Reviewed December 2017
Lindsey Gumb, Instructional Technology Librarian
Roger Williams University
Europeana Art Nouveau Exhibition Online is a robust referatory showcasing the beauty and motivations behind the art, architecture, and design born of the Art Nouveau era. The platform, Europeana, works with thousands of archives, museums and libraries throughout Europe to document and “share cultural heritage for enjoyment, education, and research,” impressively providing access to over 50 million digitized items such as books, artwork, music and more. This particular exhibition is sure to catch the eye of anyone interested in obtaining a general overview of the beauty of Art Nouveau.
Both the desktop and mobile navigation are intuitive with a beautifully crafted landing page displaying nine clearly marked segments and perspectives of the Art Nouveau movement. Visitors can select to translate the contents of the page into six languages: English, French, Dutch, Polish, Spanish and Latvian. Europeana’s Art Nouveau Exhibition Online sequentially navigates the visitor through the exhibition by providing a “forward” (and “back”) button at the bottom of each page to encourage a virtual experience that mirrors walking through an actual gallery, with the option to turn around and easily revisit the previous section. Each of the nine segments have a balanced text to image ratio and allow users to click on a digital object for a less distracting viewing experience (with a black backdrop), however, there is no built-in image viewer to allow zooming or any other manipulation. All of the digital objects used in the exhibition are available for download as a JPEG file in the Credits portion of the exhibition. Copyright rights statement also accompanies each object in this section. While associated metadata for all digital objects in Europeana collections and exhibitions is available for download, free of copyright, the digital objects themselves have a range of fourteen different rights statements. Users will want to be diligent when contemplating re-use.
Europeana Art Nouveau Exhibition Online would be a wonderful supplement for an art history course or even an amateur seeking to gain an succinct overview of Art Nouveau, as the exhibition’s interface allows users to engage at their own pace and at no cost. While the exhibition itself isn’t outwardly interactive, visitors can ultimately decide how deeply they choose to engage with the content, as all digital objects are linked to either the original repository or Europeana’s metadata page. Perhaps one of the most unique aspects of this resource is that the metadata is published under a Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication license, which means it is free of any restrictions and can be culled, sorted, and published in any way. The lack of copyright restrictions on this data could be especially useful for researchers and students alike, enabling opportunities for new Art Nouveau scholarship to emerge. This “freeing” of data is reflective of other trends like the Open Access and Open Educational Resources movements in both higher education and libraries and archives worldwide.
Europeana Art Nouveau Exhibition Online is easy to digest and simultaneously flows beautifully, however there is room for some technical improvements. Many of the embedded digital object links throughout the exhibition are either broken or bring the visitor back to the beginning of the current exhibition section. This both disrupts the flow of the visitor’s viewing experience and creates a barrier for those interested in learning more from the metadata record. Any learning tool, which utilizes web technology is susceptible to dead links and content that is not regularly monitored or updated, but with the exception of these few instances, Europeana Art Nouveau Exhibition Online does a solid job maintaining the resource. With Europeana touting a mission of transforming the world with culture, we can expect to see more visually stunning and equally informative virtual exhibitions like this one.