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Elixirs, tonics, diets and cornflakes: peddling health during the 20th Century

Tue, 02/06/2020 - 09:02

From the very start of the 20th century, nutrition was considered as essential to well-being as physical exercise, with food being seen as a key to good health. While experts have generally agreed that the main dietary guideline should be ‘moderation in all things’, throughout the century more radical approaches resulted in a wide variety of diets. 

EXPLORE MORE: The Wellness revolution: Body culture

In America, since the 1860s, John Harvey Kellogg had been stressing the importance of a healthy diet in his Michigan sanitarium. About three decades later, while experimenting to develop a soft breakfast product, he unintentionally ended up with crispy ‘granose’ cereals, later remarketed as ‘Sanitas Toasted Corn Flakes’. The invention of Corn Flakes marked the start of a dietary rage that would go on to take Europe by storm. 

Enjoying corn flakes with friends, 1950, Oscar Norberg, Sjöhistoriska museet. Public Domain 1950s packaging of Kellogg’s cereals, Kulturen. CC BY-NC-ND Promoting fruit consumption as a source of Vitamin C, 1940s, Magyar Kereskedelmi és Vendéglátóipari Múzeum. CC BY-NC-SA

In the 1920s, doctors prescribed cigarettes to overweight patients, advising them to smoke when the urge to eat set in. In the 1960s, Robert Cameron devised an alcohol diet requiring drinks to be consumed with every meal, and, in 1975, Sanford Siegal developed a regime based on eating six cookies a day.

A popular formula that grew into a global movement is that of Weight Watchers: a variant of the 1950s ‘Prudent Diet’ based on regularity of food intake, weighing of portions and healthy food choices.

Checking progress in the diet group, 1973, Zeeuwse Bibliotheek. CC BY-NC

Inventor and New York housewife Jean Nideth added the elements of group support, a reward system for accomplishing milestones and regular weigh-in sessions to the existing dietary plan. By the end of the 1970s, Weight Watchers International Inc. had become a thriving business which was sold to the Heinz Company for 72 million dollars. 

Keeping track of progress at the Weight Watchers group, after 1975, C. de Boer, Zeeuwse bibliotheek. CC BY-NC

More questionable shortcuts to a healthy lifestyle are the pills, potions and food supplements claiming to offer an easy answer to issues of wellbeing. In the early years of the 20th century, a tapeworm in pill form was advertised as a miracle cure, allowing people to eat more while still losing weight.

Advert for “Figuroids”, claiming to be a fat reducer, 1908, Wellcome Collection. CC BY

Strychnia (commonly known as strychnine) is definitely not a sensible option, but at the beginning of the 20th century the poisonous substance was the crux of the sales pitch of this tonic promising to aid digestion.

Improve digestion with a pinch of strychnine, 1909, Wellcome Collection. CC BY

This magazine advertisement promotes Hall’s Coca Wine: a tonic wine using cocaine as an ingredient. The wine was supposed to support recovery after influenza, to aid with sleeplessness, to counteract bronchitis and anaemia, mental fatigue, exhaustion and menstrual discomfort.

Advert for Hall’s Coca Wine: The Elixir of Life, c. 1916, Wellcome Collection. CC BY

Tonic and elixir advertisements could claim – without any real proof – to relieve any range of illnesses and discomfort: from colds and chest pains to nervousness, sleeplessness, as well as  loss of appetite and ensuring a safe birth and decrease in labour pains. 

Showcard advertising Lung Tonic. 1918. Wellcome Collection, United Kingdom, CC BY. Packaging for Japanese Vigor Tonic,  J H Hart,Ross. Wellcome Collection, United Kingdom, CC BY. Bottle of Alertis Cordial, United States, 1901-1920, Wellcome Collection, United Kingdom, CC BY. Interieuraffiche ‘Elixir d’Anvers’ voor stokerij De Beukelaer, Antwerpen, 1908. Jenevermuseum Hasselt, Belgium, CC BY-NC-SA. ‘Spasmosedine’ nerve tonic, Paris, France, 1900-1950. Wellcome Collection, United Kingdom, CC BY.

As formal medicine testing and a crackdown on advertising false medical claims became more widespread, medicinal quackery slowly died out as the 20th Century progressed. 

Selling products that promise increased health is far from over, however. In the end, the adage put forward by health experts in the last century still rings true: moderation in all things, variation, and a balanced diet. 

This blog is part of a series on wellbeing in the twentieth Century. Feeling healthier already? Read on in these related blogs:

EXPLORE MORE: The Wellness revolution: Body culture

Sofie Taes for KU Leuven – Photoconsortium

This blog is part of ‘Europeana XX. A Century of Change’, a CEF-project co-funded by the European Union that focuses on the 20th century and its social, political and economic changes.

Feature image: Collage of mixed fruits and vegetables, MRI, Wellcome Collection, United Kingdom, CC BY.

The wellness revolution: body culture

Wed, 27/05/2020 - 09:58

A toned body, an agile mind and tons of energy: who wouldn’t sign up for that? A state of complete contentment – ‘eudamonia’ as the ancient Greeks called it, or ‘wellness’ as it’s been known since the 1950s – has been at the pinnacle of human aspirations for many centuries. From the early 1900s onwards, this very ambition began to spin a billion dollar industry, offering services, facilities and products to the health-conscious consumer. In this blog we revisit revolutionary 20th-century ideas to bolster physical fitness and a fit physique.


Search the internet for ‘wellness’ and 859 million sites offer to guide you to a world of bliss. Whereas the term became mainstream only in the late 20th century, the concept is as old as humanity. Thousands of years ago, Chinese traditional medicine aimed at addressing aspects of both physical and mental health. In Ancient Rome and Greece too, it was the norm for men as well as women to frequent gymnasiums and take care of their body as a prerequisite for sanity of mind.

Roman bather holding a strigil or scraper, 400-375 BCE
Wellcome Collection. CC BY Women bathing in a public gymnasium, 6th century b.c.
Wellcome Collection. CC BY

In the Middle Ages, Sephardic Jewish philosopher Moses ben Maimon – commonly known as Maimonides – explicitly championed physical activity as a means to achieve ‘genuine wholeness’, or knowledge of God. Taking care of the body was regarded as generally beneficial, but essential to spiritual development in particular.

Moses Maimonides, 1913 Ost und West : illustrierte Monatsschrift für das gesamte Judentum
Universitätsbibliothek JCS Frankfurt am Main. Public Domain

From the beginning of the 20th century onwards, going to the gym and engaging in indoors and outdoors activities gained momentum. This was partly due to a rise in people working in specialised professions, which allowed for more time to pursue healthy and rejuvenating activities The industrial revolution had brought about a more sedentary lifestyle and with it an increased awareness that this could have negative effects on the body. 

Sporty outfits for an active lifestyle, 1921, Kunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. CC BY-NC-SA Woman in a two-piece gymnastic suit, 1927, Almberg & Preinitz Fotografiateljé, Stiftelsen Nordiska museet. CC BY-NC-ND Fashion advertisement with girl in gymnastics attire, 1960-1965, Carl A. Nordin, Stiftelsen Nordiska museet. CC BY-NC-ND

With the emerging body culture, the focus on exercising grew stronger. As sports and leisure activities became more widely accessible, the veneration of those excelling in physical activity and demonstrating an exceptional physique boomed as well. Being muscular now equated to being beautiful, and beauty was considered healthy. 

Lindinger and Maurice Deriaz showcasing their muscled physique, c. 1906, Wellcome Collection, CC BY Contestants in a chest-expanding contest in London, 1929
Wellcome Collection. CC BY

Bodybuilding competitions were organized as early as 1901: the year of the ‘Great Competition’ at London’s Royal Albert Hall. The show, in which Sir Arthur Conan Doyle sat as a member of the jury, was an immense hit, with a sold out venue and disappointed, turned-down visitors as a result. The number of bodybuilders and competitions steadily rose in the next decades but exploded in the 1950s and 1960s. Bodybuilding magazines started to appear, federations and specialized organizations were established, and food supplements aiding to achieve that perfect shape were introduced to the market. 

Registration form for the Charles Atlas correspondence course in bodybuilding, 1930s
Wellcome Collection. CC BY A strong performance in the city theatre of Middelburg (The Netherlands), c. 1990, J. Wolterbeek, Zeeuwse Bibliotheek. CC BY-NC

For the less ambitious, the integration of body exercise in the office environment or a dedicated sports holiday were viable strategies to increase mobility and counter weight gain.

Gymnastics for moms, 1943, K.W. Gullers, Stiftelsen Nordiska museet. CC BY-NC-ND (00:06:45) Working out at Schloss Schielleiten; Austria’s oldest sports resort, 1936, Selenophon Licht- und Tonbild, Österreichisches Filmmuseum. Public Domain Office clerks on a healthy break, 1950s-1960s, K.W. Gullers, Stiftelsen Nordiska museet. CC BY-NC-ND Jacob’s Biscuit Factory workers at the gym, 1950-1965, Dublin City Library and Archive. CC BY-NC-ND

A new boost in the wellness industry occurred in the last quarter of the 20th century, when the baby boomer generation started to explore ways to stay active and youthful. This generated a continuous demand for new products and services: from personal trainers to superfoods and from self-massage devices to infrared sauna cabins.

This blog is the first of a series on wellbeing in the twentieth Century. Discover body culture and the emergence of fitness in this blog, and read more about 20th-century wellness trends in our blogs about nutrition and water wellness in the coming weeks!

Sofie Taes for KU Leuven – Photoconsortium

This blog is part of ‘Europeana XX. A Century of Change’, a CEF-project co-funded by the European Union that focuses on the 20th century and its social, political and economic changes.

Feature Image: Exercise is part of the regime at the Ronneby Brunn resort, early 20th century, Blekinge museum. Public Domain

Folklore shadow puppet theatre: a Greek summer holiday tradition

Tue, 26/05/2020 - 08:00

Shadow puppet theatre is a staple summer evening entertainment for many in Greece, with what’s known as Karagiozis shadow theatre a childhood favourite. 

Shadow theatre is popular in many lands – from China, India, Persia, Indochina and Asia Minor. 

It seems to have come to mainland Greece, probably from Asia Minor during Ottoman rule. As the Ottoman Empire grew, the shadow puppet theatre tradition spread, evolving and adapting according to local customs, languages and stories, becoming a favorite folklore entertainment of the diverse cultures of the Ottoman Empire, including Greeks, Jews, Albanians, Turks and Arabs. 

Within this multicultural society, shadow puppet theatre became multilingual and transnational, and was instrumental in keeping languages, folklore and cultural traditions alive.

Hungarian Karagiozis – in Flyer of the Karagöz shadow puppet theatre, Csorba Győző Könyvtár – Pécs, CC BY-NC Greek Karagiozi – Shadow Theater Figure, Melidou Kefalas Glykeria, Folklore and Ethnological Museum of Macedonia-Thrace, CC BY-NC-ND

The moral tales enacted by the puppeteers feature satirical observations about the social and political issues of the time – a form of social commentary understood by people of all classes.

The central character is Karagiozis, whose name now represents the genre.

Figure of Karagiozis Shadow Theatre, Melidou Kefalas Glykeria, Folklore and Ethnological Museum of Macedonia-Thrace, CC BY-NC-ND

Karagiozis is poor and uneducated, relying on his cunning and wit to extricate himself from precarious situations. He is a Greek folk hero for children and adults. Karaghiozis often mocks the various characters and includes them in his desperate adventures.

Although uneducated, Karaghiozis manages to bluff his way into different jobs, allowing the puppeteer to satirise prominent figures, professions and contemporary issues. 

The puppet theatre uses figures as archetypes representing the various ‘classes’ or characters of the time.

‘Hammer and sickle people’ represent the craftsmen of the city including Karagiozis himself.

Figure of Karagiozis Shadow Theatre, Melidou Kefalas Glykeria, Folklore and Ethnological Museum of Macedonia-Thrace, CC BY-NC-ND Figure of Karagiozis Shadow Theatre, Melidou Kefalas Glykeria, Folklore and Ethnological Museum of Macedonia-Thrace, CC BY-NC-ND

‘Sword people’ are represented by Veligekas, the Albanian brute who often beats Karagiozis up for no reason.

Figure of Karagiozis Shadow Theatre, Melidou Kefalas Glykeria, Folklore and Ethnological Museum of Macedonia-Thrace, CC BY-NC-ND Shadow Theatre Figure (Karagiozi), Melidou Kefalas Glykeria, Folklore and Ethnological Museum of Macedonia-Thrace, CC BY-NC-ND

‘People of the pen’ includes members of the Muslim and Christian hierarchies, clerics and diplomats, represented by Hatziyavatis, Karagiozis’ ‘frenemy’.

Figure of Karagiozis Shadow Theatre, Melidou Kefalas Glykeria, Folklore and Ethnological Museum of Macedonia-Thrace, CC BY-NC-ND Figure of Karagiozis Shadow Theatre, Melidou Kefalas Glykeria, Folklore and Ethnological Museum of Macedonia-Thrace, CC BY-NC-ND

The puppet show is usually accompanied by a singer with a small group of musicians as well as enough shouting, noise and witty dialogue keep the audience laughing.

While some scenarios and plots are familiar, the puppeteer improvises and adapts storylines according to the audience, enhancing them with impromptu wise cracks and bawdy remarks.

Scenes of Shadow Theatre, Melidou Kefalas Glykeria, Folklore and Ethnological Museum of Macedonia-Thrace, CC BY-NC-ND

The puppets are traditionally made from translucent camel or donkey skin. Worked until it is semi-transparent, the hide was cut into the desired shape with a special knife and painted with vegetable pigments.

Shadow Theatre Figure (Karagiozi), Melidou Kefalas Glykeria, Folklore and Ethnological Museum of Macedonia-Thrace, CC BY-NC-ND

The joints were made by threading strings of gut through perforations made with a needle. Some of the puppets have many joints, and are usually 35-40 centimeters high. The multiple joints allow the puppets to jiggle, dance and make gestures.

Shadow Theatre Figure (Karagiozi is a monk), Melidou Kefalas Glykeria, Folklore and Ethnological Museum of Macedonia-Thrace, CC BY-NC-ND

The puppeteer moves the puppets using detachable rods. Between the figures and the player (who was invisible), were candles or lamps that shed light to the figures and made their silhouettes visible to the audience through the cloth.

Shadow Theatre Figure (Karagiozi), Melidou Kefalas Glykeria, Folklore and Ethnological Museum of Macedonia-Thrace, CC BY-NC-ND Animal figure for the Shadow Theatre Figure (Karagiozi), Melidou Kefalas Glykeria, Folklore and Ethnological Museum of Macedonia-Thrace, CC BY-NC-ND

The hilarious movement of the characters – the innocent beatings, the strange and ragged clothing, the cunning word games and numerous linguistic mistakes – are what gave Karagiozis a special place in the hearts of Greek audiences for decades.

Scenes of Shadow Theatre, Melidou Kefalas Glykeria, Folklore and Ethnological Museum of Macedonia-Thrace, CC BY-NC-ND

EXPLORE MORE: See more Karagiozis shadow puppets

It is interesting to compare similar children theatres across Europe. In Germany, for example, in the late 18th century, in Nuremberg, a city that traditionally produced toys and had great lithography artists, Papiertheater was produced as a packed toy for children. 

The Showman, Thomas Gauguin, Museon, CC BY

Based on a kids favourite, the travelling peep-show, a series of paper cut images of figures were positioned one after the other like an accordion. The set included a printed ‘stage’ of buildings and settings and simplified scripts for the children to re-enact the story. The stories were classic fairy tales, like Sleeping Beauty or adult plays adapted for children. The key attraction was that the children themselves put the play together, assembled the stage and acted the script.

Theater & Papierfigur, Spielzeugmuseum der Stadt Nürnberg (Museum Lydia Bayer), CC BY-NC-SA Theaterzubehör, Gustav Siegert, Max Eichinger & Franz Scheiner, Spielzeugmuseum der Stadt Nürnberg (Museum Lydia Bayer), CC BY-NC-SA

Probably around the same time that shadow theatre found its way from the far east to the Balkans, 16th-century Italian commedia dell’arte legacy travelled north in Europe and found roots in localised versions. One of those were ‘Punch and Judy’, which emerged during the Restoration Period in Britain and became popular in France and other countries.

Crowd of people have gathered around a stand in the street to watch a Punch and Judy show, J. Goodyear after T. Uwins, Wellcome Collection, CC BY

The figure of Punch is derived from the Neapolitan stock character of Pulcinella, a subversive character who acts as ‘the voice of the people’, something he and Karagiozis have in common, as well as the appearance: they are both hunchback with a huge hooked nose.

In fact, Karagoz, the Turkish version of Karagiozis, is said to be the integration of Pulcinella/Punch character into Ottoman culture, alongside his European ‘cousins’,such as Kasperle in Southern Germany and Austria, Polichinelle in France and Petrushka in Russia, even though the technique differs: the former is shadow theatre whereas the latter uses puppets. 

Miniature doll box ‘Punch & Judy’, J.W. Spear & Söhne, Deventer Musea, CC BY-SA

Punch and Judy shows were traditionally marionette shows when they were brought over from Italy and intended for an adult audience, but were later reinvented in the glove puppet style to accommodate the characters’ movements without the obstruction of strings and established primarily as children’s entertainment during Victorian times.

By Elena Lagoudi, National Documentation Centre, Greece

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: Figure of Karagiozis Shadow Theatre, Melidou Kefalas Glykeria, Folklore and Ethnological Museum of Macedonia-Thrace, CC BY-NC-ND

The Traveller – story of Milorad Rajčević

Tue, 19/05/2020 - 09:47

A veil of mystery surrounds Serbian journalist and writer, Milorad Rajčević and his journey around the world at the beginning of 20th century. Rajčević was born in a small town in south Serbia at the end of 19th century. As a young man he came to Belgrade to study to be a painter and was soon presented with the opportunity to travel to Vienna. There and then he realised that instead of painting, his one and true calling was travelling. Young Rajčević made a bet with the owners of Belgrade daily Mali Journal that he would travel the world in two years on very modest resources. Very soon he started travelling across Europe as a correspondent for the Mali Journal

Milorad Rajčević, before departure, Belgrade, 1910. from the book “At the Far East” (“Na Dalekom Istoku”), p. 24, National Library of Serbia, PDM

Over a 20-year period Rajčević visited almost every continent; unfortunately Australia remained out of his reach. Everywhere he travelled, he was greeted by people there, news articles were published about him, and he even had poems written to honour him.

His adventures started in 1910, when the young globetrotter travelled from Serbia via Montenegro to Italy, and from there through the rest of Europe: Switzerland, France, England, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Sweden, Norway, and Russia. Articles about his journeys and adventures were regularly published in daily Mali Journal throughout 1911 and 1912 as a feuilleton entitled The Journey around the World. 

Rajčević on a bike, c. 1910-1912, Asia, from the book “At the Far East” (“Na Dalekom Istoku”), p.83, National Library of Serbia, PDM

In 1924, Rajčević published the first part of his travelogue to Africa, followed by a sequel in 1925 (From Torrid Africa 1 & 2). His journey to Africa began in 1922 with visits to Egypt, Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Zanzibar and even South Africa. He travelled by train, with caravans and on foot. He sailed on the Nile and went hunting for crocodiles. The deeper Rajčević travelled into the African continent, the more he was fascinated by African tribes. He wrote extensively about their customs, laws, and ways of life, which were unknown to many readers of Rajčević’s articles and books back in Serbia.

Rajčević with African royal family ; Natives and wild animals, c. 1922-1924, from the book “From Torrid Africa 1” (Iz žarke Afrike 1”), p. 142, National Library of Serbia, PDM

A travelogue about his journey to Asia and the Middle East entitled In the Far East was published in 1930, although he actually visited Asia before venturing to Africa. The book gathered stories about his adventures in Siberia, Japan, China, Thailand and India. 

Rajčević spoke five languages and knew his way about. When given the chance, he also gave lectures on a variety of topics. Handsome and charismatic, Rajčević’s was popular and welcomed by many. Most of the time Rajčević travelled alone, but he did call on famous people residing in places he visited. In 1932, he published a book of autographs he had collected from famous people he had met on his travels (Autographs of  famous people of 20th century). 

Durban: Rajčević traveling on the elephant, c. 1922-1924,  from the book “From Torrid Africa 2” (Iz žarke Afrike 2”), p. 35,  National Library of Serbia, PDM

Rajčević brought a lot of souvenirs home as proof and they were exhibited in a shop in the Belgrade city centre. His globetrotting adventures made him very popular both in Serbia and around the world. The prefaces of his books state that he also traveled through North and South America. However, since no books or newspaper articles recorded those travels, we have to take Rajčević at his word on this account. 1

Ana Stevanović, National Library of Serbia

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.

One tough cookie: the business and branding of the Verkade biscuit company

Sun, 17/05/2020 - 08:00

Windmills, cheese, clogs and coffee shops: a handful of words painting a picture of an entire country. Yet for the Dutch themselves, their most outstanding national icon might just be a crispy treat: the Verkade biscuit.

Princess Maxima and Prince Willem-Alexander featured on a Verkade tin of biscuits, 2002, Deventer musea, CC BY-SA

The Dutch baking company Verkade is not only a staple of industrial heritage but also epitomizes the hospitality and conviviality The Netherlands are known for. 

In this blog, we stroll through 135 years of sweet success, with extraordinary stories that will leave you stunned as to the innovative spirit of this food industry giant.

Baking beginnings

Founded in 1886 by Ericus Gerhardus Verkade, a former oil trader with no baking experience, the company started out as a factory producing steamed bread under the name ‘De Ruyter’ (the horseman).

Tea-time with Verkade biscuits, 1920-1930, Rijksmuseum, Public Domain

Referring to a windmill that was located at their Zaandam factory site, the horseman was used on packaging from early on and still features in the company logo today.  

Tin containing Verkade toffees illustrated with the iconic horseman, Deventer musea, CC BY-SA

With its large-scale production processes and goods targeted at a rural population, the factory received heavy resistance from artisanal local bakers, who dropped their prices even lower and sold substandard bread branded as Verkade.

As price margins were narrow to begin with and a new law in 1919 prohibited bakers from working night shifts, Verkade soon stopped its bread production line.

Cease the day

This could have been the end of the story. But a forward-looking disposition and the use of high-risk strategies saved Verkade from ruin.

Its mere existence was rooted in the industrial development of the Zaan region, which had become derelict in the 19th century. As a new canal opened up a gateway to the sea and thus international trade, Ericus Verkade saw the low capacity of artisanal bakers as a unique business opportunity and ventured the gamble.

Zaandam seen from the water, 1830-1880, Zuiderzeemuseum, CC BY-SA Overview of Verkade factories, Het Zuiden Fotopersbureau, Stadsarchief ‘s-Hertogenbosch, CC BY-SA

Next, he rose to the occasion of conquering a very different market. His son-in-law Morris Fowler sold him a patent for ‘waxine’ – a brand that would soon became synonymous with tealight candles. In 1898 Verkade became the first producer of waxine lights in the Netherlands. Only in 1991 was this part of the company sold to a specialised manufacturer.

Verkade waxine lights in original box, 1939, Museum Rotterdam, CC BY

In the meantime, Verkade had turned another opportunity into a blooming business.

Making use of the heat left in the oven after baking bread, he started producing biscuit rusk. World War I only enhanced Verkade’s entrepreneurial vigour and the factory’s focus on crispy bakes. As the import of English biscuits was no longer allowed, Verkade’s revenue between 1913 and 1918 jumped from 132,000 guilders to almost a million and a half.

Box with paper wrapper for Verkade rusk, Deventer Musea, CC BY-SA Tin for Verkade Rondo biscuits, Deventer Musea, CC BY-SA

EXPLORE MORE: The industrialisation of World War I

Yet by the end of the war, supplies of yeast and flower grew thin.

Now led by Ericus Verkade Jr., the company started focusing on ‘suikerwerk’ (confectionary) as sugar stocks were still high. Out of this activity a lucrative business branch producing toffees and chocolates arose, resulting in the construction of a new factory with state-of-the-art machinery in 1937 and a quadrupling of revenue in the next three years.

Verkade assorted toffee tin, Deventer Musea, CC BY-SA Tin for Verkade chocolates, Deventer Musea, CC BY-SA

EXPLORE MORE: Gallery of vintage chocolate advertising

After having gained the epithet ‘Koninklijk’ (Royal) in 1950, Verkade continued its streak of success throughout the 1960s, among others introducing Knäckebröd to the Dutch market and supplying the government with ’emergency biscuits’ to be distributed in case of war.

In the wake of the Cold War, many people bought their own tins of life-saving cookies, supposed to last for a couple of years. To this day, untouched packages are still being found in attics and cellars across the Netherlands.

Building a brand

Apart from venturing risks with regards to production processes and capacity building, Verkade’s success owes a lot to its dauntless marketing strategy.

As a pioneering example of guerilla advertising, the company employed a dedicated designer as early as 1923. Cornelis Dekker would go on to head the advertising department for 30 years and developed many of its iconic packings, often featuring blushing children with a cookie at hand: an image imprinted in the minds of many generations of Dutch people.

Tin with smiling girl, Deventer musea, CC BY-SA Verkade tin with image of Amsterdam, Deventer Musea, CC BY-SA Verkade tin with mosaic image, Deventer Musea, CC BY-SA

Yet it didn’t stop with colourful campaigns, clever imagery and catchy slogans. The Verkade brand was promoted via a wide range of merchandising, mostly directed towards children. 

Construct your own cardboard house with Verkade, Deventer musea, CC BY-SA Kit for creating a smurf house, featuring the Verkade brand, Deventer musea, CC BY-SA Verkade toy truck, Deventer musea, CC BY-SA

A board game was launched at the occasion of the 1934 MacRobertson International Air Race from England to Australia. The game was dedicated to the victorious Dutch team, flying a KLM Royal Dutch Airlines DC-2, that came second in the race but won the handicap prize for best performance.

Verkade’s Melbourne race game, 1935, Deventer musea, CC BY-SA

EXPLORE MORE: Dutch branding with 100 years of airline KLM

Sticker albums were Verkade’s most successful marketing idea. Books about nature, landscapes and fairy tale figures could be completed with stickers found in Verkade products. Even today, the 30 albums produced between 1903 and 1940 and the 5 volumes issued after 1965 are collectors’ items.

Stickers for albums on Friesland, fairy tales, pot plants etc, Deventer musea, CC BY-SA Sticker album ‘The flower and her friends’, 1934, Museum Rotterdam, CC BY Album ‘Blonde dunes’, 1910, Museon, CC BY Two women and three toddlers, of which one is holding one of the first Verkade sticker albums, 1903-1905, Rijksmuseum, Public Domain Verkade Girls

The ‘Verkade girls’ form a distinct and unique part of its history.

As early as 1891, six young women were employed by the Zaandam factory to clean the company trucks. From 1900 onwards, their number rapidly increased – to quickly surpass that of male workers – and their duties shifted to the production halls, where their fine fingers and gentle hands were regarded as highly beneficial for sorting, packaging, dipping biscuits in chocolate or unpicking cherry stalks.

Unfortunately, the women’s wages were lower than men’s, so the company would have also had a monetary benefit from higher female employment.

Verkade girls in the packaging department, 1958, Stadsarchief ‘s-Hertogenbosch, CC BY-SA

Still, at the time, it was highly unusual for companies to employ women as they were expected to focus on family, and in turn would have been wary of getting compromised in a predominantly male environment.

Verkade made maximum efforts to alleviate those concerns. Male and female workers had separate canteens (the female one boasting fine porcelain plates and luxurious cutlery), used different flights of stairs, and even travelled to the factory in separate train compartments.

The company also offered perks to make up for the harsh working circumstances and monotonous production processes. During summer, Verkade girls could enjoy breaks in a garden with swings and carousels. A drumming band provided musical distraction, while cooking courses, sewing lessons and childcare facilities made for a better work/life balance.

Staff of Verkade on a staff outing, Het Zuiden Fotopersbureau, Stadsarchief ‘s-Hertogenbosch, CC BY-SA

With its female-friendly policy, Verkade lived up to the high expectations provoked by its recruitment motto: ‘Girls, come and join the Verkade workforce. And please: bring your mother!’.

Enjoying the brand-new company canteen, 1958, Stadsarchief ‘s-Hertogenbosch, CC BY-SA

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

The Verkade girls continue to be an icon of Dutch culinary culture and industrial heritage.  

If this doughy adventure has whet your appetite, you can discover much more by visiting the Verkade Experience on your next trip to the Netherlands.

EXPLORE MORE: Stories of working lives and industrial heritage

By Sofie Taes, KU Leuven

Feature image: Verkade biscuit tin, Deventer Musea, CC BY-SA

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

Heroes of their time: 5 firsts in Eurovision Song Contest history

Thu, 14/05/2020 - 08:00

The Eurovision Song Contest has been entertaining audiences across Europe for more than 60 years.

The first Eurovision Song Contest was held in 1956. Since then, much has changed: many more countries taking part, new rules, new voting systems, bigger stages and more shows with two semi-finals.

This blog looks at some Eurovision Song Contest firsts, with stories from across the decades Eurovision has taken place.

And while the Contest has been cancelled for the first time ever in 2020, we hope this blog helps you relive and enjoy Eurovision memories.

Jetty Paerl: the first Eurovision singer

Dutch singer Jetty Paerl was the first singer on stage at the Eurovision Song Contest. When she stepped onto the stage, she probably didn’t know the history she was making.

Postcard with close-up portrait of Jettie Paerl, Meijboom, National Library of the Netherlands, In copyright

The Eurovision Song Contest in 1956 was a much smaller event than it is now. It was mainly a show for radio, though was filmed for those who owned televisions. Only 7 countries took part, compared to more than 40 these days.

The Contest had come about as a way to improve and showcase new radio and telecommunications technologies. Inspired by the Italian San Remo song competition, the idea was that friendly competition between countries, broadcasters and artists would help to heal wounds and bring together a continent that just over a decade previously had been torn apart by war.

That war had played a large role in Jetty Paerl’s life.

Born in 1921 in Amsterdam, by 1956, she was a popular singer. At the outbreak of World War II, she escaped to the United Kingdom where she volunteered with the Dutch army’s Voluntary Women’s Auxiliary Corps.

In London, she became involved with Radio Oranje, which broadcast news and entertainment shows from London to the Netherlands, then occupied by Nazi Germany. After the war, it emerged that many of her Jewish family in Amsterdam had not survived the war.

Hier is London, Museon, CC BY Listeners to the radio in the war years, Heritage Rijssen-Holten, In copyright

EXPLORE MORE: This short film shows a post-war event celebrating Radio Oranje

During her wartime broadcasts, she became known as Jetty from Radio Oranje, a name that stayed with her into the 1950s when she performed regularly on the radio. 

Jetty Paerl in Eurovisie Dokumentaire, TROS, Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, In copyright

Her Eurovision song – De Vogels Van Holland (The Birds of Holland) – was written by Annie M.G. Schmidt, a well-known Dutch author. 

In 1956, each country sent two songs to the Contest. The singer of the second tune from the Netherlands was Corry Brokken. The following year, she went on to win the Contest, held in Frankfurt, with the song Net Als Toen

De Corry Brokken Show, Frans van Geelen, Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, In copyright

Another difference with the 1956 Eurovision is that we only know the winner – the other positions were not announced. Switzerland took the prize, the song Refrain was sung by Lys Assia – the first Eurovision winner.

Lys Assia, United Archives / Roba Archiv, In copyright Anneke Grönloh: Eurovision’s first Asian performer

Two singers from the Netherlands – who were due to host the 2020 Eurovision Song Contest in Rotterdam – were the first Asian and Black performers in Eurovision.

Dutch singer Anneke Grönloh was the first Asian performer to take part in the Contest. Grönloh, who was born in Indonesia, moved to the Netherlands with her family after World War II. Her singing career started in the late 1950s, having won a talent competition. 

Anneke Grönloh, Nederlands Pop Instituut, National Library of the Netherlands, In copyright Anneke Grönloh sings at Nationaal Songfestival 1964, F.N. Broers / Anefo, Nationaal Archief, Netherlands, CC0

She represented the Netherlands in the 1964 Eurovision Song Contest. Her song Jij bent mijn leven (You are my life) placed joint 10th with the Belgian entry.

Milly Scott: the first black performer in Eurovision

Two years later, Milly Scott was the first black singer to perform in Eurovision. 

Milly Scott (De Mounties Show), AVRO, National Library of the Netherlands, In copyright

Born in 1933 in the Netherlands with Surinamese heritage, by the 1960s Scott had built a successful jazz career. In 1965, she had her own TV show which led to her taking part in Eurovision the following year. 

Nationaal Songfestival 1966, Milly Scott with ‘Fernando en Filippo’, Eric Koch / Anefo, Nationaal Archief, Netherlands, CC0

She took part in the 1966 Contest in Luxembourg with her song Fernando en Filippo which placed 15th (out of 18 entries). 

EXPLORE MORE: Browse this gallery of Eurovision Song Contest performers

Great Garlic Girls: Eurovision’s first drag performer

Today, Eurovision is known for being celebrated by LGBTQ audiences. Through the 2000s and beyond, an increasing number of drag performers took part in Eurovision (including Slovenia in 2002, Denmark in 2007) with Conchita Wurst winning the Contest in 2014.

But this was not always the case. The first drag performer on stage in Eurovision was in 1986. Jonny Nymoen, a performer from the troupe ‘Great Garlic Girls‘, was a backing dancer for Norway’s entry Romeo sung by Ketil Stokkan.

Ketil Stokkan, 1986, Bo Mathisen, The National Archives of Norway, In copyright / No known copyright restrictions Anita Notaro: the first woman to direct Eurovision

Irish television director Anita Notaro was the first woman to direct the Eurovision Song Contest.

Following Ireland’s win in 1992, Eurovision came to a small town in County Cork called Millstreet. Millstreet’s population was around 1,500 making it the smallest town or city to host Eurovision, which was held in an equestrian arena.

The outside broadcast for this show was a massive undertaking – with Notaro at the helm. This news report shows some behind-the-scenes footage, including an interview with Notaro.

Eurovision Comes to Millstreet, RTE, In copyright via EUscreen

In the report, she mentions her two nightmares – something going wrong in the voting and Ireland winning again. Spoiler: Ireland did win again in 1993, and again in 1994 – the first (and, to date, only) time a country won the Contest three times in a row.

EXPLORE MORE: Films from behind-the-scenes at the Eurovision Song Contest in our blog.

By Adrian Murphy, Europeana Foundation

Feature image: Eurovision Song Contest 1974, BBC | EUScreen, In copyright

Behind the Scenes at the Eurovision Song Contest

Wed, 13/05/2020 - 08:00

For most of us, the Eurovision Song Contest is a show we tune into once a year, one Saturday in May. But the Contest is much more than that.

During the week preceeding that Saturday, two semi-final shows are broadcast (on the Tuesday and Thursday). Two weeks of rehearsals take place beforehand. Eurovision host cities often stage concerts, special events and other celebrations to mark the occasion. Preparations for the show start nearly a year in advance – not least selecting the songs and singers, which usually takes place in the early months of spring.

For some fans, Eurovision is all year round. With films and photographs from cultural heritage instutitions across Europe, let’s go backstage at the Eurovision Song Contest.

Ireland hosts for the first time

Following their win in 1970, Ireland hosted the Eurovision Song Contest for the first time in 1971. This film reports from behind-the-scenes the day before the Contest.

Preparations for 1st Eurovision in Ireland, 1971, RTÉ, In copyright via EUscreen | Europeana
Meet the jury

Juries are an important part of the Eurovision Song Contest.

Nowadays, juries are made of 5 people with music industry experience, whose votes are combined with those of us at home. Previously, juries have been made up of a mix of professionals and music fans.

This report from Belgian broadcaster RTBF shows how the Belgian jury vote was arranged for the 1976 Eurovision Song Contest.

Watch this video by clicking this link

Winners interviewed

In 1965, France Gall won the Eurovision Song Contest for Luxembourg. Her song Poupée de cire, poupée de son was composed by renowned French songwriter Serge Gainsbourg and Alain Goraguer.

In this interview, all three speak about their victory in Naples.

France GALL, Serge GAINSBOURG et Alain GORAGUER à propos du Grand Prix de l’Eurovision, 1965, Institut National de l’Audiovisuel, In copyright via Europeana

EXPLORE MORE: Gallery of performers from the Eurovision Song Contest

Ireland’s 3rd victory

This report from behind the scenes of Eurovision 1987 focuses on Ireland, but includes some interesting facts such as that year being the first to include sponsorship to help with the costs of staging the show.

It also includes a humourous look at the UK and Irish delegations who include people with the surnames Wogan, Gogan, Logan, Grogan and Hogan.

Ireland’s 3rd Eurovision Win, 1987, RTÉ, In copyright via EUscreen | Europeana

EXPLORE MORE: Another behind the scenes report from Eurovision 1987 in Brussels

New countries joining

In the early 1990s, in the wake of the fall of the Iron Curtain and the dissolution of Yugoslavia, many countries wanted to compete in Eurovision for the first time. To keep the final to the three-hour timeframe, a pre-qualifying show was held in which 8 countries competed for three places in the final.

Performers from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Estonia, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia took part in the show in April 1993, which was staged in Ljubljana.

This report includes rehearsal footage and interviews with performers from the show.

TV JOURNAL 3 01/04/1993, RTVSLO, In copyright via EUscreen | Europeana
Song Festival

In 2010, Norway’s capital city Oslo hosted Eurovision. These photographs show that Eurovision is not just the television show most see, but a festival for those lucky enough to be in the audience.

Eurovision Song Contest 2010 – Melodi Grand Prix, Kirsten Linde, Akershusbasen, In copyright Eurovision Song Contest 2010 – Melodi Grand Prix, Kirsten Linde, Akershusbasen, In copyright

EXPLORE MORE: See more Eurovision 2010 Oslo photographs

By Adrian Murphy, Europeana Foundation

This blog post is a part of the Europeana Media project, increasing the appeal, visibility, reuse, research and interaction with Europe’s audio-visual heritage.

Feature image: Songfestival, C. de Boer, Zeeuwse Bibliotheek, CC BY-NC

The confinements of Napoleon

Tue, 05/05/2020 - 08:00

An eagle flies from island to island, as far as the arid hilltops of Saint Helena. Throughout his life, Napoleon often found himself rather isolated – both physically and socially. 


Born in Corsica in 1769, and having left by the age of ten for France, Napoleon returned during its revolution in 1786. He attempted to rally Corsica against France, during a sort of failed rebellion, which led him to feel alone and isolated in his own country. He then fled the island for Paris, returning to the France he hated. 

Door of the Brienne college, 1780, August -Jacques Régnier, Bibliothèque nationale de France, No copyright- other known legal restrictions Autun and Brienne

In January 1779, Napoleon was sent to Autun to begin his education. In school, he had to learn French. Only speaking Corsican, he was the victim of xenophobia. His comrades ridiculed this barely French boy who, along with his brother Joseph, shared few of their habits.

He entered Brienne in May 1779 to start his military training, which did not improve his situation. At that time, Napoleon was fiercely a Corsican nationalist. In his correspondence to his father, he asked for  ’An Account of Corsica’ by Boswell. He planned to write his own account of the island, and continued to blame the French for the submission of his homeland. 

Portrait of Emperor Napoleon I, 1805 – 1815, Rijksmuseum, public domain Paris

Before entering the seat of power in 1804, Napoleon saw Paris as the capital of his pain. The distance that cut him off from his family and his homeland obsessed the young Bonaparte.

Paris embodied, as the philosopher Emil Cioran liked to quote, ‘a coat made of lead’ which deprived Napoleon of the simple and bourgeois life he dreamed of during times of crisis, while knowing full well that this type of existence wouldn’t suit him. 

Napoleon’s arrival at Elba, 1814, Rijksmuseum, public domain
Elba Island

On 4 May 1814, Napoleon, exiled by allied powers, landed in Porto-Ferrajo on the Island of Elba.

He was devastated by the death of his ex-wife Josephine on 29 May, the wait for his wife Marie-Louise and their son, who never came, then the very brief visit of Princess Walewska, his mistress, and their son. 

In addition, his presence, a few kilometres from Italy and France, particularly worried the English and Louis XVIII, who considered exiling Napoleon to a small island in the Atlantic to prevent him returning to power.  

Deportation of Napoleon to Saint Helena,1815, Rijksmuseum, public domain
Saint Helena

During the journey from France to Saint Helena, on board two ships, Bellerophon and Northumberland, Napoleon started working on his journal The Memorial with author Emmanuel, comte de Las Cases. This would become a reference to his exile on Saint Helena. 

The emperor’s last home was also his longest and most painful confinement (16 October 1815 – 5 May 1821, date of his death). By the end of his life, he was a fallen Napoleon, weakened by illness and unable to get up from his bed. He spent hours reading and sleeping, and was slowly running out of breath. Never had an exile and confinement become so legendary.

Saint Helena represented the necessary distance that enabled Napoleon to have an air of mystery and suffering that raised him to the level of a god. 

Written by Kévin Petroni and Destination Napoleon, Cultural Route of the Council of Europe

Feature image: Napoleon’s life stages, 1814, Rijksmuseum, public domain

To my Friend, who, on the Stormy Seas, will expose himself to Dangers – the album amicorum of Marcus Wels

Wed, 29/04/2020 - 08:14

Between 1819 and 1844 Dutch navy officer Marcus Wels (1794-1865) took his album amicorum, or autograph book, with him on his travels overseas. The album is now in the possession of the Koninklijke Bibliotheek in The Hague. It gives us an insight into the dynamic life of a naval officer at the beginning of the 19th century.

It is the 5th of February, 1831. A shrill, cold north-westerly wind is blowing over the river Scheldt near Antwerp and commanding officer Jan van Speijk has trouble maneuvering his ship away from the shore. Van Speijk has been stationed in the harbor of Antwerp since September 1830 with his gun-boat Zr. Ms. No. 2, fighting revolutionaries who want to separate Belgium from the recently unified United Kingdom of the Netherlands. Van Speijk cannot prevent his ship from being blown against the embankment and Belgian rebels jump aboard. In the gunpowder room of his ship, he signs his own death warrant and that of his crew, by lighting a burning cigar to a fuse and blowing up the whole ship.

Front cover of KW 1900 A 068, the album amicorum of Marcus Wels,
Koninklijke Bibliotheek, CC0

    Not far from the disastrous scene lieutenant Marcus Wels (1794-1865) is sailing on board the frigate Zr. Mrs. Euridice, a small battleship of the Dutch navy. Like the Zr. Ms. No. 2, The Euridice is part of the Dutch war fleet in Antwerp from 1830-1831.

The self-sacrifice of Van Speijk in the harbor of Antwerp caused great admiration in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. As a commanding officer, Jan van Speijk already had a fierce reputation before his illustrious death. It is therefore no surprise that his name can be found in the album amicorum of Marcus Wels.

Wels started to collect signatures when he was 25 years old and at the beginning of his career as a naval officer. He took his album on his sea voyages and many of his colleagues wrote a contribution in the booklet.

The curious contribution of Van Speijk in the album amicorum by Marcus Wels not only stands out because of his reputation but also because of the lack of any text, date or place. Van Speijk only inscribed the page with the text ‘Uwe Gehoorzame Dienaar J.C.J. van Speijk ‘[Your Faithful Servant, J.C.J. van Speijk].

Fol. 16r by J.C.J. van Speijk, undated, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, CC0

Didn’t the impatient Jan van Speijk have the time or inclination to write a personal contribution for a colleague? Did he want to avoid the chore by quickly writing his signature? Or was this scribble the start and was he planning to add text later?

None of the above. If one investigates the paper and the signature closely, one notices that the contribution of Van Speijk has been written on different paper, paper which was mostly used for letter writing. In all likelihood, Marcus Wels managed to get his hands on a message Van Speijk had sent to the frigate Zr. Mrs. Euridice. Sometime after the heroic death of Van Speijk, Wels decided to cut out his signature and add Van Speijk’s illustrious name to his own album amicorum. The paper even has the folds which indicate its former use as a letter. This would also explain the lack of a personal contribution. Because of his celebrity status, Van Speijk’s personal effects were much sought after and Marcus Wels’ album suddenly became a treasured possession.

It is more than likely that Marcus Wels showed his album amicorum to his family and told stories about his life as a naval officer and his adventurous trips to Suriname and the Mediterranean. One can image that the sheet of paper with the signature of Jan van Speijk gave rise to an epic story about that stubborn patriotic commander in the harbor of Antwerp in 1830. It remains unclear, however, if Marcus Wels actually knew or ever met Jan van Speijk personally.

Gerline Sonneveld
KB | 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: a page from an album of Marcus Wels with an illustration of a two-master at sea, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, CC0

Flowers to fight diseases: how Beda Hallberg battled a pandemic with Mayflowers

Tue, 28/04/2020 - 08:00

How can you encourage people to donate money for a good cause? At the beginning of the 20th century, Beda Hallberg, a young Swedish woman, struggled with exactly this question. She wanted to raise funds for people suffering from tuberculosis – a small paper flower was the answer to her question.

The first time Mayflowers were sold in Uddevalla, Sweden, 1908, Bohusläns museum, Public Domain Spreading diseases

Tuberculosis is a severe infectious disease that mostly affects the lungs. In the 19th and early 20th century, it was a widespread disease in Europe, especially among poorer people in urban areas.

After the Industrial Revolution, growing industries and the need for workers in factories led to mass migration to cities. Populations in cities and other centres of industrial production expanded, leading to catastrophic housing conditions for workers and their families. With many people living in small apartments or in the same rooms, it was difficult to prevent diseases from spreading. Tuberculosis thus led to 1 in 4 deaths in 19th century Europe.

Les Blessés de la Tuberculose, Comité Central d’Assistance aux Militaires Tuberculeux, Auguste Roll, The Royal Library: The National Library of Denmark and Copenhagen University Library, CC BY-NC-ND

Throughout Europe, different organisations and groups started to campaign against the spread of tuberculosis and in support of the urban poor. In Sweden, private initiatives first raised funds to send people to sanatoria and raise awareness around how to limit the spread of the disease.

Beda Hallberg at the 30th anniversary of the mayflower campaign in 1937. Via Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain. Beda Hallberg

Beda Hallberg was an active member of Gothenburg’s charity movement.

Born in 1869, she was the youngest daughter of a captain and a farmer’s daughter. Her father left the family one year after her birth to emigrate to the US. Her mother and her four siblings lived in really simple conditions. Nevertheless, her mother tried to help poor and ill neighbours. 

From the age of 12 on, Beda lived with her aunt in Gothenburg, where she later married a tobacco dealer in 1888. From the 1890s on, she volunteered for an organisation that took care of the poor in Gothenburg and visited families in their homes – where tuberculosis was a wide-spread issue. She realised soon that more money was needed to help them – and that traditional ways to raise funds – such as bazaars – were not enough.

The Sick Child, Edvard Munch, 1894, Finnish National Gallery, CC0

In 1906, her daughter Margot came home with a little paper badge commemorating Gustavus Adolphus Day. That gave Beda the idea of selling small paper flower pins in exchange for a donation towards people suffering from tuberculosis in Gothenburg. 

She founded a committee including Frigga Carlberg, a feminist social worker and writer, as well as the municipal physician K. J. Gezelius. Despite others doubting her idea, she ordered 100,000 blue-coloured paper flower pins and decided to sell them for 10 Öre each (around 50 cent today), so that nearly everyone could afford to buy one.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the campaign in 2007, a replica of the first flower was designed and sold. Majblomma. Nordiska museet, CC BY-NC-ND

Her campaign became a tremendous success. Around 139,000 Mayflowers were sold on the 1 May 1907 in Gothenburg – exceeding even Beda’s expectations.

A local newspaper wrote the following: 

‘The blue flower has won. The whole city celebrates it. You see it everywhere, wherever you come, on lapels and coats, scarves and shawls. Businessmen, civil servants, workers, old men and children, tram conductors, police officers, kayakers, drivers – they all carry the flower and feel that everyone is happy to be involved. It is the ideal of ideas: simple, enthusiastic and poignant.’

Mayflowers, Bohusläns museum, CC BY-NC-ND International aid

Other countries soon became interested in Beda Hallberg’s initiative. 

Just two years later, Mayflowers had spread to all Nordic countries, and later to the Netherlands, Belgium, Russia, Germany, England and France. Even Algeria, Cuba, the USA and India started selling Mayflowers to support the fight against tuberculosis.

A woman selling Mayflowers in Riga, 1912, Latvijas Nacionālā bibliotēka, CC BY Women selling flowers against tuberculosis in the Netherlands, 1924, Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, Public Domain

Children were at the focus of Beda Hallberg’s work. 

From her visits to families’ homes, she knew that children were especially at risk to infect with tuberculosis and become severely ill. The money she raised with the campaign was hence used to send children to sanatoria and summer camps to protect them from the spread. 

Building on her friendship with the founder of the Swedish scout movement, Ebbe Lieberath, she involved schoolchildren in selling the flowers, raising also their awareness for the conditions of poorer children.

Förstamajblomman, 1910, Finnish Heritage Agency, CC BY Mayflower memories

Helene, who was born in Finland in 1941 and emigrated to Germany later in her life, shares her memories of selling Mayflowers during her childhood:

‘On the First of May, the scouts always had a parade all the way to the Cathedral. We had to wear the scout uniform all week, both when we were in school and when we sold the Mayflowers. And we had to sell at least ten – I always tried to sell them to my family and relatives. Later, I was always happy to have Mayflowers.’ 

Her granddaughter Flora, who grew up in Germany, received Mayflowers from relatives in Finland and recalls: ‘Mayflowers have an almost identity-establishing effect on me: wearing one abroad reminds me of this tradition of solidarity even outside of Finland’.

A man and a woman on a park bench, the man has three blue Mayflowers on his lapel, Nordiska museet, CC BY-NC-ND Mayflowers today

With the rise of vaccines and treatments and a rise in living quality in the second half of the 20th century, cases of tuberculosis decreased rapidly. In most countries, Mayflower initiatives disappeared.

Only the Nordic countries and Estonia still hold the tradition of selling and wearing Mayflowers dear. Today, the raised money is donated to poorer families and children in need.

Advertisement for the Swedish National Association against Tuberculoss, 1944. Beda Hallberg on the right. Reklammärke, Malmö museer, CC BY

Beda Hallberg was awarded the Illis quorum medal and the Order of Vasa by the Swedish king in 1914 and 1931. She became the chairwoman of the Swedish National Association against Tuberculosis in 1919 and travelled through the US for five months in 1931 to promote Mayflowers among Swedish emigrants.

She died in 1945, having become internationally known for her charity work. 

By Larissa Borck, Swedish National Heritage Board

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: Försäljning av majblommor på Coopmans backe, Karlskrona, 1910, Blekinge museum, Public Domain

#MuseumJigsaw – puzzle over beautiful artworks

Fri, 24/04/2020 - 08:00

The first jigsaw puzzle was invented around 1760 by John Spilsbury, an engraver and cartographer from London. Early versions of jigsaw puzzles were used as educational tools to teach cartography.

Today, the jigsaw puzzle has millions of fans of all ages. Are you one of them? Have fun with our cultural heritage puzzles and discover beautiful artworks when you complete them.

Map Master

Let’s start with the original idea and purpose of a jigsaw puzzle – can you put together this vintage world map?

Flower power

The ultimate challenge facing a 17th-century still-life painter was to render various materials in a convincing fashion. Did Abraham Mignon who painted these flowers do a good job? Complete the puzzle and tell us what you think.

A room full of art

This room is filled with paintings that are all of existing Flemish, German and Italian works of art. Do the puzzle and see them all!

Fairies of the Meadow

These meadow fairies represent spring. In the background – a romantic landscape at twilight. A beautiful image, a difficult puzzle.

Artist at work

A vase painter at work. Solve the puzzle to enjoy all the details of her studio, and her pretty red dress.

In the mood for more puzzles and art? See if you can spot the 8 differences in these paintings.

By Aleksandra Strzelichowska, Europeana Foundation

Endpapers: beautiful patterns and illustrations inside book covers

Thu, 23/04/2020 - 08:00

Have you ever opened up a book and discovered that the inside of the cover had a beautiful illustration, colour or pattern?

The double sheet of paper partly glued to the inside of the cover of a book is called an endpaper – the first and last sheets of paper in a book, dividing text from cover. 

Historically, endpapers were often simply blank pieces of scrap paper, parchment or vellum that were used to keep the text safe from wear and tear. They might contain a bookplate showing ownership, or some scribbles where someone had tested a newly cut pen. 

Expositiones sive declarationes admodum necessarie ac perutiles […].S Brant, 1490. University of Vienna, Austria, CC BY-NC. 

Decorated endpapers became popular from the 18th century, inspired by paper marbling techniques originating in the Middle East and Asia.

Marbling made the endpaper more than just a practical solution in bookbinding, but a place for beauty and art. Paper can be marbled using a variety of different techniques and styles. The result is always completely unique, no two marbled papers will ever be exactly the same. 

Caroli Linnaei Systema, genera, species plantarum uno volumine […].Linné, Carl von, 1840. Smithsonian Libraries, United States, Public Domain. 

Paper marbling is achieved by putting paper on top of patterened paint sitting on the surface of water.

Even though every piece of marbled paper is different, some simple patterns were very popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, acting as starting points for more intricate and unique designs.

A nonpareil pattern (nonpareil is French for ‘without equal) is one of the basic patterns in paper marbling. It is made by using a comb-like implement to pull streaks across the marbling paint.

Etude & amitié. Société philomathique de Paris … 1890, Smithsonian Libraries, United States, Public Domain

The Turkish pattern, or ‘stone’ pattern, is one of the most used basic patterns in marbling. Bristles or a brush are used to sprinkle different colours of paint down on the surface of the water.

The different colours push each other away, creating a swirled, earthy look.

The palm tree / by S. Moody ; with illustrations by the author.1864. NCSU Libraries, United States, Public domain.

The ‘Italian pattern’ was most-likely named as it resembles the patterns found in real Italian marble. 

Monumenta Vaticana historiam ecclesiasticam saeculi XVI illustrantia : Ex tabulariis sanctae sedis apostolicae secretis, Hugo Laemmer, 1861. Austrian National Library, Austria, NoC-OKLR

While printing technology advanced throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, endpapers became more lavishly decorated with different kinds of patterns and illustrations.

Marbled paper increasingly became machine-made, with other types of illustrations – such as floral or geometric patterns – began appearing on endpapers.

Gesammelte werke von Alexander von Humboldt. 1889, University of California Libraries, Public Domain.  The garden’s story : for pleasures and trials of an amateur gardener / by George H. ELlwanger, 1889. University of California Libraries, United States, Public Domain The saddle-horse : a complete guide for riding and training. Orange Judd Company, 1881. University of Pennsylvania libraries, United States, Public Domain.

Endpapers are also a good place to put maps. They can cover two full pages at once, or even folding out to show things on a larger scale.

Farthest north; being the record of a voyage of exploration of the ship “Fram” 1893-96, and of a fifteen months’ sleigh journey by Dr. Nansen and Lieut. Johansen, 1897, Smithsonian Libraries, United States, Public Domain

Marbling paper is an easy and fun activity to do at home, so if you feel creative you can go look up one of the many tutorials online on how to marble paper!

Art – Goût – Beauté, Feuillets de l’ élégance féminine, Juin 1929, No. 106, 9e Année, p.1 Rijksmuseum, the Netherlands, Public Domain Art – Goût – Beauté, Feuillets de l’ élégance féminine, Novembre 1928, No. 99, 9e Année, schutblad. Rijksmuseum, the Netherlands, Public Domain.

EXPLORE MORE: Browse a gallery of endpapers

With repetitive patterns, embossing and gilding, marbled paper is just one of the myriad ways to decorate endpapers today. However, generally, Books printed today make less use of endpapers.

Now and then, you’ll open up a book and be pleasantly surprised by the decoration of its endpapers. 

By Jolan Wuyts, Europeana Foundation

Feature image: Endpapers with marbling effect. In Volume 3 of ‘The naturalists’ miscellany…’ by George Shaw, 1813, Wellcome Collection, CC BY

Green through time: Four historical figures who raised awareness of the environment

Wed, 22/04/2020 - 08:00

Environmental awareness is nothing new. A 2018 Greenpeace article on the history of environmentalism mentions that the first human recording of ecological awareness appears 5,000 years ago. An ancient city around that time in modern day Pakistan called Mohenjo Daro, was known to practice waste management and already recognised the effects of pollution on health. 

Figures throughout history have reacted to the negative changes in their environment – this blog introduces some of them.

Hippocrates Bust of Hippocrates, Wellcome Collection, United Kingdom, CC BY

Hippocrate’s book Air, Waters, and Places is said to be the earliest known surviving European work on human ecology.

In a period when people thought sickness was caused by gods, Greek physician Hippocrates (460 – c. 370 BC) became one of the most remarkable figures of the history of medicine. He detailed that people’s health was affected by not only what they consumed, but also the environment in which they lived.

John Elevyn John Evelyn, Wellcome Collection, United Kingdom, CC BY

John Elevyn (1620-1702) was an English writer and gardener.

In 1661, he published Fumifugium a letter addressed to King Charles II, which outlined the effects of air pollution caused by sea-coal burning. Said to be one of the earliest known works on air pollution, it discusses problems with London’s air dating as far back as medieval times.

He proposed planting large gardens to further improve air quality. He also recommended moving industries known for causing high levels of pollution – such as fabric dying, soap, salt and brewing – to areas outside the city of London.  

George Catlin George Catlin (1796-1872), painting by William H. Fisk 1849, Världskulturmuseet, Sweden, Public Domain

American artist George Catlin (1796-1872) was known for his paintings of Native American life.

In 1832, a New York newspaper published articles by him. One specifically called for the creation of national parks in an effort to preserve American wilderness and the Native American tribes who depended on them. His campaign was widely acclaimed – but not taken seriously until soon after his death.

Controversially, the first national parks created lead to further removal of Native Americans from their lands.

Rachel Carson The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson, 1951, Kulturen, Sweden, CC BY-NC-ND

Rachel Carson (1907-1964) was an American author, marine biologist and conservationist whose poetic book The Sea Around Us was a best seller and launched her into the public eye. 

Silent Spring, her best known book, brought her most critical acclaim.

The book discusses the harmful effects of pesticides on the environment. By the 1960s, this was already a documented issue. Her skills in combining poetry and science helped her reach a much broader audience, and she is credited for helping to launch the modern environmental movement. 

Looking at these four historical figures, it can be daunting to realise that the environmental issues they highlighted are still something to this day that we are tackling – in one form or another – throughout the world.

Though we may have come a long way from the time of Hippocrates, we still have a very long way to go to restore a more sustainable way of life not just for our own benefit but for that of the earth and all living species. 

By Marijke Everts, Europeana Foundation

Feature image: The Garden of Eden with the Fall of Man, Peter Paul Rubens & Jan Brueghel the Elder, Mauritshuis, Public Domain

Born to be Forgotten – the story of Božidar Knežević

Tue, 21/04/2020 - 09:02

How can someone be born to be forgotten? They can be forgotten by the general public, even though their birth or death anniversary is commemorated. This is precisely the case with Božidar Knežević (1862-1905), one of the most significant Serbian philosophers at the turn of the 20th century. Like Branislav Petronijević (1875-1954), he was born in Ub, a little Serbian town located some 60km south-west of Belgrade. His stepfather was a petty trader, just like Knežević’s birthfather. Knežević graduated in history and philology and worked as a high school teacher, from 1902 in Belgrade. He took part in the Serbian – Bulgarian War of 1885 and died in 1905 of a lung disease contracted in the war.

Portrait of Božidar Knežević,
public domain

During his studies, he taught himself English. Through his translations, he acquainted the Serbian cultural public with contemporary British historiographical works such as On Heroes, Hero-Worship and The Heroic in History by Thomas Carlyle.

Knežević’s best known work is Principles of History (Principi istorije), published in two volumes (1898- 1901). In Knežević’s own words, it was poorly read and received. Following Petronijević’s advice, Knežević tried to familiarize readers with his work with the help of aphorisms, which he published in the work entitled Thoughts (Misli). Thanks to it, the Principles have not been completely forgotten. History forms Knežević’s philosophy. He sees it not just as the history of humanity, but also as the supreme philosophy and science, encompassing the history of the universe and nature since its creation. The history of mankind cannot be understood separately from the history of nature. Building on Darwin’s and Spencer’s evolutionary theories, Knežević introduced two main principles: the law of order and the law of proportion. According to the law of order, once every being is in harmony and takes up exactly as much space as required, everything will cease to exist. Therefore, the world and everything else can be created and can disappear only once, so there is no going back to the beginning. The principle of the necessity of things is crucial, as things come into existence because they are needed and in the order in which they are needed. 

Page from the manuscript “Thoughts” (“Misli”) by Božidar Knežević, National Library of Serbia, public domain

His work is fundamentally original, but experts cannot agree on the nature of his philosophy: he was deemed a religious philosopher, a metaphysical idealist, a pantheist, a deist, a theist, and a materialist.

The National Library of Serbia possesses several Božidar Knežević’s manuscripts. Among them, The Notebook is particularly important. In it, Knežević describes his travels throughout southern Serbia in 1896, as well as the visit to Rijeka and Opatija at the end of 1897. His daughter Milka gave a touching account of Knežević’s private life and his family in her manuscript called My parents’ life, which is also held at the National Library of Serbia.

Page from the manuscript “My parents’ life” (“Život mojih roditelja”) by Milka Knežević, National Library of Serbia, public domain

Božidar Knežević’s works were first presented abroad thanks to the efforts of George Vid Tomashevich who translated the abridged edition of The Principles of History into English in New York in 1980. 

Author: Dušan Nikodijević
Translated by Tatjana Domazet
National Library of Serbia

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: a detail from the manuscript “Thoughts” (“Misli”) by Božidar Knežević, National Library of Serbia, public domain

Spot the Differences: 8 art puzzles to play

Sun, 19/04/2020 - 08:00

There’s a lot of pleasure to be found by closely looking at art. You can discover small details in paintings, added by the artist to show personality or symbolism.

In this blog, we give you even more reason to look closely at art from across Europe. We’ve made 8 Spot the Difference puzzles from artworks and paintings – see if you can spot 8 differences in each painting.

We suggest right-clicking to see the image larger in another tab and, if you need some help, you’ll find the results by clicking the link under each puzzle.

Finnish Wedding

Can you see the 8 differences in this wedding scene? The artwork is The Bride’s Song, Gunnar Berndtson, Finnish National Gallery, CCO

See this puzzle’s answers

Hide the answers Happy family

There are 8 differences to find in this family party painting. The artwork is The Merry Family, Jan Havicksz Steen, Rijksmuseum, Public Domain.

See this puzzle’s answers Hide the answers Irish bridge

See if you can spot the 8 changes in this illustration of the Ha’penny Bridge, a well-know Dublin landmark. The artwork is The Ha’Penny Bridge Dublin, Samuel Frederick Brocas, National Library of Ireland, Public Domain

See this puzzle’s answers Hide the answers Venetian family

Can you find the 8 differences in this family portrait? The artwork is Portrait of a Venetian Family with a Manservant Serving Coffee, Pietro Longhi, Rijksmuseum, Public Domain.

See this puzzle’s answers show less Wedding party

Can you find the 8 changes in this painting? Wedding, Pietro Barucci, Slovak National Gallery, Public Domain

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Hide the answers

EXPLORE MORE: Gallery of weddings and marriages

Bountiful market

This painting of a market is full of details – we’ve made 8 changes, can you find them? The artwork is Fruit and Vegetable Market with a Young Fruit Seller, Jan van Kessel, Statens Museum for Kunst, CC0

See this puzzle’s answers

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EXPLORE MORE: 5 Easter-themed activities and puzzles

Take to the skies

Can you see the 8 changes in this fantastic balloon-filled illustration? The artwork is Sanatoir aérien du docteur Farceur, Druck u. Verlag von Adolph Friedlander, Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions

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EXPLORE MORE: Gallery of hot-air balloons

Breakfast time

A lovely breakfast meal like this should be your reward if you can spot all 8 differences in this painting. It is: Breakfast Time, Hanna Hirsch-Pauli, NationalMuseum Sweden, Public Domain

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EXPLORE MORE: Gallery of art by female artists

By Adrian Murphy, Europeana Foundation

Star-crossed lovers in classic literature part 2

Thu, 16/04/2020 - 09:30

In part 1 of this blog series we highlighted two stories from classic literature, and depictions of those stories in art, of lovers separated by forces outside of their control.

Here are two more stories of classic star-crossed lovers, with beautiful illustrations found in Europeana. Read the first two stories in Part 1

Hero & Leander

Greek mythology is filled to the brim with tragic tales of love.

The myth of Hero and Leander has them not separated by differences in social status or pre-existing marriages, but simply by physical distance. Hero, a priestess of Aphrodite, lives in Sestos at one side of the Hellespont. Leander lives in Abydos, at the other side of the strait of water. 

Hero und Leander, Grimm, Constantin von (Zeichner). Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig, Germany, CC BY-NC-SA. 

Madly in love with each other but not able to meet, Leander’s desire to see Hero was so strong that he would swim across the Hellespont every night. Hero would shine a light in the darkness from atop her tower to guide Leander across the waters. 

Hero ventende sin elsker Leander &  Hero ventende Leander. C.F. Høyer, 1808. Statens Museum for Kunst, Denmark, CC0 Hero en Leander, Maarten van Heemskerck, 1569. Rijksmuseum, the Netherlands, Public Domain. Hero und Leander; Spielstein für das Brettspiel für den “Langen Puff”, Hans Kels d. Ä. (Künstler)  Jörg Breu d. Ä. (Künstler) Georg Hörmann (Zugeschrieben an), 1537. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Austria, CC BY-NC-SA.  Coastal Landscape with Hero and Leander,Matthys Cock, 1551-1558. Rijksmuseum, the Netherlands, Public Domain. 

On a blustery winter night, the wind blew out Hero’s light, and Leander was tossed by the waves, disoriented. Leander drowned in the Hellespont, and upon seeing his body Leander threw herself off of her tower to join Hero in the sweet embrace of death. 

Hero en Leander, Kuyper, Jacques, 1800. Rijksmuseum, the Netherlands, Public Domain Hero beweint den toten Leander, Gillis Backereel, 1640s. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Austria, CC BY-NC-SA.  Hero beweint den toten Leander, Domenico Fetti, 1621-1622. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Austria, CC BY-NC-SA.  Hero and Leander, 1450-1475. National Library of the Netherlands, the Netherlands, Public Domain [Hero y Leandro] [Material gráfico], Charles de La Traverse, 1759. National library of Spain, Spain, CC BY-NC-SA.

EXPLORE MORE Discover more tales of romance in our Love Across Borders blog series

Tristan and Isolde

The final star-crossed couple we’re highlighting in this blog series are Tristan and Isolde.

In some version, their story ends in a happy ending instead of in mutual suicide, as in others. The original legend of Tristan and Isolde (their names have a lot of different spellings: Tristram, Iseult amongst others) has both of them surviving, marrying, and living a happy life together. 

The story of Tristan and Isolde has many different versions in different languages and time periods. The Arthurian legends of Lancelot and Guinevere were most likely influenced by Tristan and Isolde. 

Coloured drawing from BL Harley 4389, f. 8v. The British Library, United Kingdom, Public Domain.

Tristan and Isolde as told by Wagner in his opera of the same name casts both lovers back into tragedy. Depictions of Tristan and Isolde after 1865 often reference Wagner’s play or at least show Wagnerian influences. 

Isolde – Richard Wagner: Tristan und Isolde. Gestalten der klassischen Kunst und Dichtung. Universität Osnabrück | Historische Bildpostkarten, Germany, CC BY-NC-SA.  Richard Wagner – “Tristan und Isolde” – Tristans Ehre – höchste Treu. Universität Osnabrück | Historische Bildpostkarten, Germany, CC BY-NC-SA. 

In Wagner’s retelling of Tristan and Isolde, Tristan is transporting Isolde to Cornwall where she has been promised in marriage to king Marke. Isolde despises Tristan, for he is the murderer of her former fiancée, Morold. Her hate for Tristan runs so deep that she orders her handmaid to create a poisoned drink that she can give to Tristan. 

Isolde – “Tristan und Isolde” – Rache für den Verrat, Heinrich Lefler, 1281. Universität Osnabrück | Historische Bildpostkarten, Germany, CC BY-NC-SA. 

Accepting that he should die because of what he did to Morold, Tristan drinks the poison. Isolde, not seeing any future in her forced marriage with the king of Cornwall, drinks the other half of the poisoned drink. It is then that they discover that the handmaiden had given them not poison, but a love potion. 

Wagner: Tristan und Isolde. Universität Osnabrück | Historische Bildpostkarten, Germany, CC BY-NC-SA. 

Isolde is married to king Marke as planned, but the love potion drives Tristan and Isolde to meet in secret.

When the king is hunting at nightfall, Isolde calls Tristan to the castle where they declare their love for each other. Their passions continue throughout the night, both of them ignoring the cries of the handmaiden warning them of daybreak. King Marke catches Tristan and Isolde red-handed, entwined in embrace.

Tristan-Sage. Universität Osnabrück | Historische Bildpostkarten, Germany. CC BY-NC-SA. 

In medieval versions of Tristan and Isolde, at this point both are sentenced to death – but the lovers manage to escape together. They are once again discovered hiding in the forest together by the king, but succeed in making peace with the king. Tristan and Isolde travel to Brittany, where they marry and live on happily ever after. 

Wagner’s version is much more tragic. After a swordfight with the king’s entourage Tristan escapes, alone, to Brittany, waiting for his lover to arrive by ship. Just as Isolde’s ship arrives in the harbour, Tristan succumbs to the wounds he sustained in the swordfight. Isolde collapses next to her true love, and dies.

Tristram and Isolde lying dead next to each other. Line block after a painting by Roger de Egusquiza, 1911. Wellcome Collection, United Kingdom, CC BY.  LP-SKIVA. Vänersborgs museum, Sweden, CC BY. 

EXPLORE MORE: Medieval love stories in the Romance of the Rose or the tale of Heloise and Abelard.

By Jolan Wuyts, Europeana

Feature Image: Rien sans toy; (Hero und Leander). Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel, Germany, CC BY-NC-SA

What does it stand for? Understanding corporate abbreviations in Europe

Tue, 14/04/2020 - 08:27

Across Europe, there are many acronyms and abbreviations used to describe the legal status of firms and organisations.

But what exactly do these all mean and what’s their significance? Here’s a short explainer on what some of these mean, why, when and where they are used.

AB, GmbH, Ltd, SA and more: company abbreviations across Europe

These abbreviations, mostly used before and after the names of firms and companies, tell us how the organisation is owned and funded.

Specific details vary across Europe, but broadly can be divided into whether stocks and shares in the company can be traded publicly (for example on the stock exchange) or are owned privately. 

The legal statutes of many companies also indicate that they are limited liability – in other words, their shareholders’ liability in the firm is limited to a fixed sum, most often their investment.

So here are some of the more common abbreviations that you may recognise, with examples of how they are used from Europeana.

Public companies


AB Nordiska Metallduksväveriet prize trophy, Kungsängen, Uppsala, July 1935, Paul Sandberg, Upplandsmuseet, CC BY-NC-ND

AB stands for Aktiebolag, denoting a limited company. It is used mostly in Swedish-speaking countries. Examples include AB Ericsson and AB Scania.


Needle box, Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig, CC BY-NC-SA

AG stands for Aktiengesellschaft, a German word for a corporation limited by share ownership. Examples include Volkswagen AG and Siemens AG.

RELATED: Volkwagen Beetle: birth of an industrial icon


Wellcome Plc: ordinary share certificate, 23/12/1987, Wellcome Collection, CC BY

plc stands for public limited company, it is used in English-speaking countries. Examples include HSBC Bank plc.


Nameplate of J & HW van der Ploeg, Machinefabriek N.V., Apeldoorn, CODA Museum, CC BY

NV stands for Naamloze vennootschap, meaning nameless partnership . It is used in Dutch-speaking countries to denote public companies. Examples include Philips N.V.

EXPLORE MORE: Philips: illuminating the world from Eindhoven


Drawing of bottles of SOCOVI, S.A., Juan Miguel Pando Barrero, Instituto del Patrimonio Cultural de España, CC BY-NC-ND

SA stands for société anonyme, meaning anonymous company or anonymous partnerships. It is used in French-speaking countries, as well as other variants in use in Portuguese, Romanian and Spanish also. Examples include Danone S.A.

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


SpA stands for Società per azioni, meaning company with shares, used in Italian. Examples include Barilla S.p.A. and Prada S.p.A.

Private companies


Apple syrup can, J.Canisius B.V., Schinnen, Numan’s Blikemba, Deventer Musea, CC BY-SA

BV stands for Besloten vennootschap met beperkte aansprakelijkheid. This is the Dutch and Belgian version of a private limited liability company.


Färg, Kast & Ehinger GmbH, Tekniska museet, CC BY

GmbH stands for Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung, meaning a company with limited liability. It’s used in German-speaking countries.


Factory brand for cement bags, Cement Mills Ltd, Tekniska museet, Public Domain

Ltd stands for Limited, used in United Kingdom and Ireland to denote a private limited company


Srl is used in Italian to meaning a limited liability company. It stands for Società a responsabilità limitata.

Many more abbreviations and company forms are in use across Europe and beyond. We hope some of the abbreviations you didn’t know, but never bothered checking, are now clearer. If there’s still a company abbreviation you’d like to decipher, let us know in comments or on social media.

By Adrian Murphy, Europeana Foundation

Explore industrial heritage

Explore industrial heritage and working lives in more than 400,000 photographs, videos, objects, documents and more from across Europe.

Feature image: Typograf Anders Blomberg, Arne Andersson, Bohusläns museum, Public Domain

Take a virtual tour of Spijkennise, Duncan Laurence’s home town

Sat, 11/04/2020 - 08:07

Though now cancelled, the 2020 Eurovision Song Contest was due to be held in the Netherlands, thanks to Duncan Laurence’s victory in 2019.

In his song Arcade, Duncan, who is from the small town of Spijkenisse, mentions his home town, singing about being ‘a small town boy in a big arcade’.

But where is Spijkenisse and what’s to be found there? Let’s take a virtual trip to this town in South Holland through digitised cultural heritage.

Overzicht van het spaarbekken, Thea van den Heuvel, Beeldbank van de Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed, CC BY-SA

Spijkenisse is located on a creek of the Oude Maas river. Its name comes from the words spieke (spit) and nesse (nose) meaning ‘pointy nose’ referring to a spit of land along the river.

There’s evidence that the areas around Spijkenisse have been populated for centuries, with a farming and fishing village growing alongside the creek.

EXPLORE MORE: Archaeological findings from Spijkenisse at Museum Rotterdam

This part of the Netherlands, in particular, is a delta. Railways, motorways, tunnels and bridges link areas that are separated by seas and water. The Spijkenisse bridge was first built in 1903, primarily as a railway bridge.

Lift bridge over the Oude Maas, with the remains of the old Spijkenisser bridge in the foreground, G. J. Dukker, Beeldbank van de Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed, CC BY-SA Construction of the Bridge over the Maas River at Spijkenisse, 1902, Arnaud Pistoor & Zoon, Rijksmuseum, Public Domain Installation of the fixed span bridge over the Oude Maas on the right bank at Spijkenisse, 1902, Arnaud Pistoor & Zoon, Rijksmuseum, Public Domain

The oldest building in Spijkenisse is the village church, built in the mid 15th century.

Kerk vanuit het zuid-oosten, Beeldbank van de Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed, CC BY-SA Drawing, church and tower, scale 1:50, de Koning, Beeldbank van de Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed, CC BY-SA

EXPLORE MORE: See more photographs of Spijkenisse Church

Windmills are a symbol of the Netherlands. Spijkenisse is home to the Nooitgedacht flour mill, which was built around 1840.

Three views of Spijkenisse windmill – one by F. Wessel, two, three – Vereniging De Hollandsche Molen, CC BY-SA

From the 1960s onwards, Spijkenisse grew from a small village to a large town, in part due to it being nearby the port of Rotterdam. Through the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, thousands of homes were built, and the Rotterdam metro reached the town.

The proximity to water and Delta Works – a series of construction projects in the region to protect land from the sea – and the fact the town developed in the latter half of the 20th century, has led to interesting examples of 20th century architecture in the town’s public and civic buildings.

Pumping station, Thea van den Heuvel, Beeldbank van de Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed, CC BY-SA Main building and the dosing building, Thea van den Heuvel, Beeldbank van de Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed, CC BY-SA Water reservoir and pumping station, Thea van den Heuvel, Beeldbank van de Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed, CC BY-SA

The Spijkenisse public library, called De Boekenberg, is shaped like a pyramid or mountain.

Boekenberg library in Spijkenisse, 2014, Peter van der Sluijs via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

Are you from or have you visited Spijkenisse? Let us know in the comments below.

By Adrian Murphy, Europeana Foundation

Feature image: Vier foto fragmenten van Spijkenisse, Vereniging De Hollandsche Molen, CC BY-SA

Star-crossed lovers in classic literature: Depictions of historical relationships in times of social distancing

Thu, 09/04/2020 - 09:15

Love thwarted by outside forces is a common literary theme. It can be found in many cultures and time periods – from Europe, India and China through South America to the Middle East. Often these tragic relationships are forbidden by parents, existing marriages, differences in social or financial status, warring countries, or fairytale barriers.

We will highlight five stories of love made impossible by physical distance – stories of longing, heartache, and yearning in European literature and art – a feeling a lot of us might get to know well in these times of quarantine and social distancing. Today we bring you the first two, and next week we’ll feature two more love stories.

Pyramus & Thisbe

The story of Pyramus and Thisbe is often seen as the blueprint for the classic play Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare coined the term star-crossed lovers – Pyramus and Thisbe were prime examples.

Pyramus and Thisbe live in neighboring houses. Their parents have a long-standing quarrel with each other. This dispute does not prevent Pyramus and Thisbe from falling madly in love with each other. Their only way to communicate is through a small crack in the wall adjoining their houses, through which they profess their love for each other. 

Pyramus und Thisbe I (Verworfene Platte), Max Klinger, 1879. Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig, Germany, CC BY-NC-SA.

As with most tragic love stories, this one doesn’t end well. There are not many depictions of Pyramus and Thisbe showing how they whispered to each other through the wall. Most focus on how they both take their own lives. 

Pyramus und Thisbe, 1530. Gemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany, CC BY-NC-SA.  Thisbe from BL Royal 16 G V, f. 15, Giovanni Boccaccio, 1430-1449. The British Library, United Kingdom, Public Domain.  Pyramus en Thisbe, Stefano della Bella, 1620-1664. Rijksmuseum, the Netherlands, Public Domain.  The suicides of Pyramus and Thisbe: Thisbe and Pyramus lying dead in front of Ninus’ tomb, having stabbed themselves with the sword next to them. Line engraving by V. Vangelisty after G. Reni. Wellcome Collection, United Kingdom, CC BY.  Aeneas & Dido

In The Aeneid, the Ancient Greek epic, we find yet another love story ending in tragedy. 

Written by Virgil in the 1st century BCE, it follows the story of Aeneas, a Greek hero, who – by the fates of the god – becomes enamoured with Dido, the Queen of Carthage. A storm has just wrecked Aeneas’ fleet, and he meets Dido and wins her favour in the temple of Juno in Carthage where Aeneas has taken shelter. Aeneas spends time with Dido and recounts his past travels and adventures to her, making them fall in love.

Dido ontvangt Aeneas, 1612. Rijksmuseum, the Netherlands, Public Domain.  Aeneas vertelt Dido over zijn lotgevallen, Gerard de Lairesse, 1668. Rijksmuseum, the Netherlands, Public Domain. 

This is where the story ideally would have ended, but that would not have taken the jealousy of King Iarbas into account, whose love for Dido stayed unrequited. Iarbas prays to his father, the god Jupiter, cursing Dido for not answering his love but falling head over heels for Aeneas instead. Jupiter answers Iarbas’ prayer by ordering Mercury to send Aeneas to conquer the lands of Italy.

‘Mercurius herinnert Aeneas aan zijn verplichting naar Italië te reizen’, uit de reeks wandtapijten van Aeneas en Dido van het Nijmeegse stadhuis, geweven in het atelier van Michiel Wauters, 1679. Regionaal Archief Nijmegen, the Netherlands, CC0. 

Aeneas, dutiful as ever, begrudgingly follows Mercury’s guidance and leaves by ship in the night. Some accounts say he was too heartbroken to actually tell Dido he had to leave. Others show his tearful goodbyes from Dido. 

Abschied des Aeneas von Dido. Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum, Braunschweig, Germany, CC BY-NC-SA.  ‘Afscheid van Dido en Aeneas’, uit de reeks wandtapijten van Aeneas en Dido van het Nijmeegse stadhuis, geweven in het atelier van Michiel Wauters, 1679. Regionaal Archief Nijmegen, the Netherlands, CC0 Dido verwijt Aeneas dat hij haar verlaat. Rijksmuseum, the Netherlands, Public Domain.

Dido’s insurmountable sadness leads her to build a funeral pyre for herself and stabbing herself to death with a sword given to her by Aeneas. 

Dido treurt om Aeneas, Arnold Houbraken, 1700-1750. Rijksmuseum, the Netherlands, Public Domain.  Dido op haar brandstapel, Sébastien Bourdon, 1713. Rijksmuseum, the Netherlands, CC0. Dido and Aeneas from BL King’s 24, f. 101v, 1483-1485. The British Library, United Kingdom, Public Domain.  Dido op de brandstapel, 1783 – 1851. Rijksmuseum, the Netherlands, Public Domain. 

Next week: Hero and Leander, and Troilus and Cressida, more tales of heartache and tragedy. 

By Jolan Wuyts, Europeana

Easter with art & culture – 5 activities for the whole family

Wed, 08/04/2020 - 08:00

For many among us, Easter will be different this year. Hoping to bring you some cheer during social distancing, we have prepared some fun Easter activities. All can be done from the comfort of your home and enjoyed by the whole family. Happy Easter!

1. Spot 8 differences

See if you can spot the changes we’ve made to this Easter postcard from Spain.

Retrat d’estudi de dues nenes amb un carro amb flors i conills. Inscripció al revers: DTG Series 1611. 6. (47607),  Ajuntament de Girona, public domain

Too difficult? Click here to see the answers. show less 2. Match the names of the flowers with artworks depicting them 3. Give this #MuseumJigsaw a try

4. What about an Easter egg hunt?

How many eggs and chicks can you see in this painting?

Market Square, with Flagellation, Ecce Homo and Road to Calvary in the background, Joachim Beuckelaer, Rijksmuseum, public domain 5. Print these colouring pages and have a relaxing and creative moment pysanky from Chełmskie, The British Library, public domain  Download the page Advertising card: Lasco did it, Wellcome Collection, CC BY Download the card

For even more Easter, take a look at this gallery of Easter egg traditions from across Europe or read about Easter traditions in our exhibition Celebrations in Europe.

We’d love to know what you think of these games and activities. Let us know in the comments. We wish you all a peaceful and healthy Easter.

By Aleksandra Strzelichowska, Europeana Foundation

Feature image: Trkanje, Knjižnica Mirana Jarca Novo mesto, CC BY-NC