Contested Histories Onsite

Clashing perceptions of history can be at the source of serious divisions in society. The Memory Studies Association (MSA) and EuroClio work to turn these challenges into learning opportunities. When done well, education can be the best way towards conveying the complex perceptions of the past. We have noted the potential of contested historical sites as spaces for teaching, learning and working towards social and historical justice. 

The project Contested Histories Onsite aspires to offer toolkits to educators and other stakeholders to better understand and address complex legacies of Europe’s totalitarian past. By doing so, the aim is to highlight that historical complexity and contestation are  universal themes across European societies and to motivate conversation surrounding histories. 

A Project for Citizens

With support from the EU’s Europe for Citizens programme, Onsite offers insights into different memory case-studies in Europe through lectures, tours and podcasts on four contested sites across Europe. Additionally, a documentary-style video will be produced.

History, and how history is represented in the present, concerns us all. Memory construction is part of the very fabric of society, and the growing questions of history and identity on the left and right is increasingly placing memory to the fore of the political arena. 

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 unity that transcends national differences.

Four Sites, Four Contested Histories

Four sites have been chosen in Poland, Estonia, Italy and Spain. Lectures and tours will be organised about and at each site. Those sites are: Warsaw’s Uprising Museum, Tallinn’s Bronze Soldier statue, Bolzano’s Bas-Relief of Mussolini and Madrid’s Valley of the Fallen, the former burial place of Francisco Franco. These tours will be combined with project meetings with experts that will develop a toolkit for providing tours that promote dialogue and civic engagement (see below for more information).

Multi-Media Toolkit: Coming Soon

All four virtual lectures and tours have now been completed. We are now in the process of filming video tutorials of tour guides in practice, at Valley of the Fallen in Madrid, Spain and the Belfast Murals of Northern Ireland, this will be intergrated into the multi-media Toolkit, scheduled for publication in Fall 2022.

Valley of the Fallen, Spain

April 2022

Image by xiquinhosilva via Flickr CC BY 2.0

The Valley of the Fallen, is widely considred the most contested historical site in year. Chosen for its complex legacy and ongoing resignifcation process. This side offers immense insight into how to deal with ongoing contestations. The lecture and tour will be available soon.

Warsaw Uprising Museum, Poland

July 2021

Xiquinho Silva CC BY 2.0

Selected for its narrative representation of warring regional nationalist movements that serve to deepen the understanding of the violent context of World War II’s Eastern Front.  The lecture and tour are available below.

Bas-Relief in Bolzano-Bozen, Italy

January 2022

Bartleby08 CC BY-SA 4.0

The bas-relief of Benito Mussolini in Bolzano reminded locals of the Fascist regime and divided the public opinion. The bas-relief was chosen for the artistic intervention to recontextualise the contested site. The lecture and tour are available below.

Statue of the Bronze Soldier, Estonia

October 2021

Carl-Johan Sveningsson CC BY-NC 2.0

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. The lecture and tour are available below.

Introducing a Toolkit for Critical Tours

Throughout the duration of the project, a core team of educators and academics will work together with MSA and EuroClio to develop, test and improve tours for the general public and create a toolkit for educators and other stakeholders interested in knowledge-sharing on contested sites. 

Prior to the tours, a public lecture will be held to give historical and contemporary context to the sites. At each site, attention will be paid to the European dimension of disputes over historical legacies, to the complexities of historical memory, multiperspectivity, and drawing transnational connections. The toolkit will be peer-reviewed and translated into Estonian, Italian, Polish, Russian and Spanish.

Lectures

  • Warsaw Uprising Museum
  • Bronze Soldier of Tallinn
  • Bas-Relief in Bolzano
  • Valley of the Fallen (Coming soon in May 2022)

Tours

  • Warsaw Uprising Museum
  • Bronze Soldier of Tallinn
  • Bas-Relief in Bolzano
  • Valley of the Fallen (Coming soon in May 2022)

Podcasts

  • Warsaw Uprising Museum
  • Bronze Soldier of Tallinn
  • Bas-Relief in Bolzano
  • Valley of the Fallen (Coming soon in June 2022)

Toolkit

The Multi-media toolkit will be made available at the end of the project (Fall 2022).

Project Team

  • Aline Sierp
  • Silvina Cabrera
  • Lorena Ortiz Cabrero
  • Jules Ortjens

  • Steven Stegers
  • Marie-Louise Jansen
  • Paula O’Donohoe
  • Catalina Gaete
  • Jadé Botha

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