Besides being an attempt to bring closure to the deceased’s family and friends and a manifestation of the desire to respect the dead, human burial practices are marked by the religious views of both society and the individual.
With the resurrection of Christ and a belief in the resurrection of the body at its core, Christianity has always ensured that the bodies of the faithful were treated with respect and buried them in a safe place. Christians had less need than their neighbours to appease their dead, who were themselves less likely to return as unhappy ghosts.
In the second half of the first millennium, graves began to cluster in and around churches. This process shaped the landscape of Western Christendom, with the living and the dead forming a single community, sharing a common space. These developments unified western Europe more around shared rituals than common political structures.
The document shown here is the plan of a sepulchral chapel submitted by Emanuele Luigi Galizia in 1872, to be located at the Maria Addolorata Cemetery in Malta.
It shines a light on the evolution of burial customs in Christianity, in this instance the introduction of extra-mural cemeteries in mid-19th century Malta.
Unless death was due to a plague or contagious disease, the strong preference of the Maltese was for intramural burial in churches and chapels around their local area. The introduction of extra-mural cemeteries in mid-19th century Malta created a great deal of controversy. The local church was vehemently opposed to both the principle of establishing burial grounds outside the confines of local parishes and the principle of multi-faith interment.
The impetus for change came from a scathing sanitary report on the health risk of continued burials in overcrowded harbour churches, along with the fact that the Protestant burial grounds had reached capacity. The issue was resolved in Malta with the promulgation of the Burial Ordinance in May 1869 prohibiting the burial of corpses within the five harbour cities (Valletta, Floriana, Vittoriosa, Senglea and Cospicua), the most densely-populated areas of Malta. Addolorata Cemetery was opened around that date, growing over time to become Malta’s largest burial ground.
At first, the population refused to use Addolorata Cemetery. In fact, it would take three years before anyone was buried in this cemetery, that eventually became Malta’s largest.
The Hungarian national uprising began 12 days before Soviet tanks and troops rolled up on the streets of Budapest on November 4, 1956 and crushed the uprising for once and for all. Personal accounts are the stories we tell about our lives that usually portray a larger picture of a life in historical context. Every life has its share of joy and sorrow, victory and tragedy. Personal records, such as diaries can be goldmines of historical research. Diaries as such are documents that beside the unequivocal historical facts enlighten us of remarkable experiences and about the effects of important historical moments on people’s emotions in an intimate way and we are able to relive these moments from their perspective.
In many ways, diaries and letters are similar: both are archived intimate writings of potential historical value. The following record, the diary of the Hungarian Revolutionary Dr. Ferenc Tésenyi was chosen to be part of the European Digital Treasures second Exhibition ‘Exiles, Migratory flows and Solidarity’.
Can you imagine grabbing a gun as a young pupil to fight for your freedom when a revolution hits in your country?
Well, for the students of the year 1956 in Hungary, when an uprising rose up against communist rule, the life-changing decision to become a fierce freedom fighter was a question of the nation’s life and death. Regarding one man’s impressions of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and its aftermath, the diary of Dr. Ferenc Tésenyi- who was 18 years old at this time – is a very important source. Tésenyi was a student in the city of Pécs and an active member of the revolutionary group called the ‘Invisibles of the Mecsek Mountains’. The ‘Invisibles’ were a group of armed freedom fighters that resisted even weeks after the defeat of the 1956 revolution, hiding in the mountains of the Mecsek Mountain, a mountain range in southern Hungary (Baranya region).
Tésenyi’s account shows us what it was like for the people who lived through the revolution. His entry for October 23, 1956, for example, records how police officers and officials of the State Protection Authority attacked him and other revolutionaries:
‘They were coming step by step, and when they were only 15 steps away from us, they nailed their bayonets at us and started running towards us. They were stabbing and beating with the stock of their rifles those who were standing in the front line, while they were trying to disperse us into the streets opening from the square. But they did it in vain, the people always returned to the square from the other side.’
In the entry for October 25, he notes the jubilation that accompanied the initial revolutionary victories:
‘[…] the red stars fell down from the theatre and the trade union centre, and they were replaced with Hungarian national flags. By this time, we were already about 40,000 people. At the main square, we sang the National Anthem, and then a loudspeaker spoke up: “My fellow Hungarians”, “my fellow citizens!” It was followed by loud applause, and then the police and the State Protection Authority both apologized…’
The ‘Invisibles’, after surviving many Soviet attacks in the mountains – many captured, some of them executed or tortured- had to flee their base. The Soviets were still on their trail, with no chance left, so at the morning briefing on November 16, everyone was acquitted of their oath and then told they had to head west. Finally at dawn, on November 22, some of the ‘Invisibles’ managed to cross the Hungarian-Yugoslav border at Bélavár (town in Somogy County).
Dr. Tésenyi escaped to Yugoslavia where he has been dispatched to Gerovo refugee camp (today a village in Croatia). He later went to high school in the Federal Republic of Germany before enrolling at the medical school of the University of Zurich, Switzerland. He graduated as a dentist in 1965.
In Tésenyi’s record (a volumed hardback diary on paper, containing 200 numbered pages, 86 pages were written) we can see a pencil drawing depicting the Gerovo refugee camp as it appeared in early December, 1956. At that time the place was surrounded by a double barbed-wire fence, and was overlooked by watchtowers and sentry boxes. It felt more like a Nazi concentration camp than a refugee camp.
In mid-May 1957 the watchtowers and the barbed-wire were removed but the camp still left a lot to be desired. Around 1,400 refugees were packed into buildings designed to hold 600 people. Some families had small rooms to themselves, but most were accommodated in a large common dormitory room along with the others. There was no dining hall at the camp. Some of the refugees made the choice to return to Hungary, others, like Ferenc Tésenyi, stuck it out, and were able to complete the journey to Western Europe or America in order to make a new life for themselves.
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.
In this post we will be speaking with Paul Kenneally, from Munster Technological University (MTU), on the fantastic work he has been doing on the Digital Treasures project. In particular the interview will focus on the transmedia products he and the team have been working on developing.
Interviewer: Hi Paul, thanks for taking the time to speak with us today on the transmedia products being developed for the digital treasures project. We know you are busy working on completing a lot of this work so we won’t keep you long.
Paul: No problem, thanks for asking me to do this. It is great to share the work we are doing.
Interviewer: Great, so first off for those not familiar with transmedia, what is it?
Paul: Yeah, so transmedia in general constitutes the mixture of using a bunch of different types of media so conventional video, graphic design, animation, some web design, and as well as some new contemporary technologies, like, augmented reality, and games. So taking that then just to create mixed disciplinary outputs that are, some again like I said are conventional in design and the way they are made, and then some are a little bit more cutting edge, for example the augmented reality.
Interviewer: Okay, so to follow that. What transmedia has been created for this project?
Paul: Yeah. So for this project, we created several transmedia products. Again, that cross disciplines, like Game Design, Augmented Reality, Video and Animation, and then as well, just combining all those, and mixing them together. So, by doing that, some of our most notable transmedia products include the use of augmented reality being embedded into old archival documents. So, that’s documents that are anywhere from decades to hundreds of years old, that have been enhanced with some sort of an animation.
And then that’s been applied down to a third-party app that runs an AR event. So that’s how augmented reality works. Some other ones then include the use of touchscreen games. So things like matching pair quizzes, general knowledge quizzes and infinite runners is another one. Those are going to be used on touchscreens, like kiosks that will be a part of modular furniture that’s going to be at the exhibition.
So, these screens support 10 Point touch, which is really important because it invites multiple people to interact and play it together at a time. So introducing things like competitive aspects, and as well to make sure that the players or the museum, visitors, achieve a state of flow, when they’re playing the games, so nothing obstructs them, their experience or their general enjoyment of the experience.
Interviewer: Just on the state of flow Paul, what do you mean by this?
Paul: State of flow, is a channel that’s in between, boredom, and kind of like overbearing challenge. It’s a concept proposed by a Hungarian-American psychologist called Mihály Csíkszentmihályi and this refers to a level of optimum performance and concentration. For games, this also includes levels of fun and the desire to retry the games multiple times. Another example of this would entail really long amounts of time passing the player by without them even noticing.
Interviewer: Perfect, thank you. So how are people going to interact with these transmedia products and what will they do with them?
Paul: Yeah, so if people get a chance to go to the exhibitions, there are multiple ways, depending on what transmedia product they want to interact with. So for the touchscreen games, they just need to interact with the touchscreen kiosks and follow the instructions that are set on those screens. For augmented reality, visitors can scan each document’s respective AR trigger or AR tag to activate the AR event on the document so that will allow you then to view animated elements around the document. Other products that will be at the exhibition as well, will be things like touchscreen catalogues which again will use the same technology, they are operated the same as you operate your tablet device by using swiping gestures.
Interviewer: To put you on the spot, what was your favourite one to develop?
Paul: I actually had two favourite transmedia products for this project. The first one was the RPG (role-playing game) game. It’s been a once in a lifetime type of experience where I could make a game from start to finish, from being involved in things like the design and ideation of the script with the archivists who acted as subject matter experts to the technical execution of the game. So I’m very happy, and really lucky to have had an opportunity to do that.
And then the second one, is actually the augmented reality itself. It’s really cool when you can take documents that are hundreds of years old, and embed this invisible extra layer of interactivity and experience this using either a tablet device or smartphone. So that’s really exciting stuff and I hope more of that gets done in the future.
Interviewer: Final question for you, if people only got the opportunity to play or interact with only one of these transmedia products. Which one of them would you definitely play yourself?
Paul: Oh, that’s a hard one. If you don’t have the opportunity to go to the exhibition, I highly recommend playing the RPG game. And given the current circumstances with COVID-19 and social distancing and all that, it’s very possible that this might be an occurrence. For anybody who is fortunate enough to go to these exhibitions, being safe and following all precautions of course, it will definitely be augmented reality. So instructions on how to install the app called Artivive will be at the exhibitions, as well as tablet devices will be there if people feel a little bit more comfortable with using devices supplied on-site.
Interviewer: Great, thanks for your time Paul and we all look forward to seeing the final product either online or in person at the exhibitions.