So far, we have asked: ‘What are the key elements of European culture?’ and ‘What does it mean to be European?’
These questions are linked to our past, present and future.
Now we are moving on to the ‘Europe now’ section, which reflects recent history. The objects exhibited embody current challenges, conflicts and opportunities, which once again allow us to think about Europe´s core values.
HEADLINES OF OUR TIME I
Nobel Peace Prize
In 2012, the European Union was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel Committee recognised the EU’s achievements in promoting reconciliation and peace, democracy, human rights and social welfare.
In recent years, however, the European Union has been going through a series of crises, which have put it under considerable pressure.
Economic and monetary issues, the migration crisis, terrorism, Brexit and other dramatic events of our time demonstrate just how fragile and conflicting the current realities are.
Terrorism poses a threat to Europe’s security and democratic order and is now part of a global phenomenon in today’s society. Islamist or far-right wing terrorist attacks across Europe are a violent expression of ideas that stand in sharp contrast to the values of diversity and pluralism.
Extreme ideologies often find their inspiration in ideologies that look to the past or in religious fundamentalism.
In the face of such hatred and violence, the people have been quick to respond with solidarity and calls for mutual acceptance and peace.
Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time; a threat to the very future of our life on planet Earth. Human-made global warming, caused by excessive CO2 emissions and industrial pollution, is destroying whole ecosystems and making our way of life unsustainable.
‘Fridays for Future’, an initiative launched by young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, has become active around the world, with students demanding a radical ecological change of course.
For today’s 15-year-olds, climate change is a tangible threat to their future prospects.
For the first time ever in history, a Member State decided to leave the EU.
Following the result of a divisive referendum, the United Kingdom triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, setting in motion its exit from the EU on 31 January 2020 after 47 years of membership.
This historical moment was epitomised when the UK flag was taken down from outside the Committee of the Regions in Brussels and added to the House of European History’s collection.
For centuries, Europe’s colonial rule over vast territories and regions around the world brought wealth and resources to Europe while leaving local populations oppressed and impoverished.
Niyi Olagunju’s sculpture expresses the brokenness of identity resulting from the traumatising experience of colonialism. Objects that carry spiritual, religious, social or societal meaning ended up as exhibits in European museums. This appropriation and assimilation of African history, culture and traditions violates the objects’ original meaning and results in historical rootlessness.
Some European countries have begun investigating their museum collections amid calls for objects with a questionable history to be returned.
HEADLINES OF OUR TIME II
The Kosovo War, which ended in 1999, was the last armed conflict of the most violent century in European history. However, the hope that such atrocities would never be repeated again was not realised. Some former Soviet republics have become victims of the geopolitical aspirations of neighbouring Russia. Regional armed tensions and ‘frozen conflicts’ are part of the current reality in Europe. Civilians in Georgia and Ukraine have witnessed military actions and atrocities. Europeans in these countries experienced lifelong traumas and many lost their lives or homes.
Areas that are no longer on the frontline remain dangerous because of landmines and unexploded ammunition.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed humanity’s vulnerability and has put European solidarity to the test.
At the beginning of the pandemic, European countries responded individually by closing borders, limiting freedom of travel, and curtailing civil liberties. Critics fear that fundamental freedoms might be restricted in the long term.
But amid all that adversity, a wave of solidarity emerged among ordinary people. Meanwhile, the Member States and the EU institutions came together and agreed on an unprecedented recovery programme designed to support the societies and economies worst affected by the pandemic.
New technologies are radically changing the way we live, communicate and interact with each other. The world is becoming more interconnected, offering many opportunities but also creating new risks.
Data is now considered the ‘new oil’ and with that, digital privacy has become one of the biggest challenges of our time. Collecting information about our behaviour, thoughts, and desires allows companies to influence and manipulate our lives and the choices we make. New communication tools have now paved the way for far-reaching surveillance and the rapid spread of disinformation.
Without us even noticing, the democratic process of entire societies may be undermined and citizens could lose their freedom of choice.
TRACKING MY EUROPE
VORTEX OF HISTORY
Vortex of history
This swirling sculpture that dominates the museum’s central stairwell consists of 27 historical quotations representing the ever-changing interpretation of European history.
EUROPE FROM THE SKIES
Viewed from above, Europe’s terrain reveals traces of history from a new perspective. Its landscapes are largely cultural ones bearing the marks of human activity for better or for worse. History has led to remarkable variety, showing astonishing similarities and differences.
VIEWS ON EUROPE
My House of European History
My House of European History is a unique collaborative project incorporating personal testimonies on Europe. The stories are arranged in time segments and each story has its own geographical location. You can use the interactive map to discover these. You can also register to add and share your own European memory.