Edvard Munch’s will

2021 will be a great year for Edvard Munch’s art. During the spring, a brand new museum will open its doors. The new museum is situated at Oslo´s waterfront and is tailor-made for the world´s largest collection of art by Edvard Munch. And what is more, it all grew out of Edvard Munch´s will.

Edvards Munch´s passport, issued 15 October 1925. From his probate file. The National Archives of Norway – The Regional Archives of Oslo

Edvard Munch (1863–1944) is one of the Modernism’s most significant artists, world-famous for his painting The Scream. His career as an artist saw him move away from naturalism and an accurate record of objects, instead seeking personal representations to express the mental life of modern man. Influenced by the symbolist movement, Munch later went on to become a pioneer of expressionist art.

Munch´s will

When he died on 23 January 1944, Edvard Munch left no heirs. He left behind an extensive and valuable artistic production: 1,100 paintings, 18,000 graphic works, 4,500 watercolors and drawings, six sculptures, countless letters and other correspondence. The distribution of the inheritance was determined through the will dated 18 April 1940. It was drawn up just nine days after Nazi troops invaded Norway, and annulled all previous ones. The Nazis are said to have threatened to seize Munch´s property, and he was worried for his paintings, which he regarded as his children.

In his will, Munch explains how his wealth, artwork and literary works should be distributed and managed: “The Municipality of Oslo inherits my remaining artworks, drawings, woodcuts, lithographs, intaglio prints, together with the woodcut blocks, lithographic stones, and the engraved copper plates. Prints must not be pulled from my lithographic stones, woodblocks or copper plates. Only 10 – ten – impressions of each of my remaining graphic works may be sold.”

Edvard Munch´s will be on display in exhibition no. 1 of the European Digital Treasures.


The first Munch Museum in Oslo opened its doors in 1963, almost twenty years after Munch’s death. After nearly 60 years, the old museum building no longer provides what Munch´s art requires and deserves.

The new Munch Museum, Lambda. Photo: Adrià Goula

The new museum is a highly distinctive museum building and is called Lambda. It has 11 galleries on 13 floors and a gallery space of 4,500 square meters. The new museum has been designed by the Spanish architect Juan Herreros and his partner Jens Richter from the architect practice Estudio Herreros. It will offer a range of approaches to Edvard Munch´s art and life, as well as works by other Modernists and contemporary artists in dialogue with Munch.

For more information see:

Edvard Munch´s life

Presentation of the new museum

Presentation of the old museum (in Norwegian)

A tour of Edvard Munch´s property

A tour of Edvard Munch´s summer house

Ole Gausdal, National Archives of Norway

The merchandise products: Atlas of Fernão Vaz Dourado, 1571

ÉCHARPE, Portugal, Designers Diogo Bessa;
Mário Fonseca; Ana Catarina Silva

We present another designer product born within the framework of the European Digital Treasures project. Its creators are the designers Diogo Bessa, Mário Fonseca e Ana Catarina Silva, from the Polytechnic Institute of Cávado and Ave (IPCA). Their source of inspiration was one of the several folios of  the atlas of Fernão vaz Dourado, dated 1571, whose holder is  the Torre do Tombo National Archive (ANTT).

The full description of the Atlas is available on line, as well as the images of the different folios that compose it (https://digitarq.arquivos.pt/details?id=4162624).

Atlas of Fernão Vaz Dourado, 1571

About its author, Fernão Vaz Dourado (c. 1520-c.1580), we know he was a soldier and one of the three portuguese cartographers probably born and formed in Portuguese India. He mapped the known world of Europeans at the time, the coastline of the continents visited by sailors along their voyages. With the exception of polar zones, the only missing elements are the costs of some islands in Oceania (including Australia and some islands north of this continent) the North and North East coasts of Asia (north of Japan) and the entire North West region of North America, as well as the interior of the continents.

However, and according to what is known in our days about the cartographic workshops, such works could have been the product of a slow, complex, segmented and collective effort.

The new merchandise product is an écharpe, presented in an transparent envelope, which is 100% recycled material, containing contextual information about the document that gave rise to it and about the National Archive.

Lucília Runa, Senior Technician / E-administration and innovation, General Directorate of Books, Archives and Libaries, Portugal

The different stages of its creation and development process are presented in the following video:

The merchandise products: Antique Heroe& Roman matron

Thirdly, but not least, we present one more inspiring designer product of the European Digital Treasures project. It is made by Zsófia Neuzer, a Hungarian designer charged with designing by the National Archives of Hungary.

As the designer wrote, “After reading István Kővágó’s referendum summarising the events of the 1956 revolution before the UN Special Committee, the plan for an attention-grabbing, outspoken product line was immediately outlined. The text describes Hungarian civilians marching and fighting on the streets with an anachronistic analogy, specifically:

‘… I have to interpret a nation’s bloodwritten epos using the language of reality. A fight in which the characters exceeded average human level, in which 14-year-old children modelled antique heroes, 70-year-old grandmothers as old Roman matrons.’

I highlighted and placed the terms ‘antique hero’ and ‘Roman matron’ as text elements on T-shirts, complete with illustrations of antique figures in red. The set consists of organic cotton T-shirts, stickers and washable tattoos.

The product line draws attention to the importance of critical thinking, as I consider it very important that the original purpose of the document – storytelling –, could be widely realized and given great publicity by stepping out onto the street with creating new dialogues.”

The merchandise products: The DIY Time Capsule

In connection with our previous post, we present an other designer product born within the framework of the European Digital Treasures project. Its creator is Dóra Rea Kövér, a Hungarian designer, who was charged with designing by the National Archives of Hungary.

Designer Dóra Rea Kövér, DIY TIME CAPSULE, Hungary

As previously posted on this webpage, selected documents of our international project’s three digital exhibitions serve as a basis not only for organising online educational resources, computer games, quizzes or community activities and workshops – temporarily postponed due to pandemics but still planned – but also as inspiration to the 12 designers appointed by the members of the consortium.

Created by Dóra Rea Kövér, the design is a DIY Time Capsule made for children. About the planning process and the inspiration, the designer wrote as follows.

“The object I designed is a “handheld” customizable version of the time capsules everyone knows, mostly with a system tailored to children aged 8-12.

My inspiration from all archival activities I got to know was storytelling and the process of keeping these stories for the future, as well as the power of handwriting. I think it is important that in an era where everything can be retrieved and paper-based knowledge accumulation is increasingly overshadowed, primary school children should meet these values, after all.

In my choice of material, I chose a paint box as a basic object because, on the one hand, I wanted to keep it available for as many students as possible, and on the other hand, I sought to keep the essential properties of the capsules (e.g. hermetic closing) as well. The boxes are light-coloured and also have a saturated sticker.”

In fact, time capsules are “extended sections” of our archival work, which will give their future user the opportunity to preserve their personal stories for posterity in the same way that archives around the world do.

Dorottya Szabó, senior archivist, National Archives of Hungary

The merchandise products: “the Father Bartolomeu de Gusmão’s aerostatic machine”

To respond to one of the challenges launched by the European Digital Treasures project, the Directorate-General for Books, Archives and Libraries of Portugal hired the IPCA (Polytechnic Institute of Cávado e Ave) to create some merchandising products inspired by documents of the National Archives Torre do Tombo and that belongs to one of the  Exhibitions, ” EUROPEAN DISCOVERIES: FROM THE NEW WORLD TO NEW TECNOLOGIES”, from the EDT. These products should please a very wide-ranging and diverse audience, contribute to increase the visibility of archives and their documentary heritage, diversify the ways in which they are approached, attract new audiences and increase the revenues of archives.

IPCA accepted the challenge and developed a set of products of which we now present “the Father Bartolomeu de Gusmão’s aerostatic machine”.

Historical background:

In August 1709 Father Bartolomeu de Gusmão presented to D. João V, king of Portugal, and his court, a balloon that rises 4 to 5 meters from the ground. In order to prevent the possibility of the plans being copied and to ensure his recognition as the inventor of the concept, Bartolomeu de Gusmão created the design of the Passarola, a bird-shaped machine that, in no way, corresponded to the original device, but served mainly to divert attention.

This picture can be found in the manuscript “Letters, consultations and other works by Alexandre de Gusmão: Father Bartolomeu de Guerreiro’s Aerostatic Machine” with reference code: PT / TT / MSLIV / 1011

More than three centuries later, the Passarola is still a source of inspiration. This episode was used by José Saramago in one of his most popular novels, “Baltasar and Blimunda”.

Here you can see a video on the IPCA process of creating a mobile from the National Archive of Portugal/Torre do Tombo document: https://youtu.be/vb83RNmppYg

General Directorate of Books, Archives and Libaries, Portugal

Bohemia’s Protestant Exiles: Carl of Liechtenstein’s summons of 1621

This Document is one of the many exhibits of the roaming exhibitions of the Digital Treasures Project. It is part of the collection of the National Archive of the Czech Republic and is dealing about one of the important turning points at the beginning of the Thirty Years´ War. The document was published on 17th February 1621, but the battle at the White Mountain (Bílá hora, near Prague), was fought on the 8th of November 1620.

And here is the background of the document. It marks the culmination of a period of intense confrontation between the Protestant princes and nobles of the Holy Roman Empire and Central Europe on one hand headed by Frederick V, ruler of the Palatinate region in Germany, and the Catholic establishment of the Empire led by Emperor Ferdinand II. of Habsburg on the other hand.

In 1618 the Second Defenestration of Prague triggered the Thirty Years´ War. The two sides gathered armies, thus leading to the inevitable confrontation at White Mountain. Ferdinand’s Catholic army decisively defeated Frederick’s forces, and went on to capture Prague, thus effectively putting down the rebellion. Frederick and many of the Protestant leaders went into exile abroad.

The document was published in the name of Carl of Liechtenstein, one of Ferdinand II’s top officials at that time. In the text, it is announced that the emperor has ordered the trial. A list follows, naming the most notable of the rebels. In effect, though, the summons is designed to apply to all Bohemians who had actively supported the Protestant cause.

27 of those who did come up for trial were executed in Prague in June 1621, and those who remained at large had their land and titles confiscated and transferred to nobles and gentlemen (all Catholics) who had been loyal to Ferdinand. Protestantism was forbidden, and in 1627 centralised authoritarian government was introduced.

For the people living on the lands of the Bohemian Crown, the consequences were devastating. The expelled people originated from all social classes. Places of exile had been the protestant German lands or the different parts of the Crown of St. Stephen´s in the kingdom of Hungary.

At a wider European level, the repercussions of the Bohemian Revolt were wide-ranging. The conflict effectively kicked off a series of interlocking wars which devastated much of Central Europe. Only with the treaty at Westphalia in 1648 did Europe enter a state of (sadly temporary) peace once again.

Get to know our project partners: National Archive of Norway: Joint Nordic initiative on Sámi archives

The National Archivists in Finland, Sweden and Norway agreed to raise the cross-border Sámi archival challenges to a Nordic level. The Sámi community extends across the national borders between Norway, Sweden, Finland (and Russia). The Sámi people’s archive situation is therefore in a special position and the Sámi archive issues should be included in long-term Nordic co-operation.

A Sámi with his reindeer herd, ca. 1980. Photo: Koji TSUDA. Archive: The National Archives of Norway/Sámi Archives/Koji Tsuda.

The international archival community are now starting to recognize indigenous peoples ́ right to preserve, manage and control their own cultural heritage on their premises. This has been written down in the declaration “Challenging and Decolonizing the Archive”, presented in Tandanya – Adelaide following the ICA 2019. Another sign is the newly established ICA Indigenous Matters Expert Group.

Mutual needs
Access to relevant archives is a key to one´s own history and makes it possible to link past times with present and future, and thus contribute to identity creation and new knowledge.

The archives of the Nordic national archival institutions should ideally reflect a comprehensive documentation of all parts of the society. Collecting archives can help to strengthen the Sámi languages ​​and make them more visible. The archival institutions therefore need to develop more appropriate means of collecting, preserving and enhancing the availability of the Sámi archival material.

Strategic partnerships
There is a great need for a joint Nordic initiative to give better access to Sámi archival material in the national archives and other cultural heritage institutions concerned. The National Archivists see it as a common goal to anchor future project collaborations in strategic forms of cooperation at a Nordic level.

  • Work together with Nordic universities in order to establish a university degree in archival and information science with a Sámi perspective.
  • Develop guidelines for collecting and preserving Sámi archives and documentation within the Nordic area.
  • Improve the search for Sámi archive material in the national archive databases.
  • Find new ways to disseminate Sámi archival material and show how Sámi history can be conveyed through archive material.

National Archive of Norway

How can archives help young people to use their materials?

Archives have a very rich and wide contribution to offer to society.  Their role goes beyond historical scholarship and are a key resource to other disciplines as well.

The “European Digital Treasures” project, funded by the European Commission, brings together the knowledge and skills of the National Archives and information technology to develop a sustainable and attractive tool linked to young user education on how to use archives (archival literacy).

Archival literacy is the ability to recognise the need for information, to identify the sources needed to address a given problem or issue as well as to find evaluate and organise the required information and to use this information effectively to address the problem or issue at hand.

Although young people and students may be familiar with how to use libraries, however not all students are capable of transfer this knowledge to working with archival materials. Such instruction is an important part of the mission of archives and special collections because it inspires learning.

Young people benefit from working with archival materials. Students are able to connect with people whose first-hand accounts they used; such an experience makes history real for them. Students learn important attributes and experience ‘doing history’ like a real historian. Through archival research students manage to connect evidence with valid historical arguments and learning to approach sources with scepticism demonstrate their acquisition of critical thinking skills.

Students develop an understanding of how to use evidence in creating historical accounts. Unpublished archival materials instil in students the desire to pursue independent research. It excites students, sparks their imagination, generates new questions and implants a desire to learn more.

This online archival literacy course aims at empowering students to cultivate critical thinking and to understand how through evidence, how historical accounts are created.

Teaching students how to access archival sources will not be restricted to just history.

The archive can be used to gain insight into and an understanding of past geographies, laws, social structures and religious beliefs, just to mention a few. Human geographers use archival research to examine past geographical phenomena such as migrations, urbanisation, and population redistribution.

Archival research utilising photographs, maps, and informal recordings or observations can also help in the recovery of data about our changing natural landscapes and climate. One has to keep in mind that the contents of archival collections were constructed through the social, cultural, political, and economic circumstances of their creation, preservation, and curation.

Young people and students will benefit from this course by developing their ability to look at evidence from sources with valid arguments and acquire critical thinking skills.

Leonard Callus, National Archives of Malta 

for more information read here

Why use original documents? Why are archives important?

People have always been fascinated by history and already the earliest cultures tried to leave evidence of their existence and their work behind and to document them. This fascination has remained unbroken to this day, and the catchphrase “learning from history” is still often used. This inevitably raises the question of what history actually is or what it is composed of.

Primary sources form the basis of any historical topic, which have often been kept, organized and made accessible in archives for centuries. Archives can therefore justifiably be called the custodians of history, since they keep the documents on which history is based. Archival materials can cover a very broad spectrum and range from classic documents such as files, charters or letters, to tables and other compilations, to cartographic products such as plans and maps.

The “European Digital Treasures” project, funded by the European Commission, took precisely this fact as its starting point and tried in a variety of ways to bring original documents, i.e. archive materials, closer to a wider audience and to make them easier to use.

The intensive and conscious preoccupation with original documents brings history to life and gives laypeople a deeper understanding of the context. Interrogation protocols of the 17th century peasants by the secular and ecclesiastical authorities convey a direct and better understanding of the mass expulsions in the course of the Counter Reformation and the peasant uprisings of the 16th century become more vivid, when one looks at contemporary illustrations of the various criminal courts after the suppression.

Of course, not every original document is to be taken at face value and the extent of the objectivity of a source must always be questioned. But even if an original source obviously quite consciously wants to convey a very specific image of history, it is in any case authentic from the relevant time and thus a contemporary document.

Ultimately, one of the goals of the project mentioned is to raise awareness of what historiography is based on and to always question whether historical works have a solid source base or – as so often – are free inventions or at least untenable interpretations that do not stand up to source-based evidence. That is why the project operates in all its activities, be it exhibitions, the provision of prepared teaching materials for schools, intelligent game design or the design and production of marketing products exclusively with original documents from the treasuries of history – the archives.

Dr. Karl Heinz