In his blogpost “Why we started MyCity” Murmansk based entrepreneur Stepa Mitaki explains how the online social urban ideas service is inspired by an architect’s use of maps to capture peoples’ ideas about their city: “We […] want to empower residents with a simple tool that lets them speak their mind, lets their voices be heard, and, ultimately, allows them to influence the future of their cities.”
I was in Svalbard specifically to look at public art deployed around Longyearbyen—the statues of polar bears and miners, and the light works on the Global Seed Vault for example—as part of my examination of how a brandscape was being constructed in the Arctic. But I was also interested in the larger realm of artmaking in the archipelago. One of the first topics to research was 19th century tourism postcards, the earliest of which date from 1896 and tended to feature fjords, polar bears, glaciers, and the midnight sun.
It’s not exactly a hop, skip, and a jump from saltwater crocodiles to polar bears, but I left tropical Australia on a Tuesday and by the end of the week I am walking up the main road of Svalbard’s only town, Longyearbyen, toward the glacier at the end of the valley. Svalbard is an archipelago located 500 miles north of Norway and 500 miles south of the North Pole. Svalbard is a protectorate of Norway, Spitsbergen its largest island, and Longyearbyen, which dates back to 1896, the administrative center of the islands.