The initially scheduled exhibition (July 15th to September 25th) took place during most of the school summer vacation period and within some restrictions of access to cultural equipment imposed by the pandemic.
From October 1st Portugal enters the third phase of the deconfinement plan. In this new phase we expect to receive more visitors, especially from school groups and also seniors whose associations are resuming their usual study visit schedules.
This exhibition presents products designed to attract new audiences to the world of archives and to show the potential of the digital world, video games, augmented reality, serious games, in the dissemination of heritage.
In this post we will be speaking with Dóra Rea Kövér, Hungarian designer who was charged with designing by the National Archives of Hungary. Rea works as a freelancer designer and lecturer at the Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design (MOME, Moholy-Nagy Művészeti Egyetem).
This interview focuses on the designing process she made for the European Digital Treasures project. All her products as well as the other designs are part of the project’s product catalogue published in the product gallery menu.
Interviewer: Thank you Rea for taking the time to speak with me today on your work for the EDT project! School semesters are about to start so everyday life can get very busy for you now. Thank you for taking the time to interview with me. First of all, please tell me, how long did it take for your ideas to turn into tangible plans?
Rea: Thank you for the opportunity, I’m glad to answer your questions. It is quite difficult to define this process in time. In the beginning, the initial ideas had to be come up quite quickly, and then, in order for the products to be “born out of them”, they had to go through a lot of changes. These changes required a very different amount of time, for example, testing and developing a board game needed much more time than having a bookmark cut out of a metal plate based on a relatively simple template.
Interviewer: You made several plans for the archives, but not all of them were selected at the end. Are some of the unsealed that you regretted not making the final five?
Rea: Maybe so – but I prefer to consider the most important thing to implement the most suitable products for the given purpose. And exactly this was what happened.
Interviewer: Are there any of them that you think are feasible?
Rea: With proper improvements, all the original designs can become products.
Interviewer: Behind each plan, I feel a conscious and balanced choice of subject: the board game focuses on telling human stories, the time capsule focuses on their preservation, the travelling book-set on immortalization of notes and the impact (or lack) of travel on our lives, the bookmark on the connection between books and archives, while the inexhaustible pen emphasises the relationship between writing and the archival world. How conscious was this underlying message?
Rea: When I started working, I wanted to focus on topics that were actually related to archival life, the work done there: the storytelling and the preservation of stories in a broader sense. I thought it was important that the plans did not process the same activity, preferably each one should be different, so the variants were definitely a conscious decision. The phenomenon that these reports will eventually cover a larger field is rather a consequence of that effort.
Rea: Yes, I’ve been thinking about it, but I’m still considering what might be personally important, so I’m going to have to think about that a little bit.
Interviewer: We plan to use the time capsules at next summer’s international camp in Budapest. We plan to include you in the session where the competition winner students from Austria, Hungary, Norway, Malta, Portugal and Spain fill the time capsules with personal content. What do you expect? What do you think a high school student between the ages of 15 and 18 will hide in the capsule?
Rea: I can’t really predict… That’s why this is a good “experiment” to see what a teenager considers to be important for preservation from a tangible point of view.
Interviewer: I know from you that determining the alloy of the pen was very difficult. Without revealing your workshop secrets, will you tell me a little bit about the process?
Rea: Wow, in this subject, I wanted the metal of the pen to be the writing surface that leaves a mark on paper. Such a pen exists and it can be ordered, so I planned engraving on its surface. However, COVID crisis has greatly transformed the initial concepts, as I couldn’t count on an order, especially not from Asia, where these pens are manufactured. So, I had to find a metal to buy in Hungary, which would produce this effect. It wasn’t easy, and in the end, a magnesium aluminium rod became the solution.
Interviewer: You displayed quotes on two subjects: on the bookmark and on the pen. Are these passages of particular importance to you?
Rea: The Latin quote on the bookmark is a very early memory of equal opportunities and in general, equality, which is why it has caught my attention. It is rare to quote such thoughts from a perspective of 500 years. I liked the other quote for a different reason. On the one hand, you may feel a kind of tension from the sentence, with which József Kővágó tried to make the text as expressive, convincing, but emotional as possible. And there is also a sense of despair in the wording, known from the historical background (the fall of the Hungarian Revolution in 1956). The human side of the text was very plastic, one that immediately drags the reader into the historical event.
Interviewer: Have you tested the board game? If so, what were your experiences?
Rea: The gameworks, as I think the rules are good… We tested it several times with different companies, even during the design process. I hope those who will play with it will enjoy it as much as we did.
Interviewer: Thank you for your time! I really hope that we can work together in the future again! I wish you many new, exciting professional challenges and new successes!
Interview by Dorottya Szabó, senior archivist, National Archives of Hungary.
We introduce a new merchandising product developed for the project “European Digital Treasures”. It’s a set of soaps whose fragrances and properties are inspired by the plants, colours and textures of the west coast of India.
Every soap bar was produced using plants identified and described by Garcia de Orta in one of his 59 colloquies that constitute his work “Colloquies on the Simples and Drugs, and Medicinal Things of India, and on some fruits found there, where some things of practical medicine and other things good to know are addressed”, published in Goa, in April 10th, 1563. For each plant, the author, a Portuguese physician and botanist or naturalist, born in 1501, registered: the names in Portuguese, Greek, Latin, Sanscrit, Arabic and in several local dialects; the origin – the places where they spontaneously grew or were cultivated; the markets where they could be found; their characteristics, therapeutic uses and the way of administration.
All this knowledge was gathered and organized by Garcia de Orta over a period of more than thirty years spent in India. He left for India in March 12th, 1534 as the physician of the Captain-Major of the Sea of India, Martim Afonso de Sousa, whom he accompanied for four years, in campaigns on sea and land on the west coast of India, that took him from Diu to Ceylon and to the coast of Cambay. Orta went on an expedition to the region of Gujarat, was in the ports of northern India as well as inland, crossing the peninsula of Kathiawar, from Diu to Ahmedabad. He visited Concan, Canara and Malabar. At the end of 1538, Martim Afonso de Sousa returned to Portugal and Garcia de Orta stayed in Goa. He was the physician of viceroys, royal governors and Indian potentates. Orta was also a merchant, namely of drugs or of products of a medical nature, and owned his own ship.
The illuminated capital letters and marbled endpapers of the binding inspired the drawings of the new merchandise product, an écharpe, presented in a transparent envelope, which is 100% recycled material, containing contextual information about the document that inspired it and about the National Archive of Torre do Tombo.
The following video presents the various stages of the creation and development process of this product.
Written by Mário Sant’Ana, Senior Technician / E-administration and innovation and Ana Isabel Fernandes (trad.), Senior Technician / Communication Office, Torre do Tombo National Archive, General Directorate of Books, Archives and Libraries, Portugal
Continuing with our series of presentations of the merchandise products, we want to show you the bottle of water inspired by the document “Plan of a machine to raise fresh water from the river to the Alcazar of Toledo and supply the city” 1561 – Simancas General Archive (Spain) that will be part of the exhibition “European Discoveries: From the New World to New Technologies” in the framework of the European Digital Treasures project.
Commissioned by the Spanish State Archives, the designer Ángel Merlo was in charge of creating this product.
Giovanni Turriano, born in Italy in 1500, was a mathematician, astronomer, inventor, watchmaker and engineer. He began his career as a watchmaker in Milan. Later he began working at the service of Emperor Carlos V. And then he began working as a civil engineer paid by the monarchy. In 1565 he was hired to build an engine to supply the Alcázar of Toledo with fresh water from the nearby Tajo river. He succeeded in building it in three years, and it was done so well that he was hired to build another one. The machine was at the time the highest water elevator in the world, providing Toledo with 17 cubic meters of water a day raised from 100 m below.
The Spanish designer Ángel Merlo took the drawing on this record as an inspiration to create a product for domestic or sport use. The bottle is made of glass and stainless steel with circular screen printing in black around it, protected with a softshell sleeve personalised with the Digital Treasures logo. The description and data of the product are printed on the label.
In the designer’s own words: “The document prompted me to create a product related to the transportation of water, but more modern and simple. I chose to make a bottle because I wanted it to be a practical item to use on a daily basis and thus give more visibility to the European Digital Treasures “brand”. Besides, it had to be a viable product, not very expensive to produce. Then I looked for the appropriate glass of water and the way to personalise it. I rejected the idea of putting a label of paper because of the lack of durability and I made a circular serigraphy by treating and vectorising the original image.”
Spanish State Archives
You can find more info about the record and the designer here:
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).
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:
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.”
Dorottya Szabó, senior archivist, National Archives of Hungary