That’d be Europeana, the EU’s digital cultural history portal, whose purpose is “bringing you digitised books, films, paintings, newspapers, sounds and archives from Europe’s greatest collections” (with more info on the development site).
The project went live yesterday – and, as you’ll already know if you’ve clicked the first of those links, attracted so much interest that it immediately broke under the strain of visitors (the holding page on the site currently claiming “10 million visitors an hour”, which by my reckoning would either make it the most popular website launch in history, or be somewhat of an exaggeration…)
I’ve long been of the opinion that the EU’s best bet for getting people on board is to give them things they can actually appreciate – be it movies and film festivals via the little-known MEDIA Plus programme, music festivals or sporting events. To put it cynically, follow the old Roman tradition of giving the people circuses and spectacle to get their support. This should, in theory, be a relatively cost-effective alternative – and as such should be applauded (probably – it’s hard to tell as the site’s down…). The fact that it has apparently been so popular on its first day is a heartening sign – not least because projects with a focus on the arts rarely appear to attract that much attention these days. (But perhaps it’s because of all the porn?)
(The anti-EU alternate version of this post, by the way, is headed “EU so rubbish it can’t even launch a website” and goes on to rant about Brussels bureaucrats wasting our taxes on projects that are a) designed to culturally brainwash us all, and b) wouldn’t be able to survive commercially. There’s a surprisingly large cross-over between anti-EU types and those who argue that there should be no public funding for the arts, you’ll find. Which in my books means that there’s a surprisingly large cross-over between anti-EU types and philistines…)