Fran van Rumpt Articles

‘I Don’t Want to Influence You, But…’

On November 13 Jonathan Even-Zohar, the director of EuroClio, posted an article on Facebook about Frank Navarro, a Californian history teacher who got suspended for holding a lesson in which he examined parallels between the rise of Trump, and the German Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler. Jonathan asked himself and his friends on Facebook a question: ‘What are the limitations for history teachers to talk about present politics?

It did not take long before history teachers from at least two continents and over ten countries were engaged in a lively debate about the question posed by Jonathan. Are history teachers free to draw parallels between the present and the past? Are they free to draw parallels between whoever and whatever they want? If not, what exactly are the limitations? Who decides what the limitations are?

Many teachers who participated in the discussion were cautious. The issue at hand was a sensitive one. We are responsible for the learning process of students, and as teachers we should not impose our political views on them. That is why some of the discussants proposed to let students research the matter for themselves: do not tell students there are parallels between Trump and Hitler, but rather pose a question that they can research. For instance: are there parallels between the rise of Trump and the rise of Hitler? One American history teacher wrote that by comparing Trump and Hitler in class, you already imply there are similarities. Most teachers would never set up a comparison between Hillary Clinton and Vladimir Iljitsj Lenin.

As a teacher and a professional, the last thing I want to do is indoctrinate my students with my personal (political) views. I decided to ask my students in 6 VWO (age 17-18) the same question Jonathan asked us: what are the limitations for history teachers to talk about present politics? They read some articles and got familiar with the Frank Navarro case. I arranged coffee and a student brought cake. We spent about an hour discussing the issue. I discovered that I sometimes try to influence my students as well, without even being aware of it. Apparently, I always say the following when I try to influence the way they think: “I don’t want to influence you, but…” Students told me they did not mind this. A girl told me that teachers can share their views with students as long as they make clear that those views indeed are personal. In my case, she remarked, it was very obvious. We all had to laugh. As for Navarro, the students came up with yet another way of looking at it. You do not have to compare Trump to Hitler in class. You can refer to the ongoing discussion in the media and ask how students feel about that. That way it is not the teacher who makes a comparison. He or she merely points out there is a comparison being made in the media. What are the arguments against such a comparison? Are there any arguments in favor of the comparison?

I am glad Jonathan posed that question on Facebook. Not only did we end up having a great discussion about a serious issue with history teachers from all over the world; we can also use these new insights in class and talk to our students about the pros and cons of historical comparisons. I am looking forward to discussing a new topic with all of you in the future. I do not want to influence you, but hopefully that does not involve another right-wing populist being elected…

About the author:
Frans van RumptFran van Rumpt is a history teach

Rethinking Education

EuroClio Articles

Joke van der Leeuw-Roord speaking about History Heritage, Education and Citizenship Education through the lenses of the EuroClio Community during the Life Long Learning Week 2016

On 11 October 2016 founder and special advisor of EuroClio, Joke van der Leeuw-Roord was part of the panel during the event “Rethinking Education: Towards a global common good?”, to discuss a 2015 UNESCO publication with the same title. The event was organised by UNESCO in cooperation with the International Council of Adult Education (ICAE) and the European Association for Adult Education (EAEA) as part of the Life Long Learning Week 2016 in Brussels, Belgium. Van der Leeuw-Roord was asked to present EuroClio’s response to the publication dealing with reviewing educational structures and its aims to adapt to current and future challenges as well as to meet the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 and Education 2030.

What does it mean for History, Heritage and Citizenship Education through the lenses of the EuroClio Community?

Van der Leeuw-Roord considers the report as beneficial for EuroClio’s work as it is stresses the importance of education and learning and captures many of the views and principles we have within the EuroClio community and those we share with many other International organisations focusing on education.

The document goes beyond the utilitarian vision and the human capital approach, which has been dominant over the last years, and is moving focus to the quality of education and the relevance of learning. Surprisingly neither history nor history heritage education is explicitly mentioned, however the report implicitly includes many elements also found in EuroClio policy documents such as developing understanding of the complexity of global learning landscape and the interconnectedness and interdependency of societies, exploring alternatives of dominant knowledge, rejection of all forms of (cultural) hegemony, stereotypes and biases and building curricula based on intercultural education striking the delicate balance between pluralism and universal values.

According to Roord the document pays intensive attention to the needs for professional development for educators and proposes to rethink the content and objectives of teacher education and training along lines we only can applaud. We agree that a teacher should now be a guide who enables learners, to develop and advance through the constantly expanding maze of knowledge.


Roord also points out challenges in implementing the ideas and approaches as proposed in Rethinking Education such as international and national policy making, confusion of terms and concepts and lack of opportunities for practitioners.

Over the years Inter-Governmental Organisations such as UNESCO, OECD, Council of Europe and the European Union have published various relevant educational documents containing similar messages as Rethinking Education. However the stage of implementation on national levels is still rather limited. The implementation of approaches advocated in these documents is also seriously hindered by the confusion about terms and concepts. Each time there are other ways to explain the audience what is understood by concepts such as knowledge, competencies, skills, attitudes and values. Last, it is still often problematic for educators to leave the classroom and participate in (international) professional development. Governments and schools have difficulty to recognize the importance of lifelong learning, and in many countries there are limited resources available, certainly if training is not directly related to national policy priorities.

Understanding Historical Time

EuroClio Articles

On the occasion of the presentation of 20 new NWO PhD scholarships, on 12 September 2016, I was interviewed by the Secretary of State for Education, Sander Dekker. The interview was about my research: Improving the understanding of historical time for pupils between 6-12 years old.

Understanding of historical time is essential to the learning of history. Theories about children’s understanding of historical time are largely based on older research, which concludes that a full understanding of time is achieved at about the age of 11 and that the learning of clock- and calendar time are conditional for the learning of history. More recent English and American research indicates that young children do have an understanding of historical time. Still this research has made little impact on the teaching of historical time. In the Netherlands the history curriculum starts in the 5th or 6th grade at the age of about 9, although it would be more logical to start earlier with the advantage that children can work longer and deeper on their understanding of historical time, as is the case in England. Therefore, we compared the Dutch and the English curricula.

Data from national reports, in both the Netherlands and England, however, indicate that the teaching and learning of historical time are not always well-implemented in the curricula. This was confirmed by our research. Although chronology features in both the English National Curriculum and the Dutch Core Objectives, we found that the implemented curricula do not fully cover the objectives: for example in our sample, only a quarter of the English teachers pay attention to the chronological order of historical periods consistently and the majority of teachers in both countries does not use timelines.

In order to optimize our primary history curricula with regard to chronology, we developed a model (, based on descriptions in the curricula and on empirical studies of chronology, with three stages: emergentinitial and continued understanding of historical time. In this model we defined pupils’ skills and knowledge for each stage based on five objectives:

  • apply the vocabulary of time
  • sequence events, people and historical eras in chronological order
  • use the timeline to place events and people in time
  • identify characteristic features of different historical periods and compare and contrast historical periods

Because we wanted to gain insight into how pupils in primary schools perform on these three stages, we constructed an instrument that was based on our model. The instrument consisted of two paper and pencil tests for younger and older pupils with, for each stage, multiple-choice items that corresponded with the five objectives in the model. We conducted the tests in seven Dutch primary schools totalling 1457 pupils. The results showed that in all three stages pupils in higher grades significantly outperformed pupils in lower grades. Furthermore, in all grades there was room for improvement.

In a follow-up study sixteen teachers of grade 4 (ages 7-8) and 7 (ages 10-12) were trained to teach with Timewise, a newly developed teaching method, in which they consistently paid attention to the objectives of historical time.  In every lesson timelines were used, linked to stories, pictures and videos.  The intervention with Timewise resulted in significantly improved performances of pupils in the post-test compared to the pre-test and compared to a control condition.
The research is now almost complete and I am working on the final chapters. In 2017, I hope to defend my dissertation. I enjoyed doing this interview, and Sander Dekker was very interested.

More information on the research for my PhD can be found at

Race, Colonialism, and the Netherland’s Golden Coach

EuroClio Articles

Timothy W. Ryback, director of the Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation at EuroClio, has contributed to The New Yorker an interesting article discussing the controversial topic of the Golden Coach used during the Prinsjesdag in Netherlands. History of the Golden Coach is tied into the history of colonialism, and the article sheds light to both the current political situation and historical perspective on the subject.

Read the article here:

Why I Think Face-to-Face Encounters Are the Way to Challenge our Students’ Mindset

Daniela Zunzer Articles

 “Don’t say globally something is good or bad, simply have an open mind.”

The sentence above is from Daniel Ocbe, a refugee from Eritrea, who spent a day at our school in June 2016. Daniel’s talks confirmed to me the immense value of face to face encounters for citizenship education.

It was in May that Daniel Ocbe contacted me via EuroClio Director Jonathan Even-Zohar, who had met him at a United against Racism conference in Torino, Italy. At our following meeting in Zurich Daniel impressed me from the first moment with his extraordinary strong will and his determination on one side and being such a kind and friendly and open minded person on the other side. Living in Switzerland now for a bit less than three years, he achieved a lot in this time (he speaks German really well!), but also has challenges ahead (the next big one is to find a place for an apprenticeship).

He accepted the invitation to come to our school, where he gave a presentation to two 10th grade classes. He talked about the current political situation in Eritrea, a country not very much is known about here, although there is a large group of Eritrean refugees in Switzerland. Then he talked about his escape from Eritrea via Sudan, Libya, the Mediterranean to Italy and finally to Switzerland. The students asked a lot of questions about his perception of Switzerland, about experiences of racism in Switzerland and a lot of other topics. They reacted very open and positive from the first moment on, so the planned time was over almost too fast.

Where do I see the value of those encounters?

For me it is crucial that we either go out of school a lot more, travel with youngsters AND meet people (travelling alone is not the point), travel to places they would not go on their own, expand their horizons, challenge their mindset by confronting them with different positions, make them familiar with experiences that are not part of their everyday life.
If travelling is difficult, then bringing people to school is also a big step of bringing “real life” to school and getting out of this very small school world.

Living in a time with ever more virtual communication, it is crucial for those youngsters to actually meet people – face to face. “You need to feel it, to see it, to touch it” – that is still an important point for me.

It is something completely different if we are talking about things or persons (like for example Eritrean refugees), or if we have direct encounters and talk with those persons. The longer I teach the more I think that face to face contacts are not replacable by anything – also not by virtual communication.

Meeting people that can be positive role models by living positive values and attitudes can be so important for youngsters.

Of course the personality of the person invited is also an important part. Students need to be able to really get in touch with that person. Talking about values like openmindedness or reconciliation for example, is only credible to the students, if the person lives those values. Therefore he or she needs to be an authentic person and whenever this is given, there is never a real problem with students, who are very sensitive to being authentic and credible.

The not always easy task is to find these persons, but having found them, it is no big job at all, bringing them to school. In case you might never have tried it, I would just like to encourage you to do it.

About the Author
Daniela Zunzer was born in Germany and grew up in Germany and Switzerland. She studied history, geography and social anthropology in Zurich and Berlin. She has a master’s degree from Humboldt-University in Berlin in history (1996). After some years as a researcher at the Humboldt-University, she is teaching history in a high school in Fribourg / Switzerland since 2001 (grades 10-13).

Historiana Blog: A View from the Field of Education

The benefits of having one central access point to cultural heritage online

Part 4 in a series on new Europeana source collections on Historiana

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The featured source collections can be found on Historiana and therefore can be used to create online learning activities. This blog is the final in a series of four releases of source collections. Through the blogs EuroClio hopes to shed light on the possibilities that Europeana sources can offer.

When I first heard about Europeana in 2008, I could immediately see what potential having one common reference point for European cultural content could have on education. Having one central access point to explore the diverse collections of archives, museums and libraries would, for example, enable students across Europe to compare and contrast how historical events were reported, to do archival research from any place with an internet connection, and to find sources that challenge preconceptions with much less time and effort.

Of course, this vision had yet to be turned in to a reality, and realising this vision is easier said than done. There were, and still are, many obstacles that stand in the way of providing full access to the collections, but important steps have been made, and Europeana is now much closer to achieving its original vision than when it started. It is now possible to filter on the size of an image, making it possible to leave out those sources that are too small to be of use. More sources are available in high quality (stimulated by the availability of higher quality scanners and improved digitisation techniques). There has been a significant increase in the amount of sources that are licensed in a way that they allow for educational (re)-use and it is possible to search for similar items in the Europeana collections (so that you can find a set of sources, rather than just an individual source). Finally, it is now possible to have direct access to the source (which offers more opportunities for the use of Europeana by third parties).

Since Europeana has started with the support of the European Commission and several member states, cultural institutes from Europe and beyond have worked together to provide access to cultural heritage on themes or topics of common interest via this platform. As a result of these efforts, it is now possible to search, for example, historical newspapers by date and see differences and similarities on the reporting of the same event in different newspapers. It is possible to see how news travelled in a time when communication was not so quick, to see what significance was given to the event (by looking at the place and length of the coverage) and compare what images have been used to illustrate the events.

Efforts have been made to provide access to sources of a certain type (such as photography through EuropeanaPhotography and EuroPhoto or moving images through EUScreenEuropean Digital Film Gateway and EUScreenXL), to sources related to a field of interest (such as Jewish History though Judaica or social and labour history through HOPE – History of People’s Europe), or historical events (such as the First World One through Europeana1914-1918 or EuropeanaCollections1914-1918 and the Social Political Changes in 1989 through Europeana1989). The fact that these efforts have been made by cultural institutes from multiple countries makes it possible for educators to access a much wider range of sources (compared to searching only one institute) and the streamlining of metadata makes it increasingly easier to find matching sources from the collections of different cultural institutes.
Europeana portal

From the perspective of providers of educational resources, having one central point to access the collections of multiple archives, museums and libraries is beneficial because it enables them to directly make use of those sources that are licensed for educational use (as long as direct links are available). EuroClio – Inspiring History and Citizenship Educators, is a provider of educational resources, and is currently building online tools that educators can use to create their own online learning activities together with Webtic (an innovative internet company) and educators from its network to be integrated in Historiana (an online educational resource designed for history learning). In this context, EuroClio, Webtic and Europeana worked together with Europeana in the Europeana DSI1 project to create a Search and Select tool that enables educators to directly search the Europeana Collections and select sources that they want to use in their educational practice. If Europeana would not provide one central access point to the collections of various archives, museums and archives, it would have been very costly and labour-intensive to help educators access the same sources.

What can still be improved, in terms of stimulating the use of the collections in education, is that educators should need less time to find what they are looking for. It can be difficult for someone who is not familiar with Europeana to get a sense of what the collections are about (within the Search and Select tool, we tried to help educators with this by providing brief overviews of selected content providers to help educators decide why they might be interested to search the collection of a specific archive). What can also help is to ensure that the Europeana Collections have enough relevant source materials on at least those areas of learning that are (most) common in curricula across Europe. For example, whereas a search on “First World War” leads to 90,094 results that are allowed to be used with attribution or restriction, a search on “Industrial Revolution” leads to only 73 results. This does not mean that there are no relevant sources, but it does mean that it takes time for educators to find what they need. In an ideal scenario the most relevant sources would be highlighted or presented as a set with a manageable amount of selected sources (as EuroClio had done for several sets of sources). This can be done by actively engaging communities of educators (to help set priorities for digitisation), and further investment in digitisation and improving metadata to ensure that usable content for key areas of the curriculum can be found in the Europeana Collections.

The more complete the Europeana Collections are and the easier it gets for educators or providers of educational resources to find what they are looking for, the more valuable Europeana will be become.

Full description of the featured image can be found at Europeana website.

Time and Technology

Part 3 in a series on new Europeana source collections on Historiana

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The featured source collections can be found on Historiana and therefore can be used to create online learning activities. This blog is part of a series of four releases of source collections. Stay tuned for more in the coming weeks!

Young people today are living in a world full of technology, and have hardly any personal memory of life before these technologies were introduced. Therefore, it can be hard for them to imagine what life was like without modern means of communication, transportation and documentation. Focusing on one particular type of technology and showing how this technology evolved over time, can help students to get a better chronological understanding and see how the past differs from the present.

Within the Europeana Collections there are many resources related to innovation and technology, and archives. Tekniska Museet (the Swedish National Museum for Science and Technology) and Danmarks Tekniske Museum (the Technical Museum of Denmark) are even specialised in this field. Consequently there exists a vast amount of artefacts, images, videos available that can be used to learn about changes in technology. Because the amount of information available can be overwhelming, Europeana and EuroClio worked together to make collections that show how certain types of technology (cars, airplanes, photo cameras, music recorders, maps, mobile phone) have evolved over time and changed people’s lives.

The source collections on photo cameras and music recordings can also be used to help students reflect on how technology impacts the way we look at the past, because it is only through these means that we have a record of the past. The source collection of mobile phones can help students realise how quick some changes can happen, when they ask their parents what life was like in the past, when they could not be reached at all times with a mobile phone. The source collection on cars and airplanes can help students understand how the world became relatively smaller because more people could travel bigger distances more easily. This had a big impact on the economy, the military and everyday life. The source collection on maps helps students realise that there was a time when people had literally no idea where they were going, and that our knowledge of what is where is the result of centuries of collecting information.

Together, these source collections can help to look at social history through the lens of technology and to compare the speed of societal change. The collections also help to make judgements about the significance of technological changes and innovations for the world today. The source collections also show how the demand of people changes over time, where aspects like aesthetics, price and user-friendliness play an important role.

Historical Memory: Thinking Critically about Museums and Monuments with Students

Joan Brodsky Schur Articles

There are many reasons to visit the beautiful old cities of Central Europe. In the summer of 2015 I joined a two-week tour with the non-profit organization GEEO (Global Exploration for Educators Organization). In addition to the museums of art, archeology, and history that one expects to see in Western Europe, in Central European cities one can also visit relics of the Communist era –– from Checkpoint Charlie to tours of Krakow’s Nowa Huta, a district planned to reflect communist ideals. More numerous are the museums and memorials dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust, as well as tours of old Jewish quarters, haunting reminders of the lives not lived in Berlin, Vienna, Krakow, Prague and Budapest. This is not a past to travel lightly.

Certain questions arose for me throughout this journey: What stories were the historical sights I visited designed to tell, and not tell? What happens to the narrative when a nation’s past is divided among different types of institutions, such as museums of ethnography, history and art, memorials and religious sites?Hopefully my reflections on these questions, as they relate to sights in Budapest, have bearing on how we as history teachers travel. In the second part of this essay I suggest ways that we can help students to “read” museums and monuments as critically as we hope they read historical texts.

Part I:  “Reading” the Subtext: Museums and Monuments in Budapest

Like other Central European cities, Budapest has many sights devoted to the Holocaust. These include the state-funded Holocaust Memorial Centre on Páva Street, the fifth national Holocaust museum to open in the world. It was inaugurated in 2004, the same year Hungary entered the European Union.  Its exhibit titled “From Deprivation of Rights to Genocide” includes the fate of the Roma as well as Jews.  The magnificent Dohány Street Synagogue, the largest in Europe, belongs to the Hungarian Jewish community and was renovated in the 1990s with the help of state funds. Behind it sits the moving memorial to Raoul Wallenberg and other Righteous Among the Nations. In my visit to such moving sights, I began to wonder if such memorials serve a secondary function: to obviate the need for national history museums to incorporate centuries of Jewish life into their narratives, as well as to deflect the question of responsibility for its near extinction. If Hungary depicts itself as an ethnically homogenous nation, how does that both obscure the past, and portray its probable future?

In my visit to the National Museum of Hungary, from gallery to gallery I found a tale of the inevitable triumph of the Magyars (Hungarians). This contrasted with what I had read before arrival; the Hungarian plains as a pr
ecarious homeland for the Magyars amidst both invasions from the outside (the Turks), as well as the uncertainty of Magyar dominance in the multicultural society of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The empire was founded in the same year Jews were extended full citizenship, in 1867. Paul Lendvai writes that in the latter half of the eighteenth century, Magyars “formed merely one-third of Hungary’s population.” The proportion of Magyars steadily mounted and by 1910 they represented more than half the population, but not by much.[i]

Of equal interest to me is the portrayal of the Hungarian past as presented at the Museum of Ethnography, across from the Hungarian Parliament Building. Earlier on this trip I had visited a similar museum in Krakow, the Ethnographic Museum at Wolnica Square. As a teacher I value these museums as a way to learn about history “from the bottom up.”  In both Krakow and Budapest, permanent collections focus on peasant and folk life as celebrated in costumes, artifacts, and household interiors. The life of the “folk” is presented as a cycle of traditions following the Christian calendar, with rooms devoted to Easter and Christmas traditions. This contrasts with the French Alsatian Museum that I visited on a previous journey to Strasbourg, where in addition to Christian traditions, several rooms are devoted to Jewish life. Yet the vast majority of Jews in Hungary ­­–– in total more than 800,000 (as counted in Hungarian records of 1944) –– lived in the countryside and small towns.[ii]

Budapest_expositionsIn July of 2015 when I visited the Museum of Ethnography in Budapest I saw its permanent exhibit titled “The Traditional Culture of the Hungarian People”
(banner to the left image) and a temporary one, “Picking Up the Pieces: Fragments of Rural Hungarian Jewish Culture.” (banner to the right image)An exhibit mounted by the museum in 2014, Dispossession and Self-Respect, focused on the Roma and other wandering craftsmen and traders essential to the maintenance
of traditional life. In his assessment of how the Museum of Ethnography portrays Hungarian society Péter Apor writes:

“Whereas, the Museum of Ethnography successfully deconstructs this image [of a homogenous society] by its thematic exhibitions demonstrating the diverse approaches to universal concepts or practices its permanent exhibit, “The Traditional Culture of the Hungarian People”, forges the rural societies of the country in one homogenous culture.”[iii]

Yet the museum itself owns the materials to give a more complete picture of Hungarian rural life. For example, according to the text accompanying the exhibit on Hungarian Jews, “The bulk of the material on display comes from the Museum of Ethnography’s own ethnography collections.”

In contrast I found that the Budapest History Museum in the Royal Palace embraced the multiethnic composition of the grand nineteenth century city, teaming with Magyars, Germans, Romanians, Slavs, Austrians, and Catholics, Protestants and Jews. Would this museum do a better job than the National History Museum in its coverage of the Holocaust?  Exhibits on the twentieth century in the National History Museum do indeed include many artifacts and photographs of the Holocaust. But in the assessment of Péter Apor:

“The exhibition also discussed the Holocaust and the extermination of Jews in Hungary. Yet it occurs in the context of the representation of the general tragedy of the nation –– wartime losses, military defeat, starvation and the siege of Budapest –– emphasizing the homogeneity of experience. In general, this is a typical strategy of museums in Hungary to avoid evoking past traumas that may raise the troublesome issues of social responsibility, but emphasizing an imagery of national solidarity…” (421).[iv]

In the Budapest History Museum I found the following label, which I thought note-worthy enough to photograph:

“Under the command of Eichmann but with the active participation of the Hungarian state administration still in operation, the deportation of Hungarian Jews from the provinces to the different concentration camps all over the German Empire was launched and completed very soon. Miklós Horthy managed to prevent deportation from Budapest only, by putting military forces in action on July 6 [1944]”.

If I were to be leading a class trip to this museum I would ask students to scrutinize this text upon return. Horthy served as Regent of the Kingdom of Hungary from 1920 to October 1944, when Hitler invaded, after which the Hungarian Arrow Cross seized power. During what timeframe were Jews outside of Budapest deported (primarily to Auschwitz)? How many and what percent perished? Why did Horthy step in to save the Jews of the city?  Of the Jews of Budapest, what were their fates and percentage of survival?  How important was Horthy to their survival?  What are the points of contention among historians who study the Horthy era, and how do different Hungarian factions view him today? Finally, is this label a just summary of Hungarian complicity in the Holocaust?

You will not learn about the controversy surrounding The House Terror on Andrássy Street from guidebooks. It opened in 2002 in the very building that served as headquarters of the fascist Hungarian Arrow Cross Party from October 1944 to 1945, and then up until 1956 as headquarters of the communist Hungarian State Protection Agency, the dreaded secret police. The museum’s director Dr. Mária Schmidt has come in for widespread criticism. Historian Randolph L. Braham writes,

“As a visionary and director of the House of Terror, Schmidt has, in the view of many historians, used this richly funded institution to denigrate and minimize the Holocaust and emphasize the crimes that had been committed during the communist era.”[v]

Other critics, like Apor believe that by conflating the Holocaust and the communist regime into one museum, the House of Horrors depicts those “horrors” as the consequence of foreign intervention, thereby relieving Hungarians of responsibility.[vi]  The opening of The House of Fates, a new Holocaust museum in Budapest, has been delayed because of controversy. The Hungarian Jewish community was not initially consulted, and many question how the museum will depict Hungary’s role under the directorship of Dr. Mária Schmidt.[vii]

Where does this leave visitors to Budapest, from the casual tourist to the avid history buff? There certainly are moving tributes to those who perished in the Holocaust, and some museums celebrate the multicultural and multilingual capital that Budapest once was. Only when visitors look at a range of museums and monuments does it become apparent that the country remains deeply divided in its interpretation of its past.


Part II: In the classroom: Thinking Critically about Museums

Today it’s ever-easier for students in one country to visit the historical sights in another EU nation. Yet all too often students think of sight seeing as a passive activity, one of viewing and listening. How then can we help students to use their critical thinking skills not only in the classroom, but when they move outside of it? Learners should be reminded that nationalism and the desire to legitimize the nation-state through prestigious collections have long been joint enterprises. Before a visit to any given museum, students should read background information about its history as an institution. When and why it was founded, who donated to it, and how were its collections acquired? Are there remaining controversies about who is the rightful owner of art or artifacts? Do the Parthenon sculptures now in the British Museum belong in the United Kingdom or Greece? Were any works of art seized from Jewish families during World War II?

In a recent article in the New York Times, Holland Cotter writes,

“Art museums are political, whether they want to be or not. Through the objects they acquire and exhibit, and in the ways they interpret those objects — what they say about them, what they don’t say — the institutions make statements about the relative value of cultures, meaning groups of people, and about who is important and who is not.”[viii]

Providing students with a map of the galleries before they visit helps them to analyze the subtext of what a museum says to its public. For example, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has magnificent collections of Asian and African art. But on entering the Great Hall, the Greek and Roman galleries are on your left, the Egyptian galleries (far from the African galleries) are on your right, and dead center is the stairway leading to the European art collection. Thus European civilization appears to be the apogee, with roots in what we call the classical world and Ancient Egypt. The Metropolitan and Louvre museums offer online maps that students can study, even if they do not visit. The Met even offers an on-line history of each collection.

How are galleries titled? When the Metropolitan re-opened its Islamic Art galleries it renamed them, “The Art of the Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia, and Later South Asia.” Holland Cotter was quick to see the new title’s import:

“Rather than presenting Islamic art as the product of a religiously driven mono culture encompassing centuries and continents, the Met is now — far more realistically — approaching it as a varied, changing, largely secular phenomenon.”[ix]

How do history museums divide their galleries into chronological eras? Students can compare how the national museums of two neighboring countries periodize and title displays on similar topics. For example, the penultimate exhibit in the Hungarian National Museum reads: “From the Success of Revision to German and Russian Occupation (1938-1945).” In 1938 Hitler took over Austria, a series of anti-Jewish laws were passed under Miklós Horthy, and Hungary regained some of the territory it lost in World War I. But why did museum curators begin with 1938? With what other date might this gallery have begun? Hungary was an independent Axis power from 1940 until Hitler invaded in 1944. Students can debate whether a better title would reflect this fact. They can suggest new ways to periodize a set of galleries and title them, and vote on the best one.

Similar activities apply to many monuments. Who wanted the monument and to what purpose: to glorify a leader, to honor the dead, to privilege some groups over others?  When was it built ––and why then? How was it funded, and did anyone object?

Finally, how does the portrayal of the past reflect the present? Hungary, as well as many other European nations, is confronting an immigration crisis as well as controversy about its treatment of Roma. What kind of country it wants to become can be seen as a reflection of the way it portrays its past.


Joan SchurAbout the author
Joan Brodsky Schur
 taught history and world literature in Greenwich Village, New York City for over twenty-five years. Her articles have appeared in Social Education, the journal of the National Council for the Social Studies (USA).  Her on-line lessons appear on the websites of the National Archives and PBS (Public Broadcasting Service).  Joan worked with Jonathan Even-Zohar writing curricula for Our Shared Past in the She also contributed to the world history site The Indian Ocean in World  Currently she serves as Social Studies Consultant to the City and Country School, NYC.




[i] Paul Lendvai, The Hungarians: A Thousand Years of Victory in Defeat (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2003) 3.

[ii] John Lukacs, Budapest 1900: A Historical Portrait of a City & its Culture  (New York: Grove Press, 1988) 96.

[iii] Péter Apor, “National Museums in Hungary” in Building National Museums in Europe 1750-2010 (Conference proceedings of European National Museums: Identity Politics, the Uses of the Past and the European Citizen, Bologna 28-30 April, 2011.) 422.    Accessed on line at Linköping University Press

 [iv] Apor, 421

[v] Randolph L. Braham, “Hungary: The Assault On the Historical Memory of the Holocaust.” Accessed at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum at (28)

[vi] Apor, 422

[vii] For articles on the House of Fates see “House of Fates:  Mária Schmidt versus János Lázár” at The Hungarian Spectrum

About the Monument to the 70th anniversary of Nazi occupation see, “Controversial monument divides Hungarians, angers Jewish community”, July 23, 2014.

[viii]  “Holland Cotter, “Placement Is Politics in Brooklyn Museum Reinstallation”, The New York Times, May 19, 2016.

[ix] Holland Cotter, “A Cosmopolitan Trove of Exotic Beauty, The New York Times, October 27, 2011.

Shedding new Light on Known Historical Figures

Steven Segers Articles
Part 2 in a series on new Europeana source collections on Historiana
   Historiana new source collections  Historiana new source collections2  Historiana new source collections3
The featured source collections can be found on Historiana and therefore can be used to create online learning activities. This blog is part of a series of four releases of source collections. Stay tuned for more in the coming weeks!

A relatively small number of historical figures is dominating history. Historical figures appear in history textbooks, in movies, in documentaries, in literature, but also in the collections of archives, museums and libraries. Although there are many sources about these well-known historical figures in the collections of museums, archives and libraries, only a limited number of these are used in education. This leads to a narrow understanding of those figures who have helped to shape history as there is little room in the classroom to address the controversies and complexities that characterize history and good history education with a limited set of sources.

The dominance of a small number of sources related to some historical figures, is reinforced by the supremacy of a limited number of websites that appear most frequent as search results. If you can find a good source in almost no time, why choose another? The main challenge is probably the amount of time that it can take to find these sources. Language barriers and copyright restrictions can make finding sources more difficult. To overcome these barriers, EuroClio, in partnership with Europeana, has created sets of sources that put well-known historical figures in a new light. Europeana offers the unique opportunity to search the collections of various archives and museums. It can be difficult to search across these collections because institutes tend to use their own way of curation and categorization, but in the case of the historical figures, it is possible to find related sources, because almost all institutes have used the person name as search term. The results of this cooperation are now published at Historiana in the form of a new series of source collections.

A rationale for selecting historical figures
Any choice for historical figures will have its limitations. With limited time at our hands we could never do justice to the diverse range of historical figures that could also have been chosen. The purpose was also not to make a definitive and all-inclusive selection of historical figures, but to find out what can be gained from looking for sources about known historical figures in the collections of different archives. The people we chose to focus on – Julius CaesarJeanne d’ArcAdolf HitlerCharles DarwinJoseph Stalin and Queen Victoria – are all figures that most people in Europe will have heard about. They have been the topic of extensive debate and multiple interpretations.

How can these source collections be used to teach history?
The source collections offer the opportunity to see to what extent the associations that people have with these historical figures are resonating with the selected sources from the different memory institutes. The source collections can also be used to compare and contrast the sources that different memory institutes have and have not included in their collection about the same historical figures. In addition, because it is clear for each source where the source is coming from (e.g. which institute provided the source), the source collections can also be used to learn about the way memory institutes are building their collections. How do sources arrive in their collection? What criteria were used to select and describe sources? Students can be asked to select sources that challenge or change their ideas about the historical figure and to explain how these sources are challenging or changing their ideas. Alternatively, teachers can use the source collections to challenge the students to make connections between sources, explain the order or ask them to make suggestions for sources that could be added to the collections.

The Power of Images

Part 1 in a series on new Europeana source collections on Historiana

historiana_headerThe featured source collections can be found on Historiana and therefore can be used to create online learning activities. This blog is part of a series of four releases of source collections. Stay tuned for more in the coming weeks!

It is often said that young people today prefer visuals over texts in their education. The widespread digitization of images from the collections of museums, archives and libraries offer the chance to educators to meet this demand. For individual educators the offer, however, can be overwhelming, which is why EuroClio, in partnership with Europeana, has created sets of visual sources selected for use in history education.

In the context of history education, students should be able to make a judgment on the usability of sources in order to answer historical questions based on the origins, the purpose and their trustworthiness. A good way of learning about these concepts is by focusing on sources that have been created specifically to influence what people think.

On Historiana, EuroClio and Europeana have made accessible a set of seven featured source collections that allow students to compare different ways in which visuals were used to control or at least try to have an impact on the population. Students can learn about how visuals are being used by looking at different aspects of the visual sources: What aspects are emphasized? What aspects are left out? What does the maker of the source want us to believe?

What featured source collections are made?

Three source collections, World War One Postcards and World War One Photographs deal with the subject of the First World War. In these source collections, it is shown that sources that initially do not seem to have a nature of propaganda, are in fact created with the intention to influence public opinion. These sources consist of official photographs and postcards. Another collection related to the First World War is Kinderbuch; a more one-sided collection of sources from a children’s book glorifying enlistment in the army during the war. Two other source collections are clearly understood as propaganda: Posters from the DDR and Communist China show that it is not just the message of the poster that can influence people’s opinions, but also the painting style. Furthermore, a source collection about the Spanish Civil War illustrates different sides within one conflict. Finally, a source collection about Suffragettes tells the development of the suffragette movement and shows visuals meant to influence public opinion, both in favor and against universal suffrage.

How can these source collections be used to teach history?

The source collections are very useful to make students aware that a large amount of visuals has been made with a specific purpose. There are examples that are very obvious, while others are subtler and not immediately identified as propaganda. With this set of source collections, history teachers can help their students become more critical in real life when they find images, online or offline. The release of these source collection will allow teachers to help students create a habit of reflecting critically on visual sources, by discussing about the motives and purposes of the visuals, and to determine information that is left out of the image.