Introducing Ad Polle, Europeana’s Senior User-Generated Content Projects Coordinator.
I have been working with cultural heritage for most, if not all, of my professional life. First it was books and photography, and later on, it was film. During my job as manager of the film collection at the Eye Film Institute in Amsterdam, I got involved with Europeana via the European Film Gateway, one of Europeana’s main moving image partners. Through this, I realised how important it is that archives digitise their collections and make them available for everybody.
At Europeana, I am primarily responsible for managing projects that involve the public and their own personal experiences of history, such as Europeana 1914-1918 and Europeana 1989. These are two truly fascinating projects that aim to collect personal memorabilia and stories from all over Europe on both themes. We go to very diverse places to record the stories, from high in the Italian Alps to the countryside of southern Denmark or from the empty fields in Flanders to a bustling Mediterranean city like Nicosia, Cyprus. It is great to meet the people, old and young, and to listen to the stories they have to tell. And believe me, some of these stories of European history are really amazing and always very moving.
I am also involved in the work that goes on behind the scenes of these public projects. For example, I am part of what we call a ‘Task Force’ for user-generated content – our recent work involves launching a questionnaire to the Europeana Network of professional partners. On top of that, I also liaise with other film-related projects in the Europeana group, such as European Film Gateway 1914 and EUscreenXL.
‘The life story of Michael Draščka the traveling suitcase‘, Europeana 1914-1918, CC-BY-SA
My top pick from Europeana is this trunk. At first sight, this may look just like an ordinary travel trunk. In it, there were only a few old photographs, postcards and private letters in Slovenian. Nothing special you would say, but the stories that go with the trunk are just wonderful! It was brought to the Europeana 1914-1918 collection day in Nova Gorica in Slovenia, right on the Italian border, by an elderly woman. She arrived at 10 in the morning and left late in the afternoon. The owner of the trunk was her grandfather who was a soldier in the Austrian-Hungarian army. She told us the full story of both his wartime misery and true romance (which you can now read on Europeana). She also told us what happened to him and his family after the First World War and through the Second World War, what life was like in Communist Yugoslavia and how they experienced the country’s civil war – almost a full century of European history came out of that wooden box!
When I’m not working, you can probably find me on my bike, bird watching or listening to music (sometimes even all three at the same time). I have recently finished the script for a documentary on race cycling that friends of mine are shooting. And I am currently doing research for a new subject: the life of a gay officer in the French army during the First World War.
I am always prowling the web for anything related to my heroes: the German writer Thomas Mann and Russian composer Igor Stravinsky. That could be a full-time job, there is so much out there! On Europeana, I came across this hilarious Italian television clip about Elizabeth Mann, Thomas Mann’s daughter, who taught her dog the alphabet and how to use a giant typewriter.