. Arranged across a satellite network of seven museum buildings, the Museum also features four archival departments and an extensive library. It currently holds a 500,000-strong inventory covering all periods of Greek culture (from Prehistory to the present) as well as Western European, Islamic, Pre-Columbian, African, Chinese and Korean art. The Museum presents over 30 exhibitions and in excess of 450 events per year, welcomes over 450,000 visitors and offers a wide range of educational and cultural activities for all interests. It has earned international recognition and forged collaborations and partnerships with established cultural and academic entities, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Royal Academy of Arts in London, the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney, Princeton University and UCLA. Its collections appear on its website and many other digital platforms, including Europeana, Google Art Project and Museums with no Frontiers.

A selection of 200 exquisite items from the Chinese collection at Benaki Museum is part of PAGODE project and is published on Europeana according to the highest standard of quality and also fully reusable under the CC-BY-SA license.

The Benaki Museum Collection of Chinese and Korean art primarily consists of items donated by the London-based Greek expatriate George Eumorfopoulos, one of the seminal early 20th-century collectors and connoisseurs of East Asian culture. The evolution of Chinese ceramic art from the third millennium BC up to the 19th century is represented by more than 900 examples: Neolithic vases decorated with geometric patterns, funerary sculpture from the Han and Tang dynasties, elegantly proportioned wares dating to the Song dynasty and porcelains from the Ming and Qing dynasties. A few fine Korean ceramics as well as further works of Chinese art, like snuff bottles and small sculptures in jade, hardstone and other materials, complement the collection, bringing the total to some 1,400 items.

The Information Technology Department of the Benaki Museum was established in 1991 in order to introduce, develop, coordinate and support the use of information technology at the Museum. Its activities include the electronic documentation and management of the Museum’s collections by developing and supporting computer systems; the promotion of the Museum’s collections and of Greek culture in general through multimedia applications; the broadening of the Museum’s communication platform with the public, by developing and updating the Museum’s website; the production of terminology standards to document cultural information on museum objects; the digitisation of collections and archives; and the management and curation of digital records. The Benaki Museum Information Department has kept close track of developments in information technology and communication, and has participated actively in many European programmes, in which new and pioneering computer technologies have been tested and applied.


PAGODE – Europeana China is co-financed by the Connecting Europe Facility Programme of the European Union, under GA n. INEA/CEF/ICT/A2019/1931839

chinese collections at kik-irpa

image: Fô lion (19th century), Museum voor Oudheidkunde en Sierkunst en Schone Kunsten, Kortrijk. CC BY-SA KIK-IRPA, Brussels: KM011220.

KIK-IRPA and Chinese cultural heritage

KIK-IRPA studies the arts produced in Belgium from the Middle Ages to the 19th century. So one can wonder why we participated in a project focused on Chinese cultural heritage? Since historically one of the missions of KIK-IRPA was to make an extensive photographic inventory of the cultural heritage in Belgium much more artefacts were photographed than solely those falling within the limits mentioned above. Several museums and private collections preserve and exhibit Chinese cultural heritage (e.g. Chinese export porcelain) and parts of these collections were photographed and inventoried by KIK-IRPA, as well as made accessible through the website BALaT (“Belgian Art Links and Tools” The metadata for these objects were (often quickly) copied from the local inventories or catalogues and reflect the status of knowledge at the time the photographs were taken. Another source for photographic material is when an art work enters KIK-IRPA for study, restoration or analyses by our researchers and specialists.

In the picture: in the late 90s KIK-IRPA was asked to participate in the restoration of a Bodhisattva head from the collection of the Musée royal de Mariemont (Morlanwelz-Mariemont). Every restoration project consists of photographs of the object before, during and after restoration. [KN007548 (after), KN005929 (before)]

Digitization at KIK-IRPA – workflow

When a negative needs to be digitized a whole workflow is set in motion. There is first the selection. In general, and due to the enormous amount of negatives to digitize, priorities have to be set. These priorities are roughly divided into two groups: negatives that are in a fragile state or in the process of auto-degradation (an inherent process that can’t be stopped, only slowed down) and negatives that could be valorized for multiple reasons (publications by colleagues, orders by external “clients”, and all kinds of collaboration opportunities, including projects like “Pagode – Europeana China”, …). Our negatives are stored in a special acclimatized “bunker”, which is currently in the process of being renovated (an extremely complicated task awaits: up to 1,000,000 negatives need to be repackaged, moved and stored into an external repository, then the renovation works in the bunker starts and finally the negatives will be put back into newly compartmented “rooms” with different temperatures and humidity according to the different supports). But for the moment the negative, together with the 10 to 50 other negatives which are stored in the same box, is taken from the bunker to the digitization room, where it is gently cleaned. We don’t do restoration of the negatives. If by accident we stumble upon broken glass plates for instance, they are digitized separately and can subsequently be shown “digitally restored” online.

The standard digitization setup used is fairly simple: a Canon EOS 5Dsr (50,6 megapixel CMOS) with 50 mm, 70 mm and 100 mm objectives with a Kaiser “slimline plano” LED light box 42,9 x 30,9 cm. The RAW images are 8.688 x 5.792 pixels, and from those the preservation master (TIFF 6.0 uncompressed, 350 x 350 dpi, 48 bits per pixel) is created, which is also the base from which to create multiple derivates for different uses (from thumbnail to print quality files). On the web a simplified IIIF server is used to give the public access to images ranging from thumbnail view to high resolution zoom. Post-processing is done in Adobe Photoshop® and Lightroom®. For colour correction, aside from the manual work, the Negativ Lab Pro tool is used. And of course a final visual quality control is performed, ideally on another colleague’s work. After the digitization the negatives are repackaged in acid-free archival quality paper and boxes to be stored again in the climate bunker for long-term preservation, while the digital images are sent to multiple back-up systems and long term preservation digital centres.

about KIK-IRPA

The Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK-IRPA, Brussels is a Belgian scientific institution devoted to the study and conservation of the country’s rich cultural heritage. An interdisciplinary team of art historians, photographers, chemists, archaeologists, engineers and conservator-restorers carries out research on various aspects of cultural heritage objects such as materials and techniques used, production date and means to ensure their sustainable conservation. KIK-IRPA is a unique resource for scientific, photographic and technical documentation about Belgian heritage. An impressive photo library contains over one million photos and the BALaT online database displays more than 450,000 records (with more than 750,000 images) of cultural heritage objects, all freely accessible for personal use. The number of publications, courses, conferences and seminars reflect the important role KIK-IRPA plays in the preservation and promotion of Belgian heritage. KIK-IRPA contributed with around 150,000 items to Europeana, is a member of Photoconsortium, Time Machine and many other national and international organizations in the field of the study, conservation and restoration of works of art.


PAGODE – Europeana China is co-financed by the Connecting Europe Facility Programme of the European Union, under GA n. INEA/CEF/ICT/A2019/1931839