Contested Histories Onsite

Past First Event:

Warsaw Uprising Museum Roundtable | Lecture + Tour

1st July 2021, 16.00-17.30 CEST

Stay tuned for the recording

The event, which consisted of a lecture and virtual tour, was free and open to the public.

The lecture was given by Dr Maria Kobielska, a memory scholar on contemporary polish memory culture at Jagiellonian University’s Faculty of Polish Studies where she focuses on new (narrative) Polish historical museums. The lecture detailed the origins and agenda of the museum, as well as criticisms of the museum from a variety of perspectives in the 15 years since its opening.

After the lecture Dr Marcin Napiórkowski took us on an interactive virtual tour of the site. Marcin is scholar at the University of Warsaw’s Institute of Polish Culture, where he specialises in mythology and the history of memory of the Warsaw Uprising. His tour detailed how the museum creates an immersive experience using the ‘time machine’ method and sensory stimulation before coming to the controversy and ethics surrounding the museum.

About the Project

This project will actively underline how contested histories are a universal theme throughout Europe when dealing with its totalitarian histories. Instances of antisemitism, xenophobia, homophobia and other forms of intolerance by totalitarian regimes will be examined to highlight how exclusionary narratives are created and how to teach students to deconstruct discourse leading to exclusion and marginalisation.

It is our belief that this critical deconstruction of historical narratives will raise awareness of practices of remembrance, common history and values, thereby strengthening a sense of belonging that transcends national differences.

Project Aims

The Onsite project builds upon the Contested Histories Initiative, which noted the potential of contested historical sites as a place for teaching, learning and working towards social and historical justice. Onsite aims to use historical sites representing past totalitarian regimes as a starting point for a discussion with citizens about the importance of pluralism, civic rights and democratic practices, and to create opportunities for debate on European history beyond national perspectives. Emphasis will be placed on multiple perspectives, debate and active public involvement in tours.

Project Partners

The Contested Histories Onsite is a partner project between the Memory Studies Association and EuroClio, with support from the Europe for Citizens Programme of the European Union.

Project Outcomes

In this project, EuroClio and the Memory Studies Association will create:

  • A series of 4 public lectures and virtual tours at sites in Poland, Italy, Spain and Estonia that reflect histories of totalitarianism. Each tour will engage citizens, students, educators, and experts in critically reflecting upon complex historical narratives and the diversity of history within the EU at local, national, and supranational levels.
  • A toolkit geared towards teachers, will focus on how to critically present complex historical sites to a diverse audience. By developing the toolkit based on tours at various site locations, it aims to foster public understanding of the complexities of historical memory across Europe; to draw transnational connections and highlight multiple perspectives. It will be peer-reviewed and translated into Dutch, Estonian, Italian, Polish and Spanish.
  • A documentary-style video that showcases each site location.
  • A podcast series that will be informed by the lectures, tour content and active citizen involvement.

Project Team

EuroClio Team

  • Steven Stegers
  • Marie-Louise Jansen
  • Grace Sahota

MSA Team

  • Aline Sierp
  • Silvina Cabrera
  • Lorena Ortiz Cabrero

Experts

  • TBD

The Sites

The four chosen sites for contested totalitarian legacies of 20th century Europe are:

  • The Warsaw Uprising Museum (Poland), chosen for its representation of warring regional nationalist movements that serve to deepen the understanding of the violent context of the Second World War’s Eastern Front;
  • The Statue of the Bronze Soldier in Tallinn (Estonia), chosen for its representation of conflicting World War II narratives of liberation vs. occupation by the Red Army – a mnemonic dispute extending beyond the Baltics to much of Central and Eastern Europe;
  • The Mussolini Bas-Relief in Bolzano (Italy), chosen for its representation of fascism in Southern Europe and the ways in which historical narratives are woven to suit contemporary political agendas;
  • The Valley of the Fallen in Madrid (Spain), a memorial for those who perished in the Spanish Civil War and where Francisco Franco’s remains lay until his exhumation in 2019, chosen for its representation of contested war commemorations and reconciliation in Southwestern Europe.

Image credits (all images have been edited):

Bronze Soldier of Tallinn in Estonia “IMG_3703” by Carl-Johan Sveningsson CC BY-NC 2.0
Mussolini Bas-Relief in Italy “Fassade finanzamt bozen 2018” by Bartleby08 CC BY-SA 4.0
Valley of the Fallen in Spain “62003-Valley-of-the-Fallen” by Xiquinho Silva CC BY 2.0
Warsaw Uprising Museum in Poland “The Warsaw Uprising Museum” by Destructive Compliments CC BY-NC-ND 2.0