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Europeana enables people to explore the digital resources of Europes museums, libraries, archives and audio-visual collections. It promotes discovery and networking opportunities in a multilingual space where users can engage, share in and be inspired by the rich diversity of Europes cultural and scientific heritage. On this blog you will find short updates on Europeana content, special events and things we are working on.
Updated: 10 hours 13 min ago

Love across borders: the German student and the English patriot

Thu, 03/05/2018 - 09:00

We have recently begun collecting personal stories from people all across Europe relating to migration, following on from our successful Europeana 1914-1918 project.

Our new short blog series, Love across borders, is inspired by collections discovered during this project, with stories of romance and love at the time of World War 1. Read on to see how new connections and relationships would not have been possible without people moving across the globe!

During summer 1912, the young German student Georg Schröter spent his holidays on the beautiful Isle of Wight, an island in the south of England known for its idyllic beaches and promenades. There, he met Marguerite Vincent.


A photograph of Marguerite, signed with “Sincerely, your English friend”. Europeana 1914-1918, CC0.

She was a young woman from Southampton, actively involved in the politics of that time. She declared herself an English patriot and was member of the Southampton Ladies Conservative Association. Obviously, they were attracted by each other and started an intense pen friendship.

One of the letters exchanged between Georg Schröter and Marguerite Vincent on the eve of World War I. Europeana 1914-1918, CC0.

Later, Marguerite wrote about their first meeting: “What a dirty, untidy, little English girl you must have thought me! (Gurnard is) a quiet little place, where no one hardly goes. We wore all our very oldest clothes, things we could not possibly wear in Southampton. We tore them in holes & got them as dirty as we liked.”

They planned seeing each others again, as Georg explains in one letter: “And as soon as my father gives me permission, I will come back over the channel – but there will be some years passing, until I can carry out my plan. I intend to work hard further(more)…”

One of the letters that Marguerite sent to her German friend Georg. Europeana 1914-1918, CC0.

Their letters are heavily influenced by the political events of that time. They discuss wars, political tensions and nationalist feelings during the two-years time of their correspondence. Georg writes: “It would be the saddest day of my life if the Triple Alliance went to war against the Triple Entente.” And Marguerite answers: “In my bed-room I have three little flags I bought one day, the flags of the three greatest Nations in the World – Germany, France & England! How I should like to see a ‘Triple Entente’ between those Countries!”

The last postcard Georg received is from 24 July 1914, four days before the Austrians declared war on Serbia, the beginning of World War 1. We do not know why their friendship ended, but it is likely that the nationalist propaganda of that time made a relationship like Marguerite and Georg’s impossible.

Do you have a story to share about love across borders, or romance during World War 1? Share your stories with Europeana Migration and Europeana 1914-1918.

· The Love across borders series was researched and written by Larissa Borck

Revisiting photographic history: new perspectives on John Burke

Tue, 01/05/2018 - 10:58

Group portrait of Afghan men and boys. John Burke. Rijksmuseum, public domain

The past few years have witnessed a renewed interest in vintage and vernacular photography and photographic archives in general. This increase in attention is clearly reflected within the arts. More and more photographers/artists blend their own creations with existing photographs or use vintage photography and old techniques as a basis for new works of art. An outstanding example is the work of Simon Norfolk, who revisited the photographs of John Burke.

Panoramic view of encampments near Peshawar, as seen from Ali Musjid. John Burke. Rijksmuseum, public domain

In 1878 John Burke, an Irish photographer based in India, accompanied British army forces during an invasion in Afghanistan. There he produced a small number of albums with prints to be sold to the general public in his studio in India. These images are the first photos produced in Afghanistan known to date.

In 2001 Simon Norfolk (UK) went to Afghanistan and produced the highly acclaimed photo book Chronotopia (Dewi Lewis, 2002). Inspired by romantic paintings of the 18th century with their golden lights, Norfolk explored the aftermath of the conflicts that struck Afghanistan the past decades. The images, shot in yellowish, warm light, hint at an Afghanistan that is at the close of one thing and at a beginning of something new. Norfolk, disappointed in the continuation of the war in Afghanistan in the following years, sought a point of departure to return and produce a new body of work. When Brian Liddy, curator at the National Media Museum in Bradford, showed Norfolk a Burke album, he knew he had found it. Seeing history repeating itself, Norfolk set out to Afghanistan to photograph in the spirit of John Burke: what would John Burke have shot if he had lived today?

These images are the first photos produced in Afghanistan known to date

Simon Norfolk did not aim at rephotographing the views and subjects, but at matching the spirit in which John Burke took his images. Early photography was a very costly affair and mostly institutionalized. Snapshot photography as we know it today, didn’t exist. Burke is a very complete photographer, shooting landscapes, (group) portraits, news and events. His images are quite lyrical and emotional.

Army unity in the war during the second British-Afghan war, Sherpur Cantonment. John Burke. Rijksmuseum, public domain

This might be explained by the fact that his trip to Afghanistan was a commercial undertaking, and that his images and albums were intended to be sold as a souvenir to soldiers, officers, etc.. This also partly explains why no battles or aftermaths of fighting scenes are depicted, even though they were taken on a military campaign of the British Army: such images have no commercial value. Burke’s background also comes into play: he was an Irishmen, a catholic, with no formal training. Working for the British army thus makes him somewhat of a bystander.

History is clearly repeating itself

Norfolk shoots the same types of subjects as Burke: portraits, city views and military installations. The latter two are presented in colour, the portraits in black and white. Throughout the book and exhibition, Norfolk’s images are mixed with Burke’s to form one body of work. The Burke + Norfolk project highlights analogies and similarities: here, history is clearly repeating itself, over a time lapse of 130 years.

Bruno Vandermeulen, KU Leuven, Belgium

Europeana 1914-1918 Centenary Tour: Remembering the Great War in Luxembourg

Thu, 26/04/2018 - 13:06

This month’s focus of the Europeana 1914-1918 Centenary Tour is on Luxembourg. In our dedicated gallery, a selection of images depicting various aspects of life during the First World War in the Grand Duchy can be viewed.  In addition, you can browse through all the contributions that were made at the collection days that were held in March 2012 in Luxembourg. This includes the touching story of Charles Grauss and the figurines he made for his children while serving in the French army.

Water colour “Blooding hearts” by Nestor Outer – Europeana 1914-1918 / André Schoup CC BY-SA

For a more in-depth insight in this important but neglected and understudied period in the history of the Grand Duchy we would like to point at two other initiatives of WW1 Centenary commemorations by our Europeana 1914-1918 project partners: the University of Luxembourg and the Centre de documentation sur les migrations humaines (CDMH).

In cooperation with the Ministry of State the University of Luxembourg designed the digital exhibition Éischte Welkrich: Remembering the Great War in Luxembourg. Drawing on the collections and expertise of some of the major Luxembourgish museums, archives and cultural institutions the project has progressively deepened and widened its scope, aspiring to become a long-term online resource.

The website is designed to engage a broad base of users with varying interests and degrees of expertise. It is available in three languages (French, German and English) and offers four independent but interconnected modes of navigation: a story-driven mode, a digital archive, an interactive geo-referenced map and a timeline. Additional sections contain educational pages for schools and downloadable academic articles.

All salient Luxembourgish locations linked to WW1 (war cemeteries, hospitals, bombed sites, shelters etc.) are displayed on an interactive map which provides a geo-exploration mode. Enabling location-awareness when viewing the website on mobile devices allows the user to discover the relevant places located in the proximity and use the website as a touring app.

The Timeline offers a more classic event-based exploration, following a chronology that can be expanded to reveal the significant events for each year with groups of associated objects linking back to the Collection.

The overall structure of the exhibition remains flexible and open, allowing for the continuous integration of new themes and documents, either provided by institutions or crowdsourced.

The exhibition project has been directed by Prof Andreas Fickers and Prof Denis Scuto and curated and coordinated by Dr Sandra Camarda and is accompanied by a rich programme of related activities, conferences, workshops, and publications.

Postcards showing potato distribution in Luxembourg City in 1916 – Europeana 1914-1918 / Guy May CC BY-SA

As part of this programme, the offline exhibition “Être ailleurs en temps de guerre (14-18) – Étrangers à Dudelange / Dudelangeois à l’étranger” runs from 29 March to 9 December 2018 at the Centre de Documentation sur les Migrations Humaines in Dudelange. The exhibition explores the experience of the migrant town of Dudelange during the First World War, looking at the various trajectories drawn by those who left, arrived or remained within its borders. You can see a video teaser here.

The exhibition, curated by Antoinette Reuter, Denis Scuto and Sandra Camarda, is a collaboration between the CDMH – Centre de Documentation sur les Migrations humaines and the C2DH – Luxembourg Centre for Contemporary and Digital History, University of Luxembourg,.

Both the digital exhibition Éischte Weltkrich and the exhibition in Dudelange are part of the “2018 European Year of Cultural Heritage” program. Within this frame the Centre de Documentation sur les Migrations humaines will host a Europeana Migration Collection Day on 23 September 2018 around the theme of migration in Luxembourg during the First World War.

Love across borders: the architects of the Peace Palace

Tue, 24/04/2018 - 09:00

We have recently begun collecting personal stories from people all across Europe relating to migration.

Our new short blog series, Love across borders, is inspired by collections discovered during this project, with stories of romance and love related to migration. Read on to see how new connections and relationships would not have been possible without people moving across the globe!

Palais de la paix à La Haye. Agence Rol. 1922. National Library of France, Public Domain.

This building is primarily known for its global significance for World Peace: The Peace Palace in The Hague. But, today it would look totally different without a certain couple: Herman Rosse and Sophia Helena Luyt.

Both were born in The Hague and in their mid-twenties, when they started working on the construction site of the Peace Palace. Herman had already seen a lot of different places. After starting his studies of architecture and design at the Academy of Art in The Hague, he went to study in London and Stanford, California. Although he was young, he was hired to produce most of the decorative interior designs for the Peace Palace from 1911 to 1913, working on the paintings, colourful windows, tiles and marquetry.

Vredespaleis. Dukker, G.J. 1993. Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed. CC BY-SA.

But all the beauty he created did not distract him from a certain woman working nearby him. Sophia Helena Luyt was a landscape artist responsible for creating and designing the gardens that surround the Peace Palace, which today attract visitors throughout the year. 

Vredespaleis. Dukker, G.J. 1982. Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed. CC BY-SA.

He was so in love with her, seeing her every day through empty holes where we today see amazing stained glass, that he perpetuated her beauty in one of his artworks: One of the goddesses painted on the ceiling of the grand entrance hall has Sophia’s face.

Vredespaleis. Dukker, G.J. 1982. Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed. CC BY-SA.

Obviously, she felt the same and, after their work in the Peace Palace was finished, they married in London in 1913. Together, they started a life of migration. They lived in Palo Alto, California, Illinois, New York and Hollywood. He also designed film sets and became the first Dutch person to win an Oscar for his work in the film “King of Jazz”. Although they both left marks of their creativity in the whole world, especially their artistic heritage of the Peace Palace stands today as a reminder of this special love story.

Do you have a story to share about love or romance across borders ? Share your stories with Europeana Migration.

· The Love across borders series was researched and written by Larissa Borck

Silver cups and their stories: connections across Europe

Mon, 16/04/2018 - 09:00

During our campaigns like Europeana Migration and Europeana 1914-1918, we bring a digital perspective to our Collection Days with partner institutions all over Europe. During these days, we collect, digitise and preserve the stories and objects of the European people. This is a distinct approach, compared to how objects usually are found in our online collections. One might ask: what can these objects add to our understanding of our European shared culture that can’t already be found in museums, galleries, libraries and archives?

Cup of the Court of Justice of Voorne and Putten, Hoogheemraadschap van Voorne, Rijksmuseum, Public Domain

Above, you see the Cup of the Court of Justice of Voorne and Putten, preserved in the collection of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. It is a marvellous object that tells us stories about the powerful and wealthy, who shaped Europe and its politics, economics and culture.

During our recent Collection Day held in Brussels at the House of European History, we were able to listen to the stories of two other silver cups, which we share to show how they contribute to Europeana’s mission to transform the world with culture.

‘My silver cup’, SM, Europeana Migration CC BY-SA

SM brought his silver cup with him and his family when they moved from New Delhi, where he was born in 2008, to Brussels in 2011. He shared the cultural background of this special object: “It is a cultural belief that when a baby is born, you should feed him out of silverware. Its good and precious characteristics make the babies smart, strong and precious.”

La coupe d’argent de ma famille européenne, Georges Merzbach, Europeana Migration CC BY-SA

Georges’ coupe d’argent has a totally different background: It was made in Warsaw in 1836 to celebrate the 25-year wedding anniversary of Georges’ great-great-great-grandparents. For almost a century, the cup has been passed on from family member to family member to celebrate silver weddings – and eventually migrated to Brussels to celebrate his great-grandfather’s wedding anniversary in 1895 who by then had moved to Belgium.

Although these two cups are – apart from their material characteristics – so different, they tell European stories that aren’t found in many museums. With our Europeana Migration campaign, we are aiming to reflect Europe’s rich and shared history of migration.

Besides the Court of Justice of Voorne and Putten, European culture is made up from everyday encounters, customs and traditions of all people who live in Europe – just like SM  and Georges as well as their families.

We celebrate these two new cups in our collection next to Kiddush cups with Hebrew engravings, photographs of French actors drinking champagne and symbols of Christian charity.

Because all of these objects together tell the story of the most prominent feature of European culture: diversity!

· This blog was written by Larissa Borck 


From Georg Friedrich to George Frideric: Händel’s miraculous migration

Fri, 13/04/2018 - 16:14

In the early 18th century, London was the eldorado for musicians, offering fame and fortune to anyone who had something new or exclusive to boast.

Foreign musicians were regarded as exotic, special and prestigious, and therefore very popular both with rich patrons and the general public. As a result, London offered the highest wages for musicians in Europe, which prompted many an international star to flock to the United Kingdom.

In the midst of this musical migration wave, one man carried the banner: Georg Friedrich Händel. In the same year of his appointment as ‘Kapellmeister’ at the electoral court of prince George in Hanover – the largest city of the German state of Lower Saxony – Händel was invited to write an opera for London.

Etching depicting London c. 1700, made by engraver Jeremias Wolff (1663-1724). Stiftung Händel-Haus Halle, CC BY-NC-SA

Up to that time, Italian operas had proved to be popular on London stages, but all of them had been arrangements of earlier works or pasticcios.

Now Händel was to compose the first one specifically for the London stage: Rinaldo, which premiered on 24 February 1711. By then, Handel had already left a favorable impression with the Londoners as his (now lost) Dialogue in Italian, in Her Majesty’s praise was performed at St James’s Palace on Queen Anne’s birthday just a few weeks earlier.

It soon became apparent to Händel that London was the place to be for the ambitious and enterprising musician. By 1717 he had settled permanently in England and in February 1727 he was naturalized by Act of Parliament. During his remaining 30 years, Händel composed c. 40 operas, from historical epics (Giulio Cesare) to mythological tales (Atalanta). His audience was London’s high society, which did not want to miss any of his creations, nor the rivalry between the divas he worked with. Sopranos Faustina Bordoni and Francesca Cuzzoni in particular were (in)famous for their fuming rows, which sometimes unfolded on stage, in front of the feasting crowd…

When it became more difficult for the nobility – for whom these operas were primarily intended – to finance the spectacles, the genre fell into decay. Now Händel shifted his focus toward the oratorio. The development of this genre in England can almost entirely be attributed to him, and he created its most well-known example as well: the epic choir oratorio The Messiah (1741).

A libretto containing the text of Händel’s most famous oratorio, The Messiah. The work premiered in Dublin in 1741, but this copy must have been intended for a later performance as it was printed only in 1749. Stiftung Händel-Haus Halle, CC BY-NC-SA

From 1747 onward, Händel had his own oratorio series at Covent Garden, which ran during Lent when no plays or operas were allowed.

In addition to a great deal of vocal music, Händel continued to produce new instrumental music in London, such as the Concerti grossi opus 6 and the Water Music, which ranks among his most popular pages. Even though water is not the theme of these suites, it figures at the heart of their origin: the first performance took place on a boat on the river Thames, at the occasion of a royal trip from Whitehall to Chelsea.

In addition to theaters and palaces, London’s pleasure gardens too tucked into Händel’s music, with the avant-premiere of Music for the Royal Fireworks (Vauxhall gardens) and the organ concertos (which were performed almost every day) as the absolute highlights.

Who would not wish to have been a musician (or a melomaniac) in Händel’s London? A playing field for artists, a copious buffet with the most varied flavors, a sanctuary for geniuses and entrepreneurs … It might be true that Händel’s genius could have flourished at any time and in any place, but his visionary step towards life as a Londoner probably got him launched into stardom much quicker – and much higher – than any other scenario would have.

Portrait of Händel in impressive attire, holding a sheet of music entitled ‘The Messiah – oratorio’. This mid-19th-century lithographic print was created by Wilhelm Jab after a painting by Hermann Hammann. Stiftung Händel-Haus Halle CC BY-NC-SA

Pola Negri: Woman of the World

Mon, 09/04/2018 - 09:00

In advance of the 15th annual Silent Movie Festival, Katarzyna Wajda from National Film Archive – Audiovisual Institute, introduces the cinematic life of Poland’s first film star: Pola Negri.

Meet the extraordinary Pola Negri: Poland’s first film star and the only Pole to make her American dream come true in Hollywood, a true European equally at home in Warsaw, Berlin and Paris, a femme fatale on the screen but a hard-working woman in real life, a fashion trendsetter and the author of her own legend, an actress who earned a permanent place in the annals of world cinema, and an (e)migrant whose own story reflects the turbulent history of the 20th century.


Pola Negri, Brigitte von Klitzing, Kunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, CC BY-NC-SA

A Polish star in the German sky

Pola Negri was a film legend with a film-worthy story: born Apolonia Barbara Chałupiec, her life is a 20th-century retelling of Cinderella. It is a tale of extraordinary social ascent: from a poor riverside neighbourhood in Warsaw to Hollywood, by way of Berlin, from a humble attic room to a mansion in suburban Paris. Hers is a story of triumph through sheer talent, hard work and determination.

She overcame social and linguistic barriers: the daughter of a washerwoman and tinsmith, she mastered five languages and briefly became a Polish countess and Georgian princess (though only briefly – both marriages failed), and her celebrity status eclipsed her lowly origins. Her tale is also one of movie stardom, easier to achieve in a globalised era of silent film, but impressive nonetheless. While many actresses of the time boasted large eyes and dark eyelids, and heavily emphasised their facial expressions, the aesthetic came to be personified by Pola Negri.

Negri’s story is also one of unfulfilled dreams.

Unable to pursue a career in ballet due to an illness, Pola enrolled in acting school. Her successful performance in the pantomime Sumurun launched the sixteen-year-old into the nascent world of film. Aleksander Hertz, the owner of Sfinks, Poland’s largest movie studio, turned Pola into the country’s first film star. After debuting in Slave to Her Senses (Niewolnica zmysłów, 1914), the beautiful actress accepted a number of roles as a femme fatale who ruins the lives of the men who fall for her.

With her distinctive eyes and sensual dance style, Negri was already developing a visual trademark. Leaving Warsaw behind, in 1917 the “Polish Asta Nielsen” heads to Berlin, making movies for Saturn-Film. She later strikes these pictures from her official filmography, highlighting instead her theatrical work with Max Reinhardt and cinema productions for her Pygmalion, Ernst Lubitsch. Hertz may have discovered Pola Negri and launched her career, but it was the German director who turned her into a true actress.

Together, Negri and Lubitsch made five films, including Carmen (1918), in which her beauty, talent for dancing, and catlike charm help solidify her image as an exotic femme fatale, and finally, Madame Dubarry (1919), in which Pola plays a suggestively erotic role, taking Europe and America by storm and helping to end German’s post-war isolation. For both of them, the movie is a ticket to Hollywood.

Pola Negri Postcard, Paramount Pictures Corporation, Maironis Lithuanian Literature Museum, Public Domain

From Europe to America (and back again)

Pola redeems that ticket in 1923, becoming the first European film star imported by Tinseltown. The famous face of Germany’s UFA studio is now a star in the Paramount Pictures constellation. She makes millions (prudently investing her earnings in real estate), but without Lubitsch by her side, her acting career stalls. They made just one Hollywood picture together, Forbidden Paradise (1924), widely considered her best US film. But Hollywood is becoming increasingly puritanical, and Pola has trouble landing parts that would fully embody her role as a sensual, European woman, fully aware of her magnetic eroticism. Realising this, she decides to play the Hollywood star, parading her pet cheetah around and setting new fashion trends such as turbans and red painted toenails. She drives a Rolls Royce and is seen on the arms of famous men, among them Charlie Chaplin and Rudolph Valentino.

Pola Negri, Ross Verlag, Instituto del Patrimonio Cultural de España, CC BY-NC-ND

The rise of the talkie spells disaster for many silent film stars, but Pola passes the voice test. Her gravely contralto becomes yet another asset, allowing her to break into the music business. But Hollywood is changing. Faced with ever more competitors and a paucity of good parts, in the late 1920s Pola heads back to Europe: first to England and the theatre, and later to Germany.

There she resumes her role as a movie star, but at the cost of legitimising the regime. Though she ends up leaving the Third Reich to escape a compulsory part in an anti-Polish film, her work in Nazi Germany casts a shadow over her future life in America, especially when hunted by a gossip of Hitler watching Mazurka (1935), starring his favourite actress, during bouts of insomnia.

In 1941 she packs up her life into a couple of suitcases and returns to America via Lisbon. Twenty years earlier, she arrived to a welcome worthy of a silver-screen goddess. Now she is greeted as a mere mortal, one of many emigrants quarantined on Ellis Island.

Pola’s return to the film world is brief: she showcases her comedic talent in Hi Diddle Diddle (1943) and shuts the door on her movie career as the eccentric Madame Habib in The Moon-Spinners (1964).

In 1970 she publishes a heavily-airbrushed (and self-aggrandising) memoir titled Memoirs of a Star, setting a trap for future biographers. With help from a wealthy friend, she settles down comfortably in Texas. Born a subject of the Russian tsar in Lipno, outside Warsaw, she dies an American citizen in San Antonio. Though she visited Europe after World War II, the Polish thespian never returned to her home country.

To learn more about the life and career of Pola Negri and see the movies she starred in, join the National Film Archive – Audiovisual Institute at Kino Iluzjon in Warsaw on April 19–22 for the 15th annual Silent Movie Festival. The star of this year’s edition is Pola Negri: she’ll be the focus of the festival’s main screenings and the subject of an international conference, Pola Negri and the Vicissitudes of Stardom.



Percy Grainger: shanties, folksongs and letters to Grieg

Fri, 06/04/2018 - 13:09

Percy Grainger and Nina Grieg at the piano (Bergen Library, no known rights restrictions)

This blog tells the story of how digitisation for cultural heritage institutions can bring collections of material back together again, after over a century of separation. These collections concern the Australian-born composer and pianist, Percy Grainger.

The first collection comprises the recordings of British folksongs and sea shanties that Percy Grainger made onto wax cylinder in the early twentieth century. These cylinders were transferred onto shellac by the Library of Congress and, subsequently, made their way onto the British Library Sounds website earlier this year. Finally, they were also made accessible on Europeana. You can read more about these recordings on the British Library’s blog, written by curator Andrea Zarza Canova.

The other collection comes from the Edvard Grieg Archive at the Bergen Library, Norway. This is a collection of letters from Percy Grainger – and his mother Rose – to the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg and his wife, Nina. Percy Grainger visited Grieg in 1907, shortly before Grieg’s death. In one letter, in which he addresses Grieg as “Dear Master”, he writes of his enthusiasm for folksong and other influences on his creative output.

It’s fascinating to be able to see how these two collections are inter-related, now that they can be viewed on the same website.

As Europeana Music highlights these collections, please take a look at a related gallery comprising glass negatives from Royal Museums Greenwich. These wonderfully high quality photographs show the fishing vessels and communities in the U.K. from around the same time that Percy Grainger recorded his sea shanties. Perhaps those on the trawlers sang the very same sea shanties Grainger recorded, as they sailed far out to sea.

Pictures in Focus: Migrants, then and now

Wed, 04/04/2018 - 14:08

Today, Manuele Buono, of AEDEKA srl in Italy, talks about a photograph taken on board a ship arriving at Ellis Island in the early 20th century.

The deck of a ship full of emigrants arriving at Ellis Island, 1913, Agence Rol, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Public Domain

I love this photo. It’s a striking reminder of the fact that once millions of Europeans just like me (yet not only Italians, but also Hungarians, Poles, Germans, Slavs, Scottish, Irish, Turks and many others) were on board of these ships – not an undefined mass of people from the other side of the world.

Furthermore, the ship happens to be arriving at Ellis Island: a genuine monument to migration, a symbol of generations of exiles and refugees looking for a future.

This picture makes me realise that we have forgotten – or not yet sufficiently studied – the history of migration. Because since prehistoric times, men and women from all corners of the globe have tried to preserve and improve their existence by taking up the gauntlet and abandoning their house and homeland.

Inconvenience and uncertainty didn’t make them relinquish their plans, while surely they must have been aware of the risks of such a journey – the possibly deadly turn it might even take. As a result, the contemporary European population is the product of epochal and massive migrations of people from the southeast of the Mediterranean and from the Far East.

Yet this part of history – a part that we all share – seems to be disregarded nowadays. We live in an atmosphere of increasing and widespread fear. Fear toward people arriving in most parts of Europe, escaping from hunger, misery and war. So by choosing this photograph, I was hoping to set off  a “warning light”: let us not forget the past if we want to avoid repeating the errors and disasters we’ve experienced in the last century.

Explore more Ellis Island photographs by Agence Rol.

If you want to learn more, don’t miss online exhibition: Leaving Europe: A New Life in America, available also in French.

Love across borders: the Belgian brothers who loved the same girl

Fri, 23/03/2018 - 09:00

We have recently begun collecting personal stories from people all across Europe relating to migration, following on from our successful Europeana 1914-1918 project.

Our new short blog series, Love across borders, is inspired by collections discovered during this project, with stories of romance and love at the time of World War 1. Read on to see how new connections and relationships would not have been possible without people moving across the globe!

August and Gommaire Van Dessel 2 brothers at the front, Rita, Europeana 1914-1918, CC0

August and Gommaire were two brothers from Duffel, a Belgian city near Antwerp. In 1914, August was conscripted and Gommaire, his older brother, volunteered. Both were enlisted in the fifth “linieregiment”.

At the same time, many civilians fled from Belgium to escape from the war zone. Henriette lived her mother and sisters in Antwerp when the war broke out. The family left Antwerp for the Netherlands shortly after Germany invaded Belgium. Afterwards, she managed to flee to Richmond, England with her sister and her brother-in-law. To earn her living, she worked in a munitions factory which soon deteriorated her health.

Part of the diary that the brothers kept during the years as soldiers, Rita, Europeana 1914-1918, CC0

August and Gommaire were at the same time allowed to spend their leave in England. August met Henriette on leave in England and they fell in love with each other. They stayed in contact throughout the war. All three exchanged letters afterwards, when the brothers were back on the front.  Gommaire was also interested in Henriette. Finally, Henriette decided for August, the younger brother, as evidenced by a number of letters. 

Both brother returned safely from war. Afterwards, in 1919, August and Henriette married in Antwerp. They settled near Brussels where August became a bookkeeper.

Happy ending: Henriette and August as married couple. Rita, Europeana 1914-1918, CC0.

Do you have a story to share about love across borders, or romance during World War 1? Share your stories with Europeana Migration and Europeana 1914-1918.

  • The Love across borders series was researched and written by Larissa Borck

Share your migration story with Europeana Migration

Thu, 15/03/2018 - 10:05

We all have objects and tales that tell stories of where we’ve come from and what’s shaped our lives. For many of us, that involves our family’s stories of migration and immigration.

A family with 10 children are going to emigrate, Jacq Stevens, 1955, Gooi en Vecht Historisch, Netherlands, CC BY-SA

Sharing your own personal migration history can help us to tell a really big story – the story of Europe and the people who live here. We invite you to share your story – through objects like pictures, letters, postcards or recipes – with Europeana Migration, by visiting

These objects are important parts of your heritage. Recording and digitising them is easier than you might think. Once it’s done, they will become part of the Europeana Migration Collection.

Your story is part of Europe’s rich and shared history of migration, and now it can be recorded for the future, and made freely available for anyone to discover and use for education, research, inspiration and pleasure.

Here are some of the stories that have been shared so far.

In addition to being able to contribute online, today sees the launch of our Europeana Migration Collection Days, events with partner institutions designed to engage local communities and help tell the story of Europe through migration.

Our first event of this pan-European campaign kicks off today, Thursday 15th through to Saturday 17th March, in partnership with the House of European History, in Brussels.

Throughout 2018, the European Year of Cultural Heritage, Europeana will run a series of collection days and events involving museums, libraries, archives and audiovisual collections across Europe asking people to add their personal migration stories, with material such as pictures, diaries, videos and letters, to the collection.

Further events will be held throughout 2018 in Hungary, Ireland, the Netherlands, Wales, Luxembourg, Croatia and Latvia. See here for the full list.

Artistic impressions of World War One – online exhibition Visions of War

Wed, 28/02/2018 - 14:13

Auberive 1916 –  Un puits en tranchée Alphonse Robine, Europeana 1914-1918 / Madame Nicole Robine, CC BY-SA

We are delighted to announce the launch of our new Europeana 1914-1918 exhibition: Visions of War. Using archive material from Europeana 1914-1918 and artworks held in museum collections, Visions of War examines how serving soldiers and official war artists depicted conflict on the Western Front.

The exhibition features personal artefacts and stories which people have contributed to Europeana 1914-1918. We would like to thank them and our dedicated community of partners all over Europe. We’d also like to thank the libraries and museums whose collections feature in the exhibition: the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, the Pinatkotheken, Munich, the Biliothèque national de France, Tate, Londen and the Bibliothèque Municipale de Lyon. Every image in the exhibition is credited and linked to its source. Our credits page also includes a selection of suggested further reading.

The launch of the new online exhibition kicks off the Europeana 1914-1918 Centenary Tour, a campaign to commemorate the centenary of the end of the First World War. Through a series of on and offline activities and publications, we will build further on the work of Europeana 1914-1918 since its start in 2011. Every month we will highlight a different part of the Europeana World War One collection. We start in March with a focus on Denmark and the related stories. In May the National History Museum in Athens will be hosting a Transcribathon. Keep an eye on our specially dedicated social media (Facebook and Twitter) for the latest information about activities and events. This campaign is closely linked to the European Year of Cultural Heritage.

Image from a story contributed to Europeana 1914-1918 by Pascal Soares, CC BY-SA

Pictures in Focus: Street view in Amsterdam by George Hendrik Breitner

Mon, 19/02/2018 - 11:12

Today, Pierre-Edouard Barrault, Data Ingestion Specialist at Europeana and keen photography enthusiast, talks about a striking photo taken in Amsterdam at the beginning of 20th century by the Dutch painter and photographer, Gerges Hendrik Breitner.

Street photography could well be the oldest form of photography, as the medium was initially invented to capture and study life in its purest form. The first still and moving pictures were mostly aimed toward illustrative outcomes, such as the work of the Lumière brothers  (who captured common street scenes, e.g. their employees leaving their factory), Eugène Atget (who documented Paris in the pre-Haussmannian era) or Eadweard Muybridge (who developed photographic techniques to study movement).

Capturing the intangible and elusive features of life has always been somewhat difficult to crystallize into absolute theories and definitions. Therefore, the ability of an artist to go beyond established aesthetics in order to simply demonstrate, in new and fresh manners, what life really looks like, has continuously been praised.

An impressionist painter and photographer alike, Georges Hendrik Breitner, was the creator of many powerful pictures of life in the Netherlands at the end of the 19th century. He focused on street scenes, portraits and intimate shots, often as reference material for his paintings – which earned him great acclaim. But his photographic oeuvre, beside and beyond underpinning his painting process, also set the course for future documentary photography. Beyond its artistic value, this oeuvre also serves as a very early testimony of proper street photography codes and offers a compelling vision of the laborious life of Dutch (anonymous) people at the beginning of the industrial age.

Straatgezicht op de kruising Lindengracht Lijnbaansgracht in Amsterdam, George Hendrik Breitner, ca. 1890 – ca. 1910.
Rijksmuseum, public domain

Straatgezicht op de kruising Lindengracht Lijnbaansgracht in Amsterdam (Street view of the intersection of Lindengracht Lijnbaansgracht in Amsterdam), in my view, represents all of those characteristics. First, the simplicity of the frame drags the spectator in, owing to the crossing of two strong diagonals right at the focal point of the scene: a lady, probably on her way to a next task during her working day. Despite the fact that the shot depicts other moving elements as a wall (the wagon in the background and the boy on the right), the intensity of this leading lady is striking.

Her determined gait and dismissive gaze – barely acknowledging the presence of the camera (at a time when such an apparatus was rather noticeable and still very uncommon) are enough to make this picture a compelling showcase of life: undisturbed in her daily routine, wrapped like a Greek goddess by her floating apron, this woman is called by a duty and a purpose we will never know. It’s easy to look at this image and to get reminded of our own hectic daily life. Or to get us pondering on social inequalities. All this in one picture of a street corner: that’s the magic of photography.

Enjoy more photographs by Breitner in this Europeana Photography gallery.

#ColorOurCollections and Europeana EYCH Colouring Book

Mon, 05/02/2018 - 12:14

Find your crayons. Sharpen your coloured pencils. Arrange your felt pens. #ColorOurCollections is back!

#ColorOurCollections is a week-long colouring fest on social media organized by libraries, archives, and other cultural institutions around the world. Using materials from their collections, these institutions are sharing free colouring content with the hashtag #ColorOurCollections and inviting their followers to colour and get creative with their collections.

This year, we created a European Year Of Cultural Heritage Colouring Book. It features openly licensed content from fourteen cultural institutions across Europe and shows different shapes and form of cultural heritage.

To join the activity, download the book here, have fun colouring and share your coloured pages on social media with the hashtags #ColorOurCollections and #EuropeForCulture!