Photo: Anna Orniņa
A new internet resource Virtual museum of Aspazija and Rainis in Lugano”” has been developed as the year-long national celebrations of 150 years of life and work of Rainis and Aspazija are drawing to a close. Free online access has been made available to the resource at “www.arlugano.lv”
“The Virtual museum of Aspazija and Rainis in Lugano” is the first internet resource devoted to both of the two most prominent Latvian poets and public figures, with the aim of commemorating, calling attention and highlighting the years of exile (1906-1920) they spent in Switzerland as an extremely important time in the biographies of the noble couple not only as part of their creative work and strivings for the cause of a sovereign Latvian statehood, but also for a better understanding of the topography of Latvian culture beyond the borders of Latvia.
As stated by Andrejs Vasiljevs, project partner and board chairman of the IT company “Tilde”, during the presentation of the virtual museum of Aspazija and Rainis in Lugano at the opening event in the Latvian Writers’ Union on November 26 “The idea of the virtual museum is not only to show the life of Rainis and Aspazija in exile in Switzerland, but also to draw historical parallels to the present day. For Rainis in particular, isolation from Latvia led to a broader vision and a keener insight into issues that were of paramount importance to Latvia and every single individual. It is here that the spiritual foundation of Latvia as a free sovereign state was laid. It is here that the greatest challenges for personal development were stated. “Is there a sky beyond the sky?” (Vai ir vēl tāle augstāka par tāli?), Rainis asks as he views the horizons from the rock of Gandrian in in his reminiscences about Castagnola. This is the ever pending question, and many of us, like Rainis himself, sense the message lingering in our hearts: “There is”.
Academician Ausma Cimdiņa, heading the WG for developing the conceptual content of the virtual museum stressed that “The main resource is the text of an author. As we went on to develop the virtual museum, I once again re-read the texts written during the Lugano period and chose the most relevant quotations from them. Even though they mostly were the well-known classical quotes, we might not always know their exact source. It is important to arouse the visitor’s interest as he browses through the materials. The viewer should be able to perceive the exposition in its entirety. It is essential that the exposition is not too cluttered with material – so that the visitor could, perhaps, be intrigued by a detail and, in case he found it significant, go on to explore the museum resources at large and become a specialist”.
The keynote speakers at the opening event of “arlugano.lv” were Jānis Jurkāns, the Managing Director of the Writers’ Union, who wished success to the virtual museum’s future activities, Gaida Jablovska, scholar of Rainis and Aspazija, who highlighted the importance of the real museum of Rainis and Aspazija in Lugano for Latvian cultural history, and Iveta Ruskule, Director of the Literature and Music Museum (LMM) representing the second cooperation partner of the project, who shared some of the most precious treasures of the Rainis and Aspazija collection stored at the LMM, and outlined further collaboration opportunities in shaping the virtual museum further.
The guests of the event were also addressed by the writer Roalds Dobrovenskis and the stage director Viesturs Kairišs. Their interviews marking the 150th anniversary year of Rainis and Aspazija are accessible at “arlugano.lv” together with other video interviews by the artist Džemma Skulme and the composer Raimonds Pauls: these are materials where renowned personalities of Latvian culture share their feelings, ideas, recollections and personal experiences relating to Rainis and Aspazija in exile and their creative work.
Lugano is the place where Rainis wrote a good part of his most outstanding work (his plays “Golden Steed” (Zelta zirgs) , “Joseph and his Brethren” (Jāzeps un viņa brāļi), his book of poetry “The End and the Beginning” (Gals un sākums), his dramatic poem “Daugava”, etc.), and where Aspazija worked on what now appear to be the treasures of national poetry “Sunny Corner” (Saulains stūrītis), “An Armful of Flowers” (Ziedu klēpis) and “Spread Wings” (Izplesti spārni), and also a number of prose books and journalistic papers important for the history of culture. Through offering an insight in the reminiscences of the two literary giants, their diaries, letters and documents relating the story of the routine of their life in exile, the virtual museum tells us again about the environment and the age, the cultural, political and everyday life contexts to which the authors were exposed and within which they maintained contacts with their spiritual friends in Latvia.
A comparison of the past and the present in the old postcards and contemporary photos is further extended by enabling the reader to access the full texts of the literary works written by Aspazija and Rainis in the Lugano period.
The virtual museum of Lugano offers also an overview of the on-site exposition in the Lugano museum established by the expatriate representatives of the Rainis and Aspazija Foundation, i.e. Jānis Kārkliņš, Nikolajs Valters, Jānis Ritums and Olga Strunke, together with other cultural workers in exile in the seventies of the 20th century with the assistance of the local municipality. The site “arlugano.lv” features also a video interview with Pietro Montorfani, researcher of the Historical Archives of the town of Lugano, visited by the virtual museum project workgroup during this summer.
The project supported by the State Culture Capital Foundation is implemented by three partners, i.e. the association “Atvērtās krātuves”, the Literature and Music Museum and the company “Tilde”, within the Rainis and Aspazija anniversary year programme. The idea of the virtual museum was first presented to the broader public at the international cross-disciplinary scientific conference dedicated to the 150th anniversary of Aspazija “Gender, Power and Culture Interactions” www.aspazija.lu.lv ).
The creative team of “arlugano.lv” consists of Ausma Cimdiņa, Professor of Latvian University (conceptual content), Gaida Jablovska, scholar of Rainis and Aspazija (expert on content), Anna Orniņa, art designer (design concept) and Ilma Elsberga, Head of the Association “Atvērtās krātuves” (project manager), as well as the knowledge resource “letonika.lv” team of the company “Tilde” – Anita Vasiļjeva (conceptual content), Miks Želvis (development of virtual museum), Baiba Altena (virtual site concept).