Chancing to pass through the subway station on the way home from work, riding the escalator as it creeps up and down, in that vacant period I find myself drawn to the posters hanging on the wall. Exhibitions, plays, all manner of imminent city events, threatening and confrontational like wild animals, clambering on top of each other and then falling out of sight as the poster frames extend down into the depths towards my heart. Like a display window that can be moved with no intervention, like insouciant window-shopping with no purchase；and perhaps upon reaching the end I can’t help but fish out pen and paper to jot down the time and event information. Exhibitions, plays, and imminent city events: calmly and silently the posters leave us in anticipation of the future.
As the National Central Library entered the autumn of 2012, the National Central Library's Arts and Audiovisual Center played host to “Poster to the Power of N: NCL’s Digital Archive of Art Posters”. One aspect was exhibiting the library’s physical collection of posters, ordered by color and theme. Another aspect was promoting and introducing the work of digitalizing the posters.
Within the exhibition space of the second floor are a number of large hanging posters; expansive landscapes of Taiwanese scenery bearing witness to the diverse cultural horizons of this land. On one wall are several stylistically unique pieces that attract the public’s gaze: woodblock prints from a previous exhibition, the Chinese Character Festival, that are unique in composition and arrangement, causing sighs of disappointment that previous chances to catch them in their splendor were missed. The other wall presents the task of digitalizing the posters, introducing the collection and digitalization of posters, which the National Central Library has carried out since 2004. Furthermore, an accompanying movie introduces in detail the sequence of action and key details.
All posters collected pass through a process of cleaning stains and restoring flatness, after which they are placed into a large poster scanner. They are subsequently put into a database where design details are added. The film’s commentary allows the audience to understand that the work of digitalizing posters demands a high-degree of patience and attentiveness. At the same time, we also begin to imagine the diverse possibilities in the digitalization of posters: Would it be possible to set-up a direct platform that would allow designers and directors to directly upload electronic versions of posters from their end? Or perhaps the government could from time to time host poster design competitions, with the winning entries archived so that a comparison could be made between commercially designed posters and posters that take part in competitions.
On the third floor, the exhibition space is planned around walls of posters classified by color: on one side the wall is a lush green, one side is a plane of blue, and in another corner a myriad of reds and purples; as such people can see the colorful nature of the posters. However, the exhibition only classifies according to surface color, and makes no attempt to carry out an analysis based on information and content, which one may feel is a shame. On the other side of the room, a projector screen displays digital copies of posters.
Expired posters record both the intentions and trajectory of city development, recounting the stories of a bygone era. From observing the posters we may come to recognize the topics of discussion and focal points that concerned different periods. For example, from government information posters, the main administrative focus of different governments becomes obvious at a glance. Or from posters in the tourism category we may understand the trends and directions taken by Taiwan’s tourism industry. Posters in the category of artistic and cultural plays and exhibitions are even more diverse, with woodblock prints, Peking opera, folk art storytelling, glove puppetry and so on…we can see artistic and cultural trends and fads jump out at us from the posters of each period, and even though the information is already out-of-date, the posters’ style, form, composition and coloration still has the ability to pull the audience back to the past.
Overseas, many organizations regards posters as an important component of their collections, even setting up databases for preservation purposes to record the posters of different periods and of different categories. There are some specialists who collect movie posters (such as www.movieposterdb.com), and have a platform set up with a database, forum, feedback area, blog and information relevant to helping the public share in the joy of movie posters. Alternatively, there are collections of old posters (such as http://www.chisholm-poster.com/about.html) that provide a platform for searching an index segmented by designer, decade, and country. It allows online users to set up their own poster gallery, and if there is a poster which takes the fancy it can be turned into an e-card to be sent to a friend, or may be posted on social networks to share with others.
The Warsaw International Poster Biennale, from its initiation in 1966, has fast turned into the most famous event worldwide of the present-day, and it awards the ICOGRADA Excellence Award with approval from the International Council of Graphic Design Associations. Poland’s Wilanów Poster Museum (Wilanów Muzeum Plkanatu) allows observation of a record of yesteryear through the museum’s online website (http://www.postermuseum.pl/), and the black and white posters of the 1960s through to the contemporary multi-colored posters bear witness to gradual progress and development in the history of posters.
The posters of the National Central Library's Arts and Audiovisual Center are at the present time the most diverse and plentiful domestic collection. The past posters in NCL’s Digital Archive of Art Posters pay testimony to the aesthetic perceptions of societies and eras. Indeed, just as [Taiwanese architect, educator and curator] Han Pao-teh said: “Posters are a lifestyle art, they are able to accurately convey information as well as exhibit a sense of beauty, and this kind of lifestyle art is exactly what contemporary societies need”. What a shame then that the one small blemish lies in the fact that upon leaving the National Central Library, users at home are unable to look at large images of the posters. From a poster with dimensions a mere 165 x 240 pixels it can be difficult to see the posters’ brilliance; don’t even ask how designers are supposed to consult and find inspiration from a file of this size!
Posters pass on information to the world, and make use of pictures, text and design to tempt people’s gaze. Whether related to art, history, design, print, politics or another facet, they put forward the points of view of societal, cultural and political domains. The creation of a digital online poster database provides a systematic index of images, and from town wall straight to computer screen is able to tell the most brilliant of tales.
Publisher：Fan-Sen Wang, Vice President of Academia Sinica Editor-in-Chief：Zong-Kun Li Publishing Department：Taiwan e-Learning and Digital Archives Program, TELDAP Executive Editor：Sub-project: Digital Information - the New and Creative Way of Communicating Mailing Address：The Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica
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Issue：TELDAP e-Newsletter (December, 2012) Publish Date：12/15 /2012 First Issue：02/15 /2007（Published on 15th every 2 months）
The copyright of all contents in this e-Newsletter belongs to TELDAP,Taiwan. The e-Newsletter publishing system is supported by the Core Platforms for Digital Contents Project for TELDAP.