12th European Remembrance Symposium

Commemorating and Narrating Freedom

 Polish History Museum, Warsaw
21 — 24 May 2024

‘For Freedom – Ours and Yours’ is a phrase coined by the 19th-century Polish independence activist Joachim Lelewel during the November Uprising against the Russian invader in 1830–31, one of the prime Polish independence uprisings. It has entered the repertoire of Polish cultural memory, becoming one of the most inclusive national mottoes during the darkest periods of Polish history in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Aspirations for independence and accompanying freedom slogans also played a similar role in the history of the countries of Europe (and beyond) throughout the 20th century, which was marked by two world wars, various civil wars, Nazism and the Holocaust, fascism, communism as well as authoritarianism.  

What does freedom mean today and what did it mean throughout the historical period discussed above? How did both the struggle for freedom and its celebration become enshrined in the region’s cultural and historical memory? How has freedom been commemorated in museum narratives and how is it commemorated today? These questions are among the key ones running through this year’s European Remembrance Symposium.
Starting from philosophical perspective that defines freedom not only by its absence and efforts to regain it (freedom from enslavement, persecution, occupation, etc.), but also by social agency and responsibility (freedom of choice, assembly, freedom of speech, religion, human rights, minority rights, etc.), we will look at various narratives within the broader memory of freedom in selected museums of Europe and the world.

The participants of the symposium will examine the spaces of the newest and most popular historical museums. For decades they played a special role in the creation of historical and cultural memory of different generations as sites for generating particularly evocative images and narratives about the past, spaces for displaying a variety of memory mediums, places for mediating (national and cross-national) historical policies, and as institutions that engage visitors in co-creation of narratives about the past (participatory museums).

Taking into account the dynamically changing technologies and increasingly advanced tools for visualising the past, so crucial to popularising history and the educational process, during the planned discussions we will also explore both the enormous opportunities and as well as the threats introduced by the highly appealing tools of engagement used in education and museum presentations, including AI, VR and immersive media, among others.


Day 1 – Tuesday 21 May

14:00—15:30  Registration

15:15—15:30   Welcome

15:30—17:30  Debate
Welcome speeches

18:00—Reception: cocktails followed by concert (Jazz Band Młynarski-Masecki) and dinner

Day 2 – Wednesday 22 May

08:00–09:00 Registration

09:00–10:30  Opening panel: Grand national narratives and conceptualisations of freedom
How is freedom understood in national narratives concerning the past? In the museum narrative, does freedom appear mainly in the context of independence or the lack and fighting for independence (freedom from captivity, persecution, occupying forces, etc.), or does it also appear in the context of human and civil rights?  Is it reinforced through the freedom of/right to: assembly, choice, self-determination, etc.?
Whether and how the notion of freedom in museum narratives goes beyond national narratives, and how are narratives about civil rights and freedoms, rights of minorities, the freedom of speech, religion, etc. told/conceptualised?

10:30–11:00   Coffee break

11:00–12:30    Q&A session – Symbols of regained/lost freedom – Case Studies
A discussion panel with directors of various institutions, historians (public history), memory researchers, cultural scientists, philosophers, etc. on how the memory of freedom is commemorated in material public spaces

12:30–13:30   Turbo presentations
During the turbo presentations, participants showcase their organisation or project to the symposium’s audience. Each speaker has up to 90 seconds. The topics have to be connected with the general theme of the symposium.
If you would like to take part and present, please read more here.

13:30—14:30  Lunch and coffee break

14:30–16:30   Parallel panel discussions:
Historical education: freedom and modern technologies –challenges and opportunities
Challenges to freedom in historical education: new media, new technologies and the deluge of publicly available content (Artificial Intelligence [ChatGPT], disinformation, social media) 
Is historical education simpler now given the current technological advancement and the diversity of teaching formats? What challenges does it have to face? Should the freedom of access to diverse sources of historical knowledge and (educational) tools be restricted? How to teach about the past, memory and truth at a time when the authority of a teacher/educator/researcher is so often questioned?
A meeting of educators, teachers and experts aimed at discussion and experience exchange, as well as developing new strategies and good practice

2. Freedom as a topic in the field of culture (screening of the documentary)
How is the memory of freedom commemorated in contemporary public cultural discourse (broadly understood as in film and theatre). Is the memory of freedom dominated by 19th-century history and the period when states emerged? Do the symbols of freedom and its definitions change over time, acquiring new meanings or becoming obsolete?

16:30—16:45 Coffee Break

16:45—18:15   Participation in museums: shaping museum narratives
Representatives of museums relate their own experiences. Engagement of the public and audiences (interactivity, participation, expectations of the public) and their positive as well as negative impact on the museum narratives. Commercialisation of cultural institutions and museums.

Day 3 –Thursday 23 May

09:15–10:00   Registration

10:00–11:30   Polish History Museum, Warsaw

11:30—Cultural visits

Day 4 – Friday 24 May

09:15–10:00   Registration

10:00—11:30  Mentoring sessions in following fields:
Parallel sessions:
•          Digital competences and on-line projects
•          Marketing and education
•          Fundraising for historical and educational projects
•          The power of dialogue / managing projects involving historically
conflicted sides

11:30—12:00   Coffee break

12:00–14:00   Summary and round table discussion: Freedom and Remembrance in intergenerational dialogue
How does the memory of freedom evolve? How is/was freedom understood and commemorated by the generations that experienced global conflicts (First and Second World Wars) and totalitarianisms? Does freedom mean the same for the generations born after 1989 as for those before them? What is common and what is different in successive generations as regards to the meaning of freedom and cultivating it? Could the differences in defining and understanding freedom pose a threat?

14:00—14:15  Closing remarks and lunch

For more information and registration, please visit: European Remembrance Symposium 2024 | ENRS