Canon’s past and future
The Latvian Culture Canon came into being as the result of a considered decision and exchange of views. Initially, the concept was developed in 2007 by the then Minister for Culture Helēna Demakova, who urged the public and experts to think about and give in-depth consideration to the question of what the cornerstones of our culture are, how to name them, justify them, place them alongside each other. As a result, the Latvian Culture Canon took form in 2008, comprising 99 elements in seven cultural spheres.
By continuing to respect, preserve and nurture these 99 highlights – being heirs to this Canon – we are, by means of our own contribution, creating new knowledge, new heritage today, increasing our own ability to see new Latvian cultural treasures in our everyday, in the people around us, in Latvia’s most beautiful places, stories, past events and important cultural turning and reference points.
The Canon is about us, the foundation of our cultural experience, our sense of belonging to Latvia, our sense of pride about our treasures. The Canon is a whole, flowing along with time and social trends, which can be replenished through inheriting it. In the same way, the whole in which we view these treasures today flows and changes with time, influencing what we notice and value in them.
Since 2013, various creative workshops have been held in the regions in relation to the Educational programme of Culture Canon, and the Culture Canon Competition, run by the Latvian Academy of Culture, has become a tradition.
Updating of the Latvian Culture Canon website started at the National Library of Latvia in 2015, and since September 2017 the updated website has been available to a wide range of users. Many NLL staff members participated in the regeneration of the website, among them Liega Piešiņa, Maija Treile, Jānis Freimanis, Ineta Kivle, Zane Zajančkauska, Jurģis Īvāns, Anda Juta Zālīte, Antra Indriksone, Indra Viļumsone, Stella Hermanovska, Mārtiņš Mintaurs, Aina Krieva, Māra Daneberga, Ruta Almane-Palmbaha, Marina Mihaileca, Lāsma Timma, Marika Karlsone, Viktorija Surska, Aira Vilka, Lāsma Meldere-Šestakova. From 2016 until 2020, Dagnija Baltiņa has headed the Latvian Culture Canon project at the National Library of Latvia, since 2020 – head of the project is Maija Treile. Dace Džeriņa, Artis Tauriņš, Lolita Rūsiņa and Anda Laķe have also made significant contributions to the development of the project. Thank you to all those involved!
In 2017, a special “Treasure Hunt Game at Castle of Light” (Orientēšanās spēle Gaismas pilī) was developed at the National Library of Latvia, highlighting the Culture canon linked with the National Library of Latvia.
The website is continuously updated with newly discovered material for each of the 99 elements and is being translated into English, Russian and German. In cooperation with other Latvian cultural institutions associated with the Latvian Culture Canon or one of its treasures, the Latvian Culture canon website is being created as a single information platform for all the news, events and processes related to the Latvian Culture Canon and its individual treasures.
The goal for the creation of the Latvian Culture Canon in 2007−2008 was to select the most outstanding cultural treasures characterising Latvian culture in different spheres of art – to select the most outstanding and most significant examples of works of art, processes, personalities or events in their field.
Over 2007−2008, a number of specially formed expert groups worked on the creation of the Latvian Culture Canon; a conference “The Latvian Culture Canon – Cornerstone of a United Society” (Latvijas Kultūras kanons – saliedētas sabiedrības stūrakmens) was held as part of the “Seven Sisters” (Septiņas māsas) conference series, and in 2008−2009, the Latvian Academy of Culture conducted a study on the attitudes of Latvian schoolchildren and students to the treasures of Latvian culture in terms of both knowledge and value.
As a result, the Latvian Culture Canon was created, consisting of 99 features covering seven spheres – literature, film, music, architecture and design, the performing arts, visual arts and folk traditions.
For film, the expert working group was: Valentīna Freimane, film critic Dita Rietuma, philosopher Uldis Tīrons, film director Jānis Putnins, film writer Kristīne Matīsa.
For architecture and design, the expert working group was: Rīga City architects Jānis Dripe, Jānis Lejnieks and Ieva Zībārte, Inese Pētersone, head of the Ceramics Design programme at the Rīga School of Design and Art; Ilze Martinsone, head of the Latvian Architectural Museum.
For literature, the expert working group was: author and literary critic Guntis Berelis, literary scholar Raimonds Briedis, literary scholar and critic Gunārs Bībers, author Nora Ikstena, publisher and editor Reinis Tukišs.
For music, the expert working group was: Radio 3 Latvia Director Gunda Vaivode, musicologist Mikus Čeže, composers Juris Karlsons and Roland Kronlaks, editor-in-chief of the Mūzikas Saule magazine Orests Silabriedis.
For the performing arts, the expert working group was: the director of the Latvian Academy of Culture Theatre Museum Jānis Siliņš, theatre scholars and critics Silvija Radzobe, Lilija Dzene, Guna Zeltiņa and Līga Ulberte, ballet artist and choreographer Gunta Bāliņa.
For the visual arts, the expert working group was: director of the Latvian National Museum of Art Māra Lāce, professor of the Art Academy of Latvia, art scholar Eduards Kļaviņš, director of the Rundāle Palace Museum Imants Lancmanis, art historians Laima Slava and Kristiāna Ābele.
For folk traditions, the expert working group was: head of the Archives of Latvian Folklore, folklore researcher Dace Bula, academician of the Latvian Academy of Sciences, professor of Folklore at the University of Latvia Janīna Kursīte; artistic director of the Latvian children’s and youth folklore movement, philosopher Māra Mellēna, associate professor at the University of Latvia, ethnomusicologist Valdis Muktupāvels, director of the Latvian National Centre for Culture, Signe Pujāte.