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Maggi: a Swiss seasoning that found a home in various cultures

Fri, 18/10/2019 - 08:00

As a child growing up in Senegal, Maggi cubes and Maggi sauce were a big and important ingredient in many Senegalese dishes, if not all of them.

I remember watching countless advertisements on TV promoting Maggi cubes, with a Senegalese lady in her boubou (traditional clothing) preparing a meal.

Senegalese woman carrying a bundle, in front of MAGGI advertising (western Senegal), Manuele Zunelli – Flickr, Wikipedia, CC BY

So imagine my surprise when, 16 years later, living in the Netherlands, I stumbled across Maggi cubes in supermarkets. Was it possible that Africa had somehow brought Maggi to Europe? I was even more confused when I sat in a Polish restaurant waiting to try some delicious pierogi and saw the infamous bottle of Maggi sauce laid on my table.

RELATED: Read stories of migration from across Europe relating to food Flasche & Warenmuster, Spielzeugmuseum der Stadt Nürnberg (Museum Lydia Bayer), CC BY-NC-SA

The Maggi brand originated in Switzerland in the 1880s, created by entrepreneur Julius Maggi when he took over his father’s mill (who himself was an Italian immigrant).

He wanted to improve the nutritional consumption of working families, creating plant-based ready made meals and instant soups rich in protein. In doign so, he became a pioneer of industrial food production.

Economie 50% sur le boeuf, le Maggi rend exquis les bouillons… [poster], Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions

Not long after, he went on to create his popular dark seasoning sauce from hydrolyzed vegetable protein, making foods taste meaty for the working classes who couldn’t afford it. By 1908, he had created meat substitute bouillon cubes.

RELATED: View more objects relating to Maggi Round tin of Maggi bouillon cubes, Stadsmuseum Harderwijk, CC BY

The product became popular across Asian and African countries through  colonisation and immigration, as well as trade deals.

Maggi advert in Berliner Volkszeitung, 6 December 1927, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Public Domain

By the 1970s, and at this point already owned by Nestlé since the late 1940s, Maggi introduced its new product line of instant noodles to Malaysia, which then gained massive popularity in India as well.

Maggi advertising, Magyar Kereskedelmi és Vendéglátóipari Múzeum, CC BY-NC-SA

To this day, Maggi cubes and Maggi sauce are an important ingredient in the staple foods of many countries including Ghana, Senegal, Germany, Poland, Romania, Thailand, China and across Latin America. Maggi instant noodles are popular in other countries like India, Bangladesh, New Zealand, Malaysia, Australia and Pakistan. 

RELATED: Read Pizza: a slice of migration history Maggi seasoning advertising, eSbírky, CC BY Maggi advertising, Magyar Kereskedelmi és Vendéglátóipari Múzeum, CC BY-NC-SA Neh met Maggi für Eure Suppen, Brynolf Wennerberg, KIK-IRPA, Brussels, CC BY-NC-SA Les trois spécialités Maggi profitent à tout ménage [poster], Firmin Bouisset, Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions

The brand adapts its product to suit local tastes and, due to its advertisements suggesting it is locally produced in each individual country, Maggi has been able to invoke a feeling of ownership, home and nostalgia across cultures.

By Marijke Everts, Europeana Foundation

Europe at Work – Share your story

Did you or your family work for Maggi? Share your story and help us tell the story of Europe through our working lives in the past and the present.

Feature image: Les trois spécialités Maggi profitent à tout ménage [poster], Firmin Bouisset, Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions

From quills to typewriters: how the industrial revolution changed our writing culture

Wed, 16/10/2019 - 08:00

Documents written centuries ago are fascinating, revealing not only the thoughts of those who wrote them but a history of how they were written. This blog looks at the changes in the way we have expressed our thoughts through the written word since the industrial revolution.

The industrial revolution brought about a shift from an economy based on agriculture and handicrafts to one focused around large industries and factory systems. Alongside this, increased need for written documentation developed. During this period, new technologies and materials changed writing practices, in private as well as in the workplace.

Writing with quills Gåspenna (Quill), 1875-1900, Skansen, CC BY-SA

For centuries, feathers had been the most popular writing tool. However, writing with feathers was not easy.

A man sits at a desk with a knife and a feather quill in his hands, Coloured lithograph by Vander Meulen after Philip van Dyk, Wellcome Collection, CC BY

Turning a feather into a working quill required other tools, such as a small knife to cut the feather and produce its narrow end. Writers need to sharpen the point and remove the hollow shaft inside. This required care, as feathers tend to break easily. Additionally, writers needed sand and ink, and an inkstand to store them in. Why sand? To blot the page after writing.

RELATED: Read our blog Reading habits in the past Enter the pen Pen crafted in the trenches, Antoine Bruel, 1914 / 1915, Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA

Until the 19th century, the quill was the most common writing instrument. It was replaced by factory-manufactured dip pens with steel nibs. Pens were less fragile than quills, and retained their sharp edges for longer. Extra equipment was still required: a holder for nibs of different shapes or sizes, pots of ink and sand.

Mass-produced steel nibbed pens were affordable for large parts of European society, making writing accessible to many people for the first time. Birmingham was a centre for pen production, producing more than half of the world’s steel nibs.

Steel pens, Hallwylska museet, CC0 The fountain pen Fountain pen, Faber with box and manual, 1890s, Sörmlands museum, CC BY-SA
(A. W. Faber was the name of today’s Faber-Castell until 1900 – they still manufacture pens).

From the 1880s onwards, fountain pens became a worldwide success.

Ink was not free-flowing in steel-nibbed pens, posing a problem for manufacturers. Fountain pens, on the other hand, had an inner reservoir of ink, removing the messy process of unscrewing the inkstand and dipping the nib into ink. Nevertheless, they still required an ink pot to fill up the inner reservoir.

‘Write with Remington’: the invention of the typewriter Advertisement for Remington typewriters, Remington Typewriter Company, 1900sm Upplandsmuseet, CC BY-NC-ND

Despite advancements in pen design, factories and companies’ need for faster and more efficient communication grew during the 19th century.

The advert above reads ‘Empty your inkpots, break your pens, and write with Remington’, reflecting one of the first and major shifts from handwriting to typing.  The invention of the typewriter revolutionised the speed at which information could be put on paper. In 1853 the record for writing with a pen was set at 30 words per minute; at the same time, stenographers and telegraphs could already achieve 130 words per minute.

RELATED: Explore more historic typewriters on Europeana

The typewriter solved time-efficacy problems in businesses worldwide, bringing a new writing culture that no longer needed handwriting.

Remington Standard, Philo Remington, Hallwylska museet, CC BY-SA

Typing machines developed throughout the 19th century. The first commercially successful typewriter was the “Sholes and Glidden Type-Writer”E. Remington and Sons acquired the patent for this typewriter in 1873. Their “Remington No. 2” had the first QWERTY keyboard for the Latin alphabet and, due its international success, it remains widely used.

RELATED: Read our blog Europe’s First Printed Book Typing today Typewriting lessons at Åtvidaberg’s Industries institute (teacher Wera Carlsson in the background), 1946, Upplandsmuseet, CC BY-NC-ND

For decades, typewriting has been the most common method of written communication in business. Even today, people worldwide experience the typewriter’s heritage in their physical or digital keyboards, laptops and smartphones.

RELATED: Explore this gallery of alphabets

Although the machines that we type our thoughts into have become digital, the heritage of the way we write in our offices, schools and everyday lives was shaped by inventions long ago.

By Larissa Borck, Swedish National Heritage Board

Europe at Work – Share your story

Did you or your family use any of these writing tools in your work? Share your story and help us tell the story of Europe through our working lives in the past and the present.

This blog post is a part of the Europeana Common Culture project, which explores varied aspects of our shared cultural heritage across Europe.

Feature image: Tintengeschirr (Inkstand), 1750-1800, Museumsdorf Cloppenburg – Niedersächsisches Freilichtmuseum, CC BY-NC-SA

Leuven’s University Library: Risen from the ashes

Thu, 10/10/2019 - 09:00

For Libraries Week,  we are putting the spotlight on the history of a remarkable university library. Leuven University’s library has had a past as rich as it has been turbulent, peppered with religious conflicts, political discord, and wartime catastrophe. 

The first university founded in Leuven is now known as the Old University of Leuven. The first rector, Willem Neve, travelled to Rome to ask the pope for his blessing in the founding of a new university. Pope Martinus V decreed the founding of Leuven’s university on the 9th of December 1425, making it the first university in the Low Countries.

De instelling van de Leuvense Universiteit, André Hennebicq, 1888. Museum M, Belgium, CC BY-NC-SA.

Leuven’s university had to wait until the 17th century for a university library to be founded. Before that, students and professors had to rely on private collections to research and discuss.

In 1636, the Cloth Hall – the building which had been home to the cloth weavers’ guild – was given to the university to be used as a university library.

Oude dekenij van de lakenwevers in Leuven, Lodewijk Jozef van Peteghem, 1854-1859. Museum M, Belgium, CC BY-NC-SA.

Leuven’s university was founded as a deeply Catholic university and mainly stayed that way throughout the next centuries. 

During the 16th century, Protestant books were burned and an index was created at the library that listed forbidden books of Lutheran writings. The Louvain Index was the inspiration for the famous Index Librorum Prohibitorum later created by the Pope which contained a long list of forbidden books. 

Index Librorum Prohibitorum…, 1564.  Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal, Portugal, Public Domain Marked.

During the French Revolution, all universities were abolished so new Écoles Centrales could be founded. 

The Leuven university disbanded in 1797. The rich collection of its library was partly transported to Brussels’ École Centrale and to the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris. Ironically, the abolishment of the Old University of Louvain meant that most of its precious historical library was saved from future devastation.

L’ ancienne cour de Bruxelles, Marcellin Jobard & Jean Baptiste Madou, 1825. KIK-IRPA, CC BY-NC-SA.

The first half of the 19th century was a turbulent one for Leuven’s University.  In 1817 the Rijksuniversiteit Leuven was founded, a non-denominational state-driven university. Belgium gained its independence from the Netherlands in 1830 and founded a new Catholic University in Mechelen in 1834.

A year later it moved back to where the original Catholic University had resided for centuries, Leuven. Its library in the Cloth Hall was reinstated. 

…Grote leeszaal voor WO I, 1839-1939. KU Leuven, Belgium, Public Domain Marked

Catastrophe struck again in the 20th century. In 1914, at the start of World War I, the university library in the Cloth Hall was burned to the ground by German forces. 

Zicht op de Lakenhal in Leuven in 1915, Louis Neve, 1915. Museum M, Belgium, CC BY-NC-SA. Louvain : la bibliothèque, 1875-1930. Ghent University Library, CC BY-SA. Les Halles Universitaires de Louvain avant et après, 1875-1930. Ghent University Library, CC BY-SA.

About 300 thousand invaluable books were lost in the fire. Luckily the most valuable had been transported to Brussels and Paris more than a century earlier, saving a wealth of heritage and information from the flames. 

The burning of the library was widely used in anti-German propaganda to show the barbary and ruthlessness of the German soldiers. 

L’Offizier. – Kamerad ? – Plus depuis Louvain, Jean-Louis Forain, 1915. Bibliothèque de l’INHA, France, Public Domain Marked. En mémoire de l’incendie de la Bibliothèque…, 1918. Ghent University Library, Belgium , CC BY-SA.

This outrage sparked a movement that helped reinstate the library in a new building after the war, aided largely by the ‘Belgian Relief Fund’ founded by Herbert Hoover. With this money, a new monumental library was built and finished in 1928. 

La maquette de la nouvelle bibliothèque de l’université de Louvain, 1875-1930. Ghent University Library, Belgium, CC BY-SA. Bibliothèque de l’Université de Louvain, 1875-1930. Ghent University Library, Belgium , CC BY-SA. Voorgevel van de Universiteitsbibliotheek in Leuven, Philippe van Hove, 1921-1931. Museum M, Belgium, CC BY-NC-SA. Université de Louvain : bibliothèque, PHrs Réunis, 1875-1930. Ghent University Library, Belgium, CC BY-SA.

Discover more amazing images of the University Library here. The library still exists in all its splendour, and you can visit an exhibition on its history inside. Find opening hours and visitor information here

By Jolan Wuyts, Europeana Foundation

Feature image: De Universiteitsbibliotheek aan het Ladeuzeplein in Leuven, Hubert Jacobs, 1981. Museum M, Belgium, CC BY-NC-SA

Philips: illuminating the world from Eindhoven

Wed, 09/10/2019 - 08:00

Looking around your living room, kitchen or bathroom, it may surprise you how much has been thoroughly influenced by the innovation of a single company – Philips.

An immense variety of products has been produced by this entity: coffee makers, electric razors, X-Ray machines, cassette tapes, colour televisions…

But it all started in a small Dutch town in 1891, with a lightbulb moment.

Learn below how two brothers who wanted to make a lightbulb factory started the multinational concern that we now know as Philips. 

Gerard Philips, pictured above, was the youngest of three brothers.

In the picture, he’s experimenting with carbon filaments, which would become the main source of light in the lamps he would later produce.

On the back of the picture an anecdote is written that says that Anton Philips, Gerard’s brother, was never really interested in Gerard’s experiments, and on more than one occasion had tried to knock over Gerard’s experimental setups by throwing rotten apples through the window!

His interest in Gerard’s exploits increased later when he became the main salesman of the Philips’ company lamps. 

“Philips exists 60 years” Polygoon-Profilti, 1951. Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, The Netherlands, CC BY-SA.

Philips’ lamps became very successful very quickly, which allowed the company to grow and expand at a fast rate. Between its founding and World War II, Philips started creating new types of lamps, built new factories to produce new materials and products, and expanded into new markets.

PHILIPS Rádió“. Magyar Kereskedelmi és Vendéglátóipari Múzeum – Budapest, Hungary, CC BY-NC-ND.

In 1939 Philips started selling the first electric shaver with rotary blades, which would later become the Philishave and revolutionize the shaving and grooming market.

RELATED: Explore Philips electric shavers Collage of various Philips products, Norsk Teknisk Museum, Kulturarvsstyrelsen, Telemuseet, CC BY-SA

This rapid expansion led to a huge growth in the economy of places where Philips put their factories and warehouses and created jobs for swathes of employees.

Philips profited during World War I by gaining market share in the countries that boycotted the import of technological products from Germany, like the UK, France and Russia. In 1923, Svenska AB Philips was founded, a Swedish factory branch manufacturing radios.

RELATED: Explore pictures of the Swedish philips factoryWirsbo Bruk AB…” Svenska AB Philips, 1967. Tekniska Museet, Sweden, Public Domain.

During World War II, a significant amount of machinery in the Philips factories was seized by the Germans and transported to Germany. After the end of the war, these machines were sent back to Philips. 

“The machines of Philips return from Germany” Polygoon-Profilti, 1946. Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, the Netherlands, CC BY-SA.

The post-war era became a period of explosive expansion for Philips, in which they started producing radios and television sets, among other things.

This rapid expansion led to more factories abroad, and the start of encouraging migrant workers to come to the Netherlands to work for Philips. A large amount of migrant workers, predominantly from Spain, moved to the Netherlands to come work for the company.

RELATED: Explore migration stories from people who worked at Philips

Philips had a good reputation: they provided schooling and housing for workers, built libraries and provided grocery stores for Philips employees. These grocery stores, Etos, still existing today in the Netherlands. 

Reklamskylt” 2009. Kulturen, Sweden, CC BY-NC-ND. 

The history of Philips started small, grew quickly, and continues until this day.

Other things Philips invented or is famous for? Senseo coffee machines, the first casette tapes, X-ray machines, the VCR, the TV test pattern, and even video calling! Watch an explanation on one of the first videophones below. 

First test with videophone, by Polygoon-Profilti (producer) / Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision (curator), is licensed under Creative Commons – Attribution-Share Alike.

RELATED: Explore Philips products from the Swedish National Museum of Science and Technology

By Jolan Wuyts, Europeana Foundation

Share your story – Europe at Work

Have you or your family worked for Philips or have you migrated to work in industry? Share your story and help us tell the story of Europe through our working lives in the past and the present.

Feature image: Radiomottaker, 1955, Philips AS, Radio Industri, Oslo. Telemuseet, Norway, CC BY-SA.

Ironopolis: Bolckow Vaughan and the growth of Middlesbrough

Tue, 08/10/2019 - 08:00

Industrial heritage can be ephemeral – the buildings where we work can disappear and are not always seen as important reminders of the past. This is certainly the case with the ironworks and steelworks of Bolckow & Vaughan, which drove the growth of Middlesbrough.

At the start of the 19th century, Middlesbrough, in the north east of England, was a village of less than 50 people. During the latter half of the 19th century, however, it grew rapidly to a large town.

The iron and steel industry dominated the area since iron production started there during the 1840s. One of the instigators of this growth was the industrial partnership of Henry Bolckow and John Vaughan.

RELATED: Explore this gallery of industrial architecture across Europe Blast furnaces for steel production on Bolckow, Vaughan & Co., Ltd factory site in Middlesbrough, Rijksmuseum, Public Domain

Henry Bolckow – who was born in Germany, and moved to Newcastle upon Tyne in 1827 – provided business expertise and investment, while John Vaughan contributed technical knowledge. Their partnership expanded from their early operations into coal mines, limestone quarries, brickworks, gasworks and a machine works. In 1864, a company, Bolckow, Vaughan & Co., was formed.

Their long-lasting and successful partnership transformed Middlesbrough to ‘Ironopolis’, the centre of ironmaking in Britain. By 1868, four million tons of iron per year were produced there, with Bolckow Vaughan considered to be the world’s largest pig-iron producers.

Middlesbrough from “Industrial rivers of the United Kingdom, The British Library, Public Domain

Such was the importance of the ironworks that Henry Bolckow became Middlesbrough’s first mayor in 1853 and, later, its first Member of Parliament in 1867. John Vaughan became the town’s second mayor in 1855.

Bolckow, who was born in Germany, was featured in this report in the Berliner Börsenzeitung newspaper in 1879.

Extract from report on page 4 of Berliner Börsenzeitung, 4 December 1879, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Public Domain (read full report at this link)

Bolckow paid for a landscaped free public park for Middelsbourgh, with Albert Park opening in 1868. He also built Marton Hall in Stewart Park which later too became a public park.

Marton Hall (Villa Bolckow) in Middlesbrough, Gustav Ludolf Martens, Architekturmuseum der Technischen Universität Berlin in der Universitätsbibliothek, CC BY-NC-SA

Sadly, Marton Hall burned down in the 1960s and, with Bolckow Vaughan in decline since the late 1800s and having been taken over by another company in 1929, now not much remains of the ironworks. But their legacy lives on in Albert Park, the ‘People’s Park’ of Middlesbrough.

RELATED: Listen to oral histories of the UK steel industry from the British Library

By Adrian Murphy, Europeana Foundation

Share your story

Did you or your family work in the iron and steel industry in Middlesbrough or elsewhere? Share your story and help us tell the story of Europe through our working lives in the past and the present.

Feature image: Bolckow, Vaughan & Co., Ltd factory site in Middlesbrough, Rijksmuseum, Public Domain

The Flying Dutchmen: 100 years of KLM

Mon, 07/10/2019 - 08:32

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines celebrates its 100th anniversary on 7 October. To honour this jubilees, this blog explores the cultural heritage of KLM found on Europeana. Come fly with us to discover stories and pictures from aviation history.

KLM stands for ‘Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij’, literally translated as ‘Royal Aviation Company’. Despite having merged with Air France in 2004, KLM is still seen as a truly Dutch icon.

RELATED: Centenary Celebrations: eight firms that are 100 years old in 2019

Planes have, of course, changed quite a lot in the past 100 years. KLM has transported passengers in several types of aeroplane, including those made by fellow Dutch company, Fokker.

View of KLM Fokker and control tower, Beeldbank van de Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed, CC BY-SA Aircraft, interior view, G.J. Dukker, Beeldbank van de Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed, CC BY-SA KLM merchandise

While the makes and models of the aircraft change, one thing that persists is the desire to get a few more Dutch guilders or Euros out of the passengers by encouraging them to buy food, drinks and merchandise – such as dolls wearing one the many uniforms KLM staff have worn over the years.

KLM stewardess, Museon, CC BY

Particularly famous are a collection of small ceramic houses. Containing small bottles of genever, these have been given as gifts to business class passengers and have become collectors items.

Delft Blue KLM house, Deventer Musea, CC BY-SA Amazing race

In 1934, a KLM aircraft ‘Uiver’ (meaning stork) and its crew took part in the MacRobertson Trophy Air Race (also known as the London to Melbourne Air Race). They came second overall, flying the route in 90 hours. The Dutch were very impressed by this success, producing souvenirs like this commemorative coin, plate and badge.

Bronze medal, Return of the Uiver, 1934, Rijksmuseum, Public Domain Plate, London – Melbourne race, October 1934, Rijksmuseum, Public Domain Flight of the Uiver from London to Melbourne, Rijksmuseum, Public Domain RELATED: Explore this gallery of aerial photography Special passengers

Oblivious to the merchandise is a very special type of passenger – animals. KLM even maintain an ‘animal hotel’. This footage from 1952 shows how a young elephant was escorted by a ‘KLM-trained’ chicken, who was tasked with stopping the elephant feeling lonely during the flight.

De geschiedenis van de olifant en de kip, by Polygoon-Profilti (producent) / Nederlands Instituut voor Beeld en Geluid (beheerder), is licensed under Creative Commons – Attribution-Share Alike.

Working for KLM

This nostalgic footage from 1964 shows what happens after landing. The crew and airport staff performed the same operations as they do nowadays, but the design of the rolling stock and the technical tools has changed.

The varied fleet, by Polygoon-Profilti (producer) / Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision (curator), is licensed under Creative Commons – Attribution-Share Alike.

That operation looks to have gone smoothly, but it hasn’t always been plain sailing for KLM staff. In 1952, 600 KLM pilots went on strike for four days because of a row with KLM management.

Strike of KLM pilots, by Polygoon-Profilti (producer) / Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision (curator), is licensed under Creative Commons – Attribution-Share Alike.

KLM were one of the first airlines in the world, but like all aviation companies today, they face great challenges in terms of the climate crisis and sustainability. With 100 years of innovation behind them, here’s wishing KLM a happy birthday and successful future.

By Peter Soemers, Europeana Communicators Community

Share your story – Europe at Work

Have you or your family worked for KLM or in the aviation industry? Share your story and help us tell the story of Europe through our working lives in the past and the present.

Feature image: Airplane Model, Tekniska Museet, CC BY

Farming landscapes in Scandinavia: how industrial agriculture transformed rural life

Thu, 03/10/2019 - 08:00

Agriculture lies at the heart of social developments all over the world. Farming has transformed the lives of farmers, and also people and nature worldwide.

Focusing on Scandinavia as an example, this blog explores the drastic changes in people’s everyday working lives related to the agrarian revolution in the 19th and 20th century.

Jordbruk (Agriculture), 1940, Blekinge museum, Public Domain

Pre-industrial agriculture looked quite different to today’s farming.

In 1870, two thirds of Swedes were working in agriculture and living in rural areas. Subsistence and small-scale farming, together with part-time work in fishing and forestry, were the most common practices. This satisfied families’ basic needs, ideally giving them goods to barter or trade locally for everything else they needed. 

Everyday life depended heavily on seasons. Droughts or long winters could diminish a harvest or result in not having enough food for both animals and people.

Reforms and changes

Häckelsäng village in 1891 before the third land reform in 1902-1907, Länsmuseet Gävleborg, CC BY-NC

From the 18th century onwards, land reforms (skiftet in Swedish) were one of the first major changes in Scandinavia. 

In Scania (a region in southern Sweden) people lived together in villages. Every family owned different patches of land distributed over the area. Based on a principle of fairness, everyone owned both more and less fertile land.

But with growing populations, this system was less and less able to provide enough food. Overuse of the land was a consequence. Thus, politicians and landowners decided to distribute farmland differently.

Farming families now lived on and owned connected pieces of land, transforming former village structures. These reforms led to an increase in productivity, and consequently in wealth and population growth. New crops and plants such as the potato, imported from America, also had an impact.

Unknown cultural landscape, Håkon Prestkværn, 1930-1960, Domkirkeodden, Public Domain

In Norway, another system was common in the 19th century: tenant farming, where tenants rented buildings and soils from the farmer. 

Bad harvests in the 1830s forced people to leave their farmsteads or emigrate. Especially for single young women, moving to cities also meant the dream of escaping the harsh conditions of agriculture. This lead to half of all Swedish women employed in agriculture leaving the sector between 1890 and 1940. 

RELATED: 'A woman's work is never done': women's working history in Europe Changing practices

Through the 19th and half of the 20th century, farm work was mostly manual labour, with animals playing an important role.

Planting potatoes at Lilleaker farm, Eyvind Botolfsen, 1920, Oslo Museum, CC BY-SA

Horses for example were needed to cultivate fields or pull wood in forests. They also were essential for local trade and transportation. Agricultural practices also shaped domesticated animals – horses such as the Norwegian Dølahest were especially bred for heavy farmwork. 

Dovre, Dombås, Hans H. Lie, 25.09.1914, Maihaugen, CC BY-NC

Some of the fastest changes in agriculture took place in Scandinavia in the 20th century, with three factors playing a significant role in this development. 

Political programs were set up to support people in owning their own small farms, reacting to the large emigration waves that harmed the countries’ workforce. 

Innovations made these small farms profitable: at the turn of the century, artificial fertilisers and pesticides were invented that allowed for cultivation on formerly poor soils. Mechanisation with steam engines and tractors started to transform work. 

Woman with cow, Uppland, Brita Skötsner & Per Elis Edhlund, Upplandsmuseet, Public Domain Two families transformed

Stories from two families, preserved by Maihaugen and Skansen, show how life on these small farms were transformed. 

The Åkesson family in Skåne

In the early 20th century, manual labour was a common feature of the Swedish Åkesson family’s life.

Bengta and Per lived with their two sons at Skånegården, a farmstead built during the 18th and 19th century. The Åkessons did not pursue subsistence farming – they delivered the primary products for a growing urban population.

Through innovations in breeding and cultivation, they made good profits by growing sugar beet and keeping some pigs and cows. This coincided with a growing demand for sugar, wheat, milk and butter. 

Insecticide sprayer, 1920-40, Skansen, CC BY-SA Knife, 1900-1930, Skansen, CC BY-SA

Although Bengta still had to harvest the heavy sugar beet by hand with a knife like the one above, they were able to use machines such as early reapers or seed drills. Those were still drawn by horses – tractors were not common in Scandinavia until the 1950s.

After World War I, the Åkessons had to sell the farm. Within ten years, it had become too small to earn a living.  Innovations in machinery and growing dependencies on selling goods at market prices affected their ability to make a living from the farm.

Afterwards, their land was united with the neighbours’ farm, a sign of the more rationalised and mechanised agriculture. 

The Morken family in Lillehammer

The Morken family in Norway offers another typical 20th century story for småbruk (small-scale farming in Norwegian and Swedish).

Horse, 1900-1930, Museums in Nord-Østerdalen, Public Domain

After World War I, they benefited from new settlements intended to limit Norwegian emigration. With state funding and an interest-free bank loan, Karen and Anton built a simple farmhouse and a barn, based on standardised architectural plans.

At first, they only used the kitchen and a small ground-floor room, where the couple slept together with their son. Instead of using the second floor themselves, they rented it out as a leisure home. It was not until World War II that their farmstead got connected to electricity; running water and a sink were installed in 1948.

The Morkens had several animals on their farm – a horse, ten cows and three calves, five sheep and a pig.

As their small farm did not make enough profit to earn the family’s living, Anton additionally drove local children to school. Other men worked in the forest industry or road-building. Women usually baked or sewed for others and picked berries for an additional income.

Twentieth century transformations

In the second half of the 20th century, agriculture went on to change profoundly. 

Olaf Kristiansen drives a Ferguson tractor with a mower, Helger Normann, 1953, Domkirkeoddens Fotoarchive, Public Domain

Tractors became common tools on every farm in Scandinavia. Mechanisation, automation, fertilisers and pesticides enabled intensive farming in Scandinavia, as well as many regions across the world.

The amount of farms decreased, while the farms grew larger. Rationalised planting, growing and harvesting led to fewer farmers managing much more land. Machines could now fulfill the tasks that many seasonal workers and family members used to do.

With less people needed in forestry and on farms, villages that formerly flourished became deserted as urban industries became the major way to earn a living in 1950s and 1960s Europe. 

With the aim to maximize profits, European agriculture has profoundly changed in few centuries to feed more and more people with growing demands – often at the cost of environment and biodiversity.

By Larissa Borck, Swedish National Heritage Board
With the support of Anders Hansson, Jamtli, Ewa Kron and Johanna Krumlinde, Skansen, and Kjell Marius Mathisen, Maihaugen (Stiftelsen Lillehammer museum)

Europe at Work – Share your story

Did you or your family work in farming or agriculture, in Scandinavia or elsewhere? Share your story and help us tell the story of Europe through our working lives in the past and the present.

This blog post is a part of the Europeana Common Culture project, which explores varied aspects of our shared cultural heritage across Europe.

Feature image: Agriculture, 1955, Jamtli, CC0

Centenary celebrations: eight firms that are 100 years old in 2019

Wed, 02/10/2019 - 08:00

1919 was an industrious year, with many organisations we know today being founded.

In the wake of World War I and the Treaty of Versailles, many entrepreneurs and companies were able to take advantage of the advances in technology during the war years, as well as, in advance of the 1920s, a modern, forward-thinking climate to increase trade and cooperation.

From aviation to fashion, food and drink to vacuum cleaners, here are eight well-known European firms celebrating their cententary in 2019.

RELATED: Beautiful & useful: Bauhaus and Walter Gropius - 100 years of Bauhaus Bentley Personbil, Bentley Motors Ltd, Tekniska museet, CC BY

Iconic British motor firm Bentley was founded in 1919 by Walter Owen Bentley, who had designed and supplied engines for the war effort. Following the war, his contribution was recognised with an MBE and £8,000 from the Commission of Awards to Inventors.

This gave him the capital to establish a premises in Cricklewood, North London where he turned his engines business into one for car production.

The company grew through the following decade, in particular associated with motor racing with five victories at Le Mans in the 1920s. Now, 100 years later, Bentley Motors are located in Crewe, one of Europe’s leading luxury car manufacturers.

British Airways Puzzle, Sörmlands museum, CC BY-SA Dockväska, Kulturen, CC BY-NC-ND

The company we know today as British Airways has its origins 100 years ago, tracing its origins to the beginning of civil aviation.

In August 1919, Aircraft Transport and Travel Limited, a forerunner company of today’s British Airways, launched the world’s first daily international scheduled air service, between London and Paris. On board: one passenger, a consignment of leather, several brace of grouse and some jars of Devonshire cream.

Many mergers and name changes later, today British Airways celebrates its 100 years as one of the world’s largest airlines and a century of heritage to look back upon.

Citroën Garage Citroën, Agence Rol, Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions Citroen in Vestlander, Håkon Prestkværn, Domkirkeodden, Public Domain

French car manufacturer Citroën was founded in 1919 by the industrialist André-Gustave Citroën.

1n 1908, Citroen became the chairman of automobile manufacturer Mors. During World War I, he was responsible for mass production of armaments. After the war, realising he would have a modern factory without a product, Citroen returned to cars.

Launched in 1919, the Citroen Type A was the firm’s first model. From there, Citroën became the first mass production manufacturer in Europe and, by the 1930s, the fourth largest automobile manufacturer in the world.

RELATED: Volkswagen Beetle: birth of an industrial icon Danone Danone, Design Museum of Barcelona, CC BY-NC Danone factory exterior, Juan Miguel Pando Barrero, Institute of Cultural Heritage of Spain, CC BY-NC-ND

Danone – a multinational food corporation now based in France – has its roots in 1919.

Isaac Carasso, a Sephardic Jewish doctor, who was born in Thessaloniki and moved to Barcelona in 1916.

There, concerned for stomach ailments of the city’s children, including his own son Daniel, he began producing yoghurt, selling it in pharmacies. Carasso named the yoghurts Danone, after his son.

A decade later, in 1929, Daniel Carasso joined the family business, moving the company from Spain to France, and later, during World War II, to New York where the brand name was changed to Dannon to sound more American.

Now Danone – again based in Paris – sells products in more than 120 countries.

Electrolux Electrolux vacuum cleaner model I, Dagens bild, Tekniska museet, Public Domain Electrolux advertising, Nuevo Mundo magazine, 16 October 1925, Biblioteca Digital Memoria de Madrid, CC BY-NC

Swedish home appliance company Electrolux was founded in 1919.

Its founder Axel Wenner-Gren had launched his first vacuum cleaner, the Lux I, seven years earlier in Stockholm.

In 1919, his firm was acquired by Svenska Elektron A, changing the naame from Elektromekaniska AB to Elektrolux. In the early years, it sold Lux vacuum cleaners in several European countries.

During the 1930s and 1940s, the firm drew inspiration for its products from the car industry, with modern, fashionable, streamlined products.

Today, Electrolux produces and sells many types of household appliance in more than 150 countries worldwide.

KLM Stereo glass slide of departing plane of the KLM in Rotterdam in 1928, W. Nolen, Museum Rotterdam, CC BY Aircraft of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Sándor Bauer, Fortepan, CC BY-SA

Dutch airline KLM was founded in 1919, when a consortium of eight businessmen founded the firm on 7 October, one of the world’s first commercial airline companies. Two weeks later, the firm’s first office opened on Heerengracht in The Hague.

The first KLM flight took place on 17 May 1920 flying from London’s Croydon Airport to Amsterdam Schiphol.

100 years later, today KLM flies to 145 destinations around the world.

RELATED: More than 1200 aerial photographs by KLM Tesco Cashier badge used in TESCO stores in Hungary, 2007-2008, Hungarian Museum of Commerce and Hospitality, CC BY-NC-SA

British supermarket retailers Tesco were founded in 1919 by Jack Cohen as a group of market stalls, although not initially called Tesco.

That name appeared 5 years later when Cohen bought a shipment of tea from Thomas Edward Stockwell and sold it under the name combining these initials with the first letters of his surname. It was still later, in 1931, when the first Tesco store opened in Burnt Oak, a suburb of London.

Related: Explore more than 450 oral history interviews about Tesco

Through its century, Tesco has grown from market stalls to a leading supermarket chain across Europe – with stores now in the United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Hungary, Ireland, Poland and Slovakia as well as a number of coutnries in Asia

Wasabröd Wasabröd trade fair display, Carl Larssons Fotografiska Ateljé, Gävleborg County Museum, CC BY-NC Wasabröd packaging, 1930s, Sörmlands museum, CC BY-SA

Sweden’s Wasabröd is the world’s largest producer of Scandinavian style crisp bread – knäckebröd in Swedish.

Its name, Wasa is associated with Swedish king Gustav Vasa and was chosen to create an easily recognisable brand.

Its first bakery was opened in Skellefteå in 1919 by Karl Edvard Lundström. In 1931, the company opened another bakery – completely mechanised – in Filipstad which still operates today (along with another factory in Celle, Germany).

Today, wasabröd products are sold in 40 different countries.

By Adrian Murphy, Europeana Foundation

Share your story

Did you or your family work for any of the companies in this blog? Share your story and help us tell the story of Europe through our working lives in the past and the present.

By Adrian Murphy, Europeana Foundation

This blog post is a part of the Europeana Common Culture project, which explores varied aspects of our shared cultural heritage across Europe.

Feature image: 100 Years Dalang factory, Museen Muttenz,, CC BY-NC-SA

GIF IT UP 2019 – your favourite GIF-making competition is back!

Mon, 30/09/2019 - 14:17

For the sixth time, from 1 – 31 October, all GIF-makers, cultural heritage enthusiasts and lovers of the internet are invited to create brand new GIFs by remixing copyright-free and openly licensed material from Europeana, Digital Public Library of AmericaDigital NZ and Trove.


1. Find an inspiring piece of copyright-free / openly licensed material from Europeana CollectionsDPLATrove, or DigitalNZ.
2. Create an awesome GIF.
3. Submit it for a chance to win great prizes.
4. Share your creation on social media using the hashtag #GIFITUP2019


In 2019, Europeana is running Europe at Work, a project exploring industrial heritage and working life in Europe across time. That’s why we created a special prize category for a gif created from material related to industrial heritage. So get the cogs turning and the machines running! 


Another special category is for children and teenagers between 6 and 18. Creating GIFs is a great way to develop digital skills and learn about copyright and online sharing from a young age.

Find out more and submit your gif on the competition’s website.

Children in the machine: Lewis Hine’s photography and child labour reform

Thu, 26/09/2019 - 07:00

Pioneering photographer Lewis Hine‘s images of industry and labour led to reform and changing laws.

Born in 1874, Lewis Hine was initially a teacher and sociologist. In the early 1900s, Hine led his sociology classes to Ellis Island, photographing some of the thousands of immigrants arriving there.

RELATED: Exhibition: Leaving Europe - a new life in America

Through these photographs, Hine began to realise that documentary photography could be a tool for social change and reform.

In 1907, Hine was the staff photographer of the Russell Sage Foundation for whom he photographed people and life in steel-making districts of Pittsburgh.

Power house mechanic working on steam pump, 1920, Lewis Hine, US National Archives via wikipedia, Public Domain

One year later, he became the photographer for the National Child Labor Committee, leaving his teaching position.

Over the next decade, Hine photographed industrial conditions, revealing the extent to which children worked in the mills, mines, canneries and factories of the United States. Children from poor and migrant families, as young as five years old, were working long hours in dangerous and dirty conditions.

Newspaper Vendor, Lewis Hine, Rijksmuseum, Public Domain

In many cases, photography was forbidden in mines and factories. These were scenes that weren’t meant to be seen; revealing these conditions was met with considerable opposition.

Doffer Boys, Macon, Georgia, 1909, Lewis W. Hine, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Public Domain

Hine adopted many personas – fire inspector, postcard vendor, bible salesman – so he could be allowed in, and travelled hundreds and thousands of miles taking almost 5,000 photographs.

Girl Carrying Homework thro Greenwich Village, Lewis Hine, Rijksmuseum, Public Domain Mark

These photographs supported the Committee’s lobbying to end child labour, and inspired a wave of moral outrage. By 1912, a Children’s Bureau in the Department of Labor and Department of Commerce had been created, following NCLC’s lobbying. Finally, in 1938, the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed bringing child labour to an ultimate end.

RELATED: Exhibition: Industrial Photography in the Machine Age

Lewis Hine’s photographs were instrumental in changing child labor laws in the United States. His photographs – whether of children working, migrants at Ellis Island or wider industrial conditions – emphasise the human side of modern industry and remain powerful today.

Feature image: Sadie Pfeiffer, Spinner in a Cotton Mill, Lewis Hine, Rijksmuseum, Public Domain

By Adrian Murphy, Europeana Foundation

Europe at Work – Share your story

When you were a child, did you have to work? Share your story and help us tell the story of Europe through our working lives in the past and the present.

This blog post is a part of the Europeana Common Culture project, which explores varied aspects of our shared cultural heritage across Europe.

‘A woman’s work is never done’: women’s working history in Europe

Wed, 25/09/2019 - 08:00

Long before the home office was invented, working at home was already commonplace for one group within society: women.

Even today, unpaid and care tasks at home are still often perceived as women’s work – or not appreciated for the hard work it is. In order to discover the reasons behind today’s inequalities in the workplaces of men and women, this blog takes a closer look at women’s work history in Europe.

Interior of a cottage in Torna, Jakob Kulle, 1887, Kulturen, CC BY-NC-ND

When we look back at the history of work, there is often a bias towards work performed by men.

Women have been historically depicted as housewives, engaging in crafts or occupied as mothers. Although this might have been accurate for parts of European societies in the past, it only accounts for wealthy elites. Until industrialisation, the majority of Europe’s population worked in agriculture, and women were just as involved in working on farms as men.

Aspenäs, interior of the village’s shop, Falbygdens museum, Public Domain

The industrial revolution changed women’s working lives greatly.

Working in shifts for a salary and in locations such as a factory, office or shop became part of modern life. Young, unmarried or working-class women especially moved to cities to work in the growing industries. Education played a major role for women entering the workforce, with an increasing percentage of girls attending school during the 20th century. 

As they earned less than men and were not unionised, employers often considered women to be attractive workers. At the same time, women worked in their homes, for example in piecework, where they were only paid for each completed piece, or in assembling pieces such as copper coils. 

Thus, women carried a double burden: they had to take care of children, elder family members, and the household – work that was not paid and hidden in private spaces. And they contributed to the family’s income with their paid work. As these jobs were often located at home, part-time, casual or even illegal, records on female work are not as reliable and well-documented as men’s labour.

Group portrait, Hallings foto, Jamtli, CC BY-NC-ND

Until industrial, urban work became normal, men had not been idealised as the sole providers for the family. As more women entered the workforce, women became idealised as a counterpart to men. The married woman, taking care of her family and the household, not engaging in paid work, became the social ideal – although most female biographies were different.

As legislation developed to regulate women and children’s working hours and ban them from especially dangerous tasks, the role of men as sole wage earners was gradually reinforced during the 19th century.

The Munitions Girls, Stanhope Forbes, 1918. Wellcome Collection, CC BY.

These ideals were considered normal by the turn of the 20th century: women were perceived as the opposite sex, weaker and of finer nature than men, with natural abilities in care work. As mothers and wives, the private home sphere became their domain; the public sphere belonged to men. 

RELATED: Read more blogs about women's history

In contrast to these ideals, women were needed in the workforce, especially in times of war. Still, these cannot be seen as emancipatory. 

Jobs in temporary factories for weapons or other materials needed in the battlefields meant working in dangerous circumstances, for low wages and in many nations, women’s service to their nations was rapidly neglected after both World Wars – and they were driven out of their employment after the men came back.

Four women from the housewives association stand behind a table with goods, AB Conny Rich Foto, 1960s, Jönköpings läns museum, CC BY-NC-ND

After World War II, the situation for women in Western and Eastern Europe was quite different.

Whereas some nations such as Germany experienced a wave of conservatism, where women were expected to fulfill roles as housewives and mothers, there was also a progressive movement with women entering the workforce with more and more equal rights, for example in Scandinavia. In the new political systems in Eastern Europe, women were formally equal to men and expected to work in paid employment. 

In all cases, the home was still often perceived as the domain of women and all household tasks from child-rearing to cleaning and cooking as women’s work. They continued to carry the double burden – with paid and unpaid, visible and invisible work.

Röda fanor, Första maj, arbetarrörelsens demonstrationsdag, Gunnar Lindh, 1939, Nordiska museet, CC BY-NC-ND

Resulting from the difficult heritage of work circumstances for women, even today, there are still striking inequalities for women at the workplace.

In 2018, women in the European Union earned an average 16% less than men. Nevertheless, if including unpaid work, they work six hours longer than men. More than half of women have experienced workplace harassment or sexual violence. 73% of Europeans say that women spend more time on household and caring tasks than men. Women are promoted less, in part because they tend to take more career breaks to care for children or family members. Because of this life-long gender discrimination, women face a higher risk of poverty in old age, receiving pensions that are a third smaller than men. 

So although a lot has changed for women at work, there’s still a lot to be done in order to achieve equality, at work, at home and beyond.

By Larissa Borck, Swedish National Heritage Board

Share your story

Have you or your family a story to share about working inside or outside the home? Share your story and help us tell the story of Europe through our working lives in the past and the present.

This blog post is a part of the Europeana Common Culture project, which explores varied aspects of our shared cultural heritage across Europe.

Feature image: Bread-baking women at the turn of the century, Anna Ollson, Värmlands museum, Public Domain.

Taming the rivers: log driving in Sweden and Finland

Tue, 24/09/2019 - 08:02

In the 19th century, the forest industry in northern Europe started to grow steadily. Log driving – a cheap and fast way to transport logs – was critical in meeting the growing demand throughout Europe for sawn wood and square-cut timber.

Both Sweden and Finland have dense networks of streams and creeks of different sizes. At the time, these were a more efficient solution for transporting logs than railways or roads. Log floating or driving in Sweden (timmerflottning in Swedish) had already begun in the 16th century, and in Finland in the 17th century (tukinuitto in Finnish).

Tukkilautta / Log Raft, Albert Edelfelt, Finnish National Gallery, CC0

In Finland, long rivers such as Oulujoki, Iijoki and Kemijoki were used for log driving. The total length of timber-floating routes in Finland was 40,000km, of which 20,000 km were riverpaths. Sweden’s popular waterways included rivers such as Klarälven, Dalälven and Vindelälven.

The climate in both countries was perfect for log floating. The trees were cut during winter, with spring floods helping the log floating process.

Skogsbruk, Timmerkörning (Forestry, timber driving), Jamtli, Public Domain

Small streams near the forest were usually the starting point of log driving.

When logs floated apart, log drivers would direct and control them in curves of the stream with pike poles. Reaching the broader streams and rivers, the logs would be bundled together in timber rafts controlled from the banks of the river or from boats. On lakes, the timber rafts were pulled with tugboats.

Tukinuittoa (log driving), Volker von Bonin, National Board of Antiquities, CC BY Keksi, uittotyökalu (log driving tool), National Board of Antiquities, CC BY

Log driving was such a crucial part of the industry that both Sweden and Finland had special laws, allowing the use of streams for log driving. The Even today the Finnish water act states that ‘unless otherwise provided by law, everyone has the right, without inflicting unnecessary damage, harm or disturbance, to… float timber in the water body…’

In the 20th century, log drivers were romanticised figures. Their work was dangerous, even deadly sometimes, and they were seen as masculine, free souls, who were easy-going and popular among women.

In both Finland and Sweden, log driving inspired art, literature, drama and music.

Harry Brandelius’ song ‘Flottarkärlek‘ – a well-known tune in 1950s Sweden – tells the story of a young log driver. In Finland, Teuvo Pakkala’s play ‘Tukkijoella’ started the so-called ‘log driver romantics’ phase in 1899, which resulted in several movies and books about log drivers’ lives.

Toppilan satama Oulussa (Toppila-port by the Oulujoki-river), Pekka Kyytinen, National Board of Antiquities, CC BY

During the Second World War, labour shortages affected the log driving industry, as men were recruited to armies. At that time, women, young boys and older men worked as log drivers instead. Before the war, around 45,000 people were involved in log driving, but in the war period this number decreased to 30,000−35,000.

After the 1950s, the industry started to fade, as the forest roads and logging trucks improved. 

Increasing demand for electricity was also a reason for the decline of the log floating industry, as it was not compatible with the need for hydro-electric power. Special legal privileges for log driving were removed in Sweden in 1983. The last float in southern Sweden was in the 1960s, with the floating era in the rest of the country ending completely with the last log drive in the Klarälven river in 1991.

Today, you can still find some timber rafts floated in Finland, but these days logs are usually transported using railways or logging trucks.

Tukkilaiskisat (log driver competition), Kanerva Teuvo, National Board of Antiquities, CC BY

Even though log driving itself is not common anymore, people still value the skills and the tradition of log driving. 

Finland’s annual Tukkilaiskisat (log driver competitions) are still organized today. In the competition, skills such as rowing, boat pulling, log running, running over a log jam, log paddling and cross-country running are tested. 

By Serafia Kari, National Library of Finland

Europe at Work – Share your story

Did you or your family work in the log driving or timber inudstry in Sweden, Finland or elsewhere? Share your story and help us tell the story of Europe through our working lives in the past and the present.

Feature image: Tukinuittoa Saimaalla, ilmakuva (Timberfloating at Saimaa-lake, aerial photography), Volker von Bonin, National Board of Antiquities, CC BY

This blog post is part of the Europeana Common Culture project, which explores varied aspects of our shared cultural heritage across Europe.

Optical innovation: how the Petzval lens revolutionised portrait photography

Thu, 19/09/2019 - 08:00

Mathematician, engineer and inventor Joseph Maximilian Petzval is best known for his contribution to modern photography.

Portrait of Joseph Petzval, Rijksmuseum, Public Domain

He was born in 1807 in Spišská Belá, now in Slovakia, but at that time part of the Kingdom of Hungary.

The large universities of the Habsburg kingdom offered great opportunities to students and therefore many people, like Petzval, migrated to study Following his early education, Petzval moved to Budapest to study engineering at the Institutum Geometricum, where he also studied mathematics later.

RELATED: Explore this gallery of paintings and photographs of Budapest Advertising tag (University of Vienna), Malmö Museums, CC BY

By 1837, Petzval had moved once more – to the University of Vienna, where he was appointed a professor of mathematics, teaching mechanics, ballistics, optics and acoustics as well.

It was there, in 1840, that he developed the lens that carries his name. The Petzval lens revolutionized early modern photography.

Petzval doublet copper house bracket + band, Museon, CC BY

This invention had a substantial impact on the history of photography. Petzval used mathematical models for the design of his lens, reducing the exposure time by one-sixteenth.

Camera with Joseph Petzval lens, Rijksmuseum, Public Domain from Report on dioptric investigations, Joseph Petzval, Bavarian State Library, No Copyright – Non-Commercial Use Only

Previous daguerreotypes required a long exposure time – between 15 and 30 minutes approximately – which was too long to result in good quality portraits.

Dubroni, pocket camera, Ajuntament de Girona, Public Domain

The Petzval lens was known for delivering extreme sharpness in the centre, strong colour saturation, and a blurred effect in the out-of-focus area. Because of these characteristics, Petzval lenses were perfectly fit to produce portraits, especially when the photographer wanted the subject to be the centre of attention.

Portrait of a woman in a striped dress (Voigtländer-Petzval camera plate), 1841, Possibly produced by the Prague studio of Wilhelm Horn, Museum of Decorative Arts, Prague, Public Domain

Yet Petzval’s groundbreaking work would end in disappointment for him.

Petzval collaborated with the Austrian entrepreneur and optician Peter Wilhelm Friedrich von Voigtländer, who had the right to produce Petzval’s lenses. However, by 1845, the collaboration was mired in disputes, as Voigtländer moved lens production out of Austria taking advantage of Petzval’s patent limitations.

Portrait of Voigtländer, Rijksmuseum, Public Domain

Voigtländer produced and sold thousands of lens over the next decades, becoming known throughout Europe, as well as producing the world’s first all-metal daguerreotype camera.

Copy of Voigtländer’s first metal camera for daguerreotypes [the original was made in the 1840; this copy was probably manufactured around 1930], Voigtländer & Sohn AG, Tekniska Museet, CC BY

Petzval also collaborated with the Austrian optics producer Dietzler, who later went bankrupt in 1862.

Portrait of Carl Dietzler, Rijksmuseum, Public Domain

In 1859, the final straw for Petzval came: his home was robbed, and his drawings and manuscripts were destroyed. He gave up his research in optometrics, never having fully published his findings.

Yet his legacy does live on: Petzval’s achievements are used today in cinematography, astronomy and meteorology, and have – among others – allowed for photographing stars and galaxies.

By Zoltán Szatucsek, Hungarian National Archives and Sofie Taes, KU Leuven

Share your story

Did you or your family work in the photography industry? Share your story and help us tell the story of Europe through our working lives in the past and the present.

Feature image: Camera with Joseph Petzval lens, Rijksmuseum, Public Domain

This blog post is a part of the Migration in the Arts and Sciences project, which explores how migration has shaped the arts, science and history of Europe.

Going underground: the rise of Europe’s metro railways

Tue, 17/09/2019 - 08:13

Underground mass transit eased the pressures of rapid population growth, urban expansion and traffic congestion in major European cities during the first half of the 19th century.

Metropolitan London A line of open railway carriages travelling through an underground tunnel, 1862, Wellcome Collection, CC BY

London was the first city to construct an underground railway beneath its bustling streets. By 1850, the city already had seven train stations and it was estimated that around 200,000 people entered the City of London every day. The concept of an underground railway linking the City with mainline train stations has already been proposed in the 1830s, and a new proposal on these lines was finally accepted in 1852.

The so-called Metropolitan Railway started operating in 1863 as a goods and passenger service. Its wooden carriages were gas-lit and hauled by steam locomotives. From 1905 onward, the tracks were gradually electrified.

Travaux du métro: Place Beaugrenelle, Agence Mondial, Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions Other cities follow suit

Other European cities felt similar growing pains as London during the late 19th century. The Hungarian capital Budapest opened its electrified metro system in 1896. Glasgow finished its first lines later that same year, followed by Chicago the year after. The Paris metro opened in 1900 after enormous efforts.

RELATED: View more than 130 photographs of the construction of the Paris Metro

Many more systems followed – including Berlin, Madrid and New York. Today there are 212 metro or rapid transit systems operating around the world. 

RELATED: Sketches and technical drawings of Berlin U-Bahn Roofing of subway entrances and exits in Berlin. Monthly Competition February 1903, R. Martin Herrmann, Architekturmuseum der Technischen Universität Berlin at the University Library, CC BY-NC-SA Interior of a 6000 train (Madrid Metro), Madrid Digital Memory Library, CC BY-NC Construction of a metro system

The construction of underground metro systems often raises concerns about undermining building foundations and the risk of subsidence caused by digging and vibrations. These concerns were not unfounded because many early lines were built using the “cut-and-cover” technique.

Construction of the Paris Metropolitan Railway 1989-1900, Charles Maindron, Parisienne de Photographie, Public Domain Mark

These were relatively shallow tunnels for which a trench is excavated and roofed over with an overhead support system. The advantage was that the smoke from the steam engines could easily escape to the nearby surface. The downside to this way of building were the enormous excavation pits at the surface level, for which everything on top had to be demolished, although they usually followed the street plan.

Construction of the Paris Metropolitan Railway, 1898-1900, Charles Maindron, Parisienne de Photographie, Public Domain Berlin Metro Barmbek Workshop, Biblioteca Digital Memoria de Madrid, CC BY-NC Construction of the Paris metro, Rijksmuseum, Public Domain

Deeper tunnelling, sometimes into the bedrock, became possible with the introduction of pneumatic drills and tunnel boring machines from the 19th century onwards. In this way, some metro tunnels and stations were constructed at a staggering depth. It goes without saying that constructing metro systems was – and is – a strenuous job for workers.

Group portrait of Moskow Metro workers, Rijksmuseum, Public Domain Workers’ assembly, 1987 strike, Biblioteca Digital Memoria de Madrid, CC BY-NC

Later in the 19th century, when electrified locomotives became available and networks expanded, metro tunnels could be built deeper underground, but could also continue above the surface and connect to regular trains.

RELATED: Watch videos of the construction of Rotterdam's metro

Train carriages became more comfortable over time too, although overcrowding has remained a challenge.

Construction of the Coolsingel metro line, Herm Middelbosch, Museum Rotterdam, CC BY Metros: here to stay?

There are no signs of metros becoming obsolete anytime soon. Today, the London Underground serves over 1.3 billion passengers annually and 4.8 million daily – and it’s only the world’s 11th busiest metro system.

Although the construction of underground railways is costly, time-consuming and inconvenient, they are an effective alternative to the air pollution, urban congestion and civic blight brought by motorised vehicles on city streets.

By Reem Weda

Share your story

Do or did you or your family work in the metro or railway construction industry anywhere in Europe? Share your story and help us tell the story of Europe through our working lives in the past and the present.

Feature image: Tuneladora “La Chata”, Biblioteca Digital Memoria de Madrid, CC BY-NC

Europe at Work: explore industrial heritage and share your story of working life

Mon, 16/09/2019 - 08:04

The working world we inhabit today is rich and varied, and tells the story of technological and societal changes over time. Starting today, Europeana’s new season, ‘Europe at Work’, brings stories of our personal working lives together with archive material on industrial and labour-related heritage.

Wolseley Factory interior with worker, 1932, Rijksmuseum, Public Domain

Explore the new industrial heritage collection on Europeana – bringing together around half a million cultural heritage objects from around Europe – to discover and uncover fascinating industrial and labour-related heritage material. Over the next months, we’ll be adding galleries and blogs exploring these themes. 

Work isn’t just what we do. It’s often who we are and where we’ve come from. It’s an integral part of our cultural heritage.

Interior banana factory, 5 men, Knut Borg, Örebro läns museum, Public Domain

Working lives change over time, often driven by changes in technology. Books were once written out painstakingly by hand, then came the concept of printing, and the printing press and mass production, then came digital word processing and e-readers.

RELATED: Explore this gallery of working lives across Europe

The land was once worked by hand and beast, then came steam engines, tractors, GM crops, automated dairy parlours and intensive factory farming. Trades and skills develop at each turn and with them, people’s daily lives, family routines and attitudes.

Orange-Growing Verpackung von ‘Sunkist’, Austrian National Library, Public Domain

Whatever you do, your work doesn’t stay within the office, the shop floor, the classroom, the construction site. Whenever we work, labour or volunteer, we’re part of a bigger picture. Your working life shapes your habits, your routines, your identity and your community. What happens in society and technology both shapes and is shaped by how and where we work.

And we want to record this – share your working life stories, past or present, with Europe at Work and see how you fit in to this rich and diverse working world.

Sharing your story

You can join in by sharing a story about your working life, wherever you worked, either online now or at one of a number of collection day events across Europe in autumn 2019.

Think you have nothing interesting to share? Think again! Europe at Work is about all of us. Look at these example stories – from a modern dairy farmer to a shopkeeper in the 1890s.

From September to December 2019, Europeana along with museums, galleries, libraries and archives across Europe, will run a series of collection days which will record the stories of the people who have worked at industrial heritage sites across Europe.

The first event is in Luxembourg on 28-29 September 2019. It focuses on the Portuguese community of Luxembourg and will be held at Gare-Usines de Dudelange, Luxembourg. Thanks to partners Centre de Documentation sur le Migration Humaine and Instituto de História Contemporânea, Universidade Nova de Lisboa.

Further events will take place in France, Finland, Italy, Germany, Ireland, Portugal and the Netherlands. See full event listings

Feature image: L M Ericsson Factory interior, Architecture and Design Center, Sweden, Public Domain

‘In the Album of a Girl’: a Dutch Poet Laureate writes a poem in an album amicorum

Thu, 05/09/2019 - 18:10

How would you like having a poem composed especially for your friendship album? This is what happened to Elizabeth Adriana Staats (1823-1896). 

It is 1841 and Hendrik Tollens (1780-1856) is a celebrated poet in the Netherlands. One of his poems has been chosen to be the national anthem and his poetry collections are purchased by many. So what does a poem of the Poet Laureate do in the album amicorum of the 18-year-old Elizabeth Adriana Staats from Rotterdam?

Front cover of album amicorum of Elizabeth Adriana Staats
National Library of Netherlands, public domain

The poem, entitled ‘In the Album of a Girl’, is written on a folded sheet that is kept in the album between two pages. The poem is not signed or dated by Hendrik Tollens but a short note at the bottom of the page gives us clarity about its origin:

‘The above-mentioned verse written by hand, by the Dutch poet Tollens, and handed to the Pharmacist J. Bulterman, at his request, to be placed in the album of his girlfriend, this being a favour in return, for a white-lead analysis in 1841. J. Bulterman’

Poem of Hendrik Tollens in the album amicorum of E.A. Staats with the note of J. Bulterman at the bottom of the page, 1841.
National Library of Netherlands, public domain

The pharmacist Jesaia Bulterman (1810-1866) was Elizabeth’s fiancé. Jesaia tells us that the poem is a return service for an analysis of the pigment white-lead, a very popular pigment among artists. But why does the famous poet Tollens need a white-lead analysis? That is because Tollens was not only a poet but also an entrepreneur in the paint trade. He was the owner of the paint and varnish factory Verf- en Vernis fabrieken Tollens & Co in Rotterdam. That Tollens went to Jesaia Bulterman for an analysis of white-lead is not so peculiar: it was common for pharmacists in the 19th century to have a side-business in paints.

It is possible that Tollens was a regular customer of Bulterman’s pharmacy, or that during one sole visit Jesaia convinced Tollens to write a poem for his girlfriend’s album amicorum

Portrait of the poet Hendrik Tollens by Philippus Velijn, after Hendrik Willem Caspari, 1821. Rijksmuseum, public domain

In an album amicorum, a booklet in which the owner collects contributions such as poems and illustrations from family, friends and acquaintances, you can find many kinds of texts. In the 16th century, for example, it was common among students to write scholarly quotations in Latin in these friendship albums. In the 19th century, Dutch alba amicorum were filled with quotes from poems by the popular poets of that time: Willem Bilderdijk, Rhijnvis Feith, Hieronymus van Alphen and Hendrik Tollens.

Poetry was very popular in the 19th century. It was the period of Romanticism and nationalism. After the French occupation of 1810-1813 the regent Willem I was crowned King of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands and there was a need for peace in the new nation. Poetry about God, the fatherland and family values were popular among the population. It also helped book sales that poets were idolized as celebrities. 

19th-century alba amicorum of young, unmarried women are filled with poems with titles such as: ‘Hommage and Virtue’, ‘Hymn to Heaven’ and ‘My Homeland’.

Embroidery by Rosa Coenen Floral in the album amicorum of Elizabeth Adriana Staats. National Library of Netherlands, public domain

These poems were usually written down by family or friends, but a poem personally written by a celebrated contemporary poet in an album amicorum is unique! Especially one written by the Poet Laureate Hendrik Tollens in the album of Elizabeth Adriana Staats from Rotterdam. 

Hendrik Tollens writes in this poem: ‘But if my prayers are heard, then the sun is shining for you […] roses without thorns bloom on your path.’ Unfortunately Tollens’ wish for Elizabeth did not come true. The life of Elizabeth and Jesaia was covered with thorny roses: they lost two of their children, a girl of 7 and a boy of 16, in quick succession.

By Gerline Sonneveld,
National Library of the Netherlands

The blog post is a part of the Rise of Literacy project, where we take you on an exploration of literacy in Europe thanks to the digital preservation of precious textual works from collections across the continent.

Featured image: 
Poem of Hendrik Tollens in the album amicorum of E.A. Staats with the note of J. Bulterman at the bottom of the page, 1841. National Library of Netherlands, public domain

Chapbooks: the poor person’s reading material

Tue, 27/08/2019 - 09:22

Books were expensive in Scotland between the 17th and 19th centuries. But literacy was comparatively high, and people were keen on reading. There was a large market for cheap, easy-to-get reading material: so-called street literature because it was simply sold on the streets.

A popular type of street literature was chapbooks: small booklets of 8, 16 or 24 (and sometimes more) pages, poorly printed on thin paper, covered with a paper wrapper and often adorned by crude woodcuts. They sold for a penny apiece.

Proverbs on the Pride of Women, William Mitchel,
National Library of Scotland, CC BY-SA

Chapbooks contained songs, tales, children’s stories, history and news and formed the staple reading diet of the lower classes. Chapbooks were sold by street criers, hawkers and itinerant pedlars, or chapmen. People also bought them at fairs, on the printers’ shops,  from pubs and even toy shops. 

For a penny, people could read the last words of an executed criminal, an account of a recent disaster, a garland of songs, a the history of famous heros like William Wallace, Rob Roy, Nelson or Napoleon. 

Chapbooks were rarely read in silence. More often than not, they were read or sung aloud to an audience, which often included those who were illiterate.

The earliest Scottish chapbook was printed in Edinburgh in 1682. It is a verse edition of the popular folk tale of Tom Thumb, the little hero from the time of King Arthur. The 18th century saw a large increase in the publication of chapbooks. Tom Thumb reappears alongside religious exhortation and humour:

Life and death of Tom Thumb, the little giant, published by John Cumming, National Library of Scotland, public domain

The woodcuts used for illustrations were often generic and only loosely related to the topic of the chapbook, and sometimes not at all.

For instance, the following account of natural disasters like avalanches and sandstorms includes a woodcut of a kilted Scotsman in front of a horse and cart with no snow or sand in sight: 

Awful phenomena of nature, John Miller,
National Library of Scotland, public domain

A story about the adventures of four Russian sailors has a fitting woodcut of a sailing ship:

Narrative of the extraordinary adventures of four Russian sailors, R. Hutchison & Co.,
National Library of Scotland, public domain

Particularly interesting are several editions of ‘Factor’s garland’, a story about the adventures of a young man who rescues a damsel in distress, is thrown overboard a ship, rescued, and finally marries the princess. The first three woodcuts below appear in chapbooks that were produced by the same printer: John Morren (Edinburgh).

Chapbooks in Scotland were not only published in English. Lowland Scots, the vernacular language of the common people, appeared mainly in the form of proverbs or songs. There are also a very small number of chapbooks in Gaelic, all of them containing popular songs:

In the 19th century, chapbooks slowly made way for newspapers, penny dreadfuls and periodicals. These were produced to a higher standard and appealed to the more discerning readers, also of the lower classes.

By Dr Anette Hagan,
National Library of Scotland

The blog post is a part of the Rise of Literacy project, where we take you on an exploration of literacy in Europe thanks to the digital preservation of precious textual works from collections across the continent.

Featured image: 
Cover of Entertaining history of John Cheap the Chapman, Dougal Graham, National Library of Scotland, CC BY-SA

Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colours: Blue, White, Red: symbols of Europe at the end of the 20th century

Thu, 22/08/2019 - 08:00

Krzysztof Kieślowski‘s Three Colours film trilogy was made a few years after the fall of the Iron Curtain. 1989 was the beginning of a new era in which people, ideas, and stories, began to move freely in spaces previously separated from each other.

These last three films directed by Kieślowski, with scripts written jointly with Krzysztof Piesiewicz, do not have overtly political themes. Yet, when watched today, they can be interpreted as stories about Europe changing at the end of the 20th century, transforming into a continent of new possibilities, returning to universal concepts that became important in a new way.

Three Colours: White. Piotr Jaxa (115 006), Filmoteka Narodowa–Instytut Audiowizualny via EUscreen, CC BY-NC-ND

All three films were the result of new international co-productions that were possible for the first time in the history of post-war cinematography, signs of the new opportunities opening up for European cinema.

Krzysztof Kieślowski, a director from Poland, made these three movies together with film crews from various European countries. The three movies takes place in different countries: France, Poland and Switzerland.

Cast and crew of Three Colours: Red, Piotr Jaxa (67.027), Filmoteka Narodowa–Instytut Audiowizualny via EUscreen, CC BY-NC-ND Cast and crew of Three Colours: White, Piotr Jaxa (062.010), Filmoteka Narodowa–Instytut Audiowizualny via EUscreen, CC BY-NC-ND
Cast and crew of Three Colours: Blue. Piotr Jaxa (047.004), Filmoteka Narodowa–Instytut Audiowizualny via EUscreen, CC BY-NC-ND

Migrating artists, as we could call members of these film crews, together created movies that achieved international success, adding a new dimension to the slogans of liberty, equality, and fraternity. These slogans of the French Revolution could be seen to symbolise a kind of artistic revolution.

The films develop these slogans as personal and univeral themes, rather than solely historical. Freedom in Three Colours: Blue does not refer to Central and Eastern Europeans’ fight for liberty from communist dictators. The red in Three Colours: Red has nothing to do with the colour of the revolutionary flag. Instead, these personal stories can be seen as symbols of Europe at the end of a turbulent century.

Three Colours: Blue, Piotr Jaxa (256.008), Filmoteka Narodowa–Instytut Audiowizualny via EUscreen, CC BY-NC-ND

In Three Colours: Blue, Julie, the film’s protagonist, is a young widow, whose husband – a famous composer – and daughter died in a car accident. In the face of tragedy, she chooses a kind of freedom, cutting herself off from the world, breaking ties with her friends and acquaintances. However, she returns from this exile of cold liberty, accepting the fact that to live completely means to love and be loved – and that means a sacrifice of some freedom on the personal level.

Over the film’s final scene, we hear Song For The Unification Of Europe, accompanied by verses in Greek from Saint Paul’s Hymn to Love. The opening and readiness for a new love, which the film tells about, also symbolises the openness of Western Europe to enter into a new and close relationship with countries from its eastern part, recovered after years of separation, ready to sing together the song of the uniting continent.

Three Colours: White. Piotr Jaxa (051.006), Filmoteka Narodowa–Instytut Audiowizualny via EUscreen, CC BY-NC-ND

Three Colours: White takes place in France and in Poland. While Three Colours: Blue refers to the theme of unifying Europe, Three Colours: White‘s story of the turbulent marriage of a Polish man, Karol, and a French woman, Dominique, seems to be the opposite. Kieślowski’s film is about inequalities that stand in the way of people who love themselves, but are shaped by different social, moral and cultural experiences.

Divorced, Karol returns to Poland of the mid-1990s: a country of new economic opportunities, quick fortunes and great social contrasts. He wants to regain his lost fortune and position, a revenge to his wife who renounced him. The former hairdresser turns into a businessman, trying to take advantage of newly acquired property to trick Dominique into coming to Poland. He wants not only to conquer her heart again but make her experience the suffering of imprisonment. That is his way of making his beloved Dominique more ‘equal’ to him and aware of what it is like to be a person from Central and Eastern Europe, where happiness often must be paid for by suffering.

Three Colours: Red. Piotr Jaxa (111.010), Filmoteka Narodowa–Instytut Audiowizualny via EUscreen, CC BY-NC-ND

Three Colours: Red, set in Geneva, is about the close encounter of Valentine, a young student, and Joseph Kern, a retired judge, who is bitter and harsh, having discovering his beloved was unfaithful. Meeting Valentine, a good, gentle and honest woman, is a chance for him to recover from his miserable despair. Their story is mirrored in that of Auguste, a young lawyer, who, like the judge, is beset by broken-hearted disappointment.

The film ends with a memorable scene showing passengers saved from a sinking ferry after a storm on the English Channel. The heroes of all three films are among those saved: Julie and Olivier from Blue, Karol and Dominique from White, Valentine and Auguste from Red.

Protagonists of the film Three Colours: Red – survivors of the ferry disaster, Piotr Jaxa (101.007), Filmoteka Narodowa–Instytut Audiowizualny via EUscreen, CC BY-NC-ND

The symbolism of these saved characters is as if we were watching the peoples of Europe fished out of the turbulent waves in the sea of h​istory, saved and ready to enjoy the rescue together on the continent of unifying countries.

Kieślowski asks us to question liberty, equliaty, fraternity: do we Europeans still remain faithful to their basic values? Is love, as Kieślowski showed in his last films, still what blue, white and red together mean?

Explore more behind the scenes photography and memorabilia from Krzysztof Kieślowski’s career

By Mikołaj Jazdon, Filmoteka Narodowa–Instytut Audiowizualny

Feature: Three Colours: Blue, Piotr Jaxa (024.004), Filmoteka Narodowa–Instytut Audiowizualny via EUscreen, CC BY-NC-ND

#remember1989 and the Fall of the Iron Curtain by joining our blog parade

Wed, 14/08/2019 - 08:00

This year sees the 30th anniversary of an extraordinary year – 1989 – when walls crumbled and people of Central and Eastern Europe were united again.

Map of Europe “as it should look”, 1986 / 1987, Waco Spolitis via Europeana 1989, CC BY-SA

To remember 1989 and its events, we are inviting you to share your memories and impressions in our ‘blog parade’. Join us as we commemorate the political and social changes in 1989, the year of the Fall of the Iron Curtain.

People who lived through that year and the following years have diverse and vivid personal memories of that time. 

Join our blog parade Dramas family on Baltic Way outside Vilnius, Linas Drėma via Europeana 1989, CC BY-SA

A blog parade is a call out to people interested in this topic who are active bloggers and / or on social media and others to write about, photograph or share ideas or memories. Our blog parade introduces the topic of 1989: the fall of the Iron Curtain, and we invite you to share your ideas on your own blog or profiles.

Your posts will contribute to a greater understanding of 1989 and its events, which we will summarise here on the Europeana blog and promote through our profiles. 

Everybody can participate in #remember1989. We welcome blogs, tweets, Facebook updates, Instagram posts, personal research, online exhibitions – we look forward to seeing your posts with the hashtag #remember1989

Some questions you might like to think about for your post:

  • What do the events of 1989 mean to you?
  • How do you remember 1989 – were you a participant, an observer?
  • Do / did you live in a country which saw communism fall? What did that mean for you?
  • How did 1989 affect you? Your economic situation, education, political views, social life, holidays? 
  • What effects from 1989 do we still feel today?
  • What role did arts and culture play in 1989?
  • From your perspective, what must we remember about 1989? How do we do that today?

We’d love to see your #remember1989 posts any time from now until the end of the year. Don’t forget to tag us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or you can also email

1989 memories on Europeana Collections Photograph from the Pope’s pilgrimage, Andrzej Zajdel via Europeana 1989, CC BY-SA

#remember1989 builds on Europeana 1989, a collaborative project between 11 partner institutions, Historypin and Europeana in 2014, for which members of the public in countries that underwent changes in 1989 shared personal memorabilia and stories from this period.

Among the items shared were underground press (independent newspapers), election leaflets, food stamps, old bank notes, documents and family photos, clothes and toys. 

OF’s first phone in Pilsen, Ladislav Vyskočil via Europeana 1989, Public Domain Ceramic badge, Ülle Rajasalu, Irja Kändler via Europeana 1989, CC BY-SA Yugoslav banknote via Europena 1989, Public Domain Cap with pins via Europeana 1989, Public Domain Hand knit dress, Joanna Adamczewska via Europeana 1989, Public Domain

The diversity of the memories captured by the project is amazing – feel free to explore these objects and be inspired for your own posts.

Feel free to use the image below if you write about the blog parade.

Baltic Way, Vitas Volungevicius via Europeana 1989, CC BY-SA

Feature image: Sąjūdis rally, Vladimir Grazulis via Europeana 1989, CC BY-SA

Enrich Europeana project will launch a new tool in Vienna on 24 September, with a Mini-Transcribathon in which the international community of Vienna will be invited to enrich crowdsourced materials relating to the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989. Read more about the event.

A story of migration: Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colours White

Thu, 08/08/2019 - 08:00

Each of the films of Krzysztof Kieślowski’s Three Colours trilogy explores a topic from the French Revolution motto Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité.

Three Colours: White addresses equality through the fate of Karol Karol (Zbigniew Zamachowski), the movie’s main character, a Polish man living in France. The film plays with the notion of emigration and return, and questions how equal we are occupying those positions. 

In the film’s opening scenes, Karol is seen in divorce hearings asking the judge: “where is equality here?!” As his marriage ends, he is left only with an old suitcase and his hairdressing diplomas. This small, inconspicuous man in a raincoat is lost in the enormous interiors of the Paris Palace of Justice. 

Three colours. White. Piotr Jaxa (003.005), Filmoteka Narodowa–Instytut Audiowizualny via EUscreen, CC BY-NC-ND

The film symbolically shows Karol’s descent through his journey downwards into the underground Paris metro station, where he earns some extra money playing a comb. He sits on a concrete floor, literally and metaphorically lower than all the people passing by.

There, he meets another Polish man, Mikołaj, and together they hatch a plan for Karol to return to  Poland hidden in an old suitcase.

Three colours. White. Piotr Jaxa (014.007), Filmoteka Narodowa–Instytut Audiowizualny via EUscreen, CC BY-NC-ND Three colours. White. Piotr Jaxa (005.008), Filmoteka Narodowa–Instytut Audiowizualny via EUscreen, CC BY-NC-ND

Back in Warsaw, Karol transforms himself from a hairdresser into a businessman and capitalist. He orders a construction crew to completely rebuild a wall around his property. 

He undergoes a drastic metamorphosis only after returning. His dirty, old coat turns into an elegant, expensive suit. In France, with no money, a French bank clerk cuts his card when he wants to withdraw money. But, in Poland, Karol enters a bank with a bag filled with dollars. In Paris, Karol is not shown at work, whereas, in Warsaw, after his return, he is a sought-after master hairdresser who woman queue for.

Three colours. White. Piotr Jaxa (035.005), Filmoteka Narodowa–Instytut Audiowizualny via EUscreen, CC BY-NC-ND

Later, Karol rents an office in a modern tower block on a very high floor. Karol and Mikolaj stand together at a window and comment, “Nice… Warsaw under us”. His fortunes have swung a long way from begging on the Paris metro. Some time ago he did had almost nothing, now he has almost everything. 

Three colours. White. Piotr Jaxa (159.005), Filmoteka Narodowa–Instytut Audiowizualny via EUscreen, CC BY-NC-ND

The film questions, however, how far one can come. After saying “Warsaw under us” Mikołaj quietly hums the melody of a Polish song, which Karol then plays on the comb, repeating what he did when they met for the first time in the metro. Even though now they are businessmen, how much of the confused emigrants is still inside?

The film plays with the contrasting meanings between France and Poland, up and down, bad and good. Kieślowski wrote in his autobiography on Kieślowski: “At the beginning, Karol is humiliated, tramped into the ground… Everything he ever had is taken away from him and his love is rejected. He wants to show that he is not just as low as he’s fallen, he’s not just on a level with everybody else, but that he’s higher, that he’s better… Therefore he becomes more equal.”

Explore more behind-the-scenes and still images from Three Colours White.

By Piotr Pławuszewski, Filmoteka Narodowa –Instytut Audiowizualny

Feature image: Three colours. White. Piotr Jaxa (005.005), Filmoteka Narodowa–Instytut Audiowizualny via EUscreen, CC BY-NC-ND

This blog post is a part of the Migration in the Arts and Sciences project, which explores how migration has shaped the arts, science and history of Europe.