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). Due to COVID-19 pandemic, events are being held online, though we hope to move Onsite onsite in 2022.

The Bronze Soldier of Tallinn, Estonia

On 14 October 2021…

Karsten Brüggemann, a historian at Tallinn University specialised in contemporary Estonian history, will give a lecture on the historical background of the so-called ‘Bronze Nights’ and the memory conflict that surrounded the monument from its establishment up until 2007. His lecture will further outline the commemoration practices during the Soviet period, to explain what happened to the site after 1991 within the broader field of the ‘war of monuments’ within Estonia and how the events of 2007 have had lasting consequences on the establishment of ‘pure’ Estonian places of commemoration.

Mare Oja, lecturer of History and History Didactics at Tallinn University, and Linda Kaljundi, professor at the Estonian Academy of Arts, will offer an interactive workshop focused on introducing and discussing the different perspectives on the Bronze Soldier monument that explores the dynamics of this contested site of memory. They will further illustrate the potential of contemporary art as a medium for memory debates and raise the broader question of how to deal with such contested memory sites in history teaching.

Recordings of the event will be made available below in the coming weeks.  You can register for the event here.

Bronze statue of soldier at Tallin Military Cemetary in Estonia
Carl-Johan Sveningsson CC BY-NC 2.0
Bas-Relief in Bolzano-Bozen, Italy

January 27, 2022 16:00-17:30 CET

Facade of the former headquarters of the Facist Party in Bozen-Bolzano now displaying a quote by American political scientist Hannah Arendt
Bartleby08 CC BY-SA 4.0

Chosen for its representation of fascism in Southern Europe and the ways in which historical narratives are woven to suit contemporary political agendas. Register Here

The Valley of the Fallen, Spain

April 2022

The Valley of the Fallen with a collection of tourists outside, and mountains in the background. The front of this monument displays a person cradling a fallen body.
Xiquinho Silva CC BY 2.0

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.

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.

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

  1. Warsaw Uprising Museum
  1. Bronze Soldier of Tallinn (Coming soon in October 2021)
  2. Bas-Relief in Bolzano (Coming soon in January 2022)
  3. Valley of the Fallen (Coming soon in April 2022)

Tours

  1. Warsaw Uprising Museum
  1. Bronze Soldier of Tallinn (Coming soon in October 2021)
  2. Bas-Relief in Bolzano (Coming soon in January 2022)
  3. Valley of the Fallen (Coming soon in April 2022)

Podcasts

  1. Warsaw Uprising Museum
  2. Bronze Soldier of Tallinn (Coming soon in October 2021)
  3. Bas-Relief in Bolzano (Coming soon in January 2022)
  4. Valley of the Fallen (Coming soon in April 2022)

Toolkit

The toolkit will be made available at the end of the project (Summer 2022).

Video

The video will be made available at the end of the project (Summer 2022).

Project Team

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

  • Steven Stegers
  • Marie-Louise Jansen
  • Grace Sahota
  • Catalina Gaete
  • Jadé Botha

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