The House of European History, in Brussels’ quartier européen, has gone through a rough patch ever since the project was announced in 2007. The ‘House of Horrors’, the project has been referred to. The ‘House of the Smallest Common Denominator’, too.
The project earned its nicknames in the (eurosceptic) British tabloid press. But it’s not just London’s hacks that are alarmed by the project. In fact, it’s the academic circles – the historians that deal with Europe’s past on a daily basis – that are most alarmed.
The House was initiated by the European Parliament with the aim to exhibit shared European heritage, foster European identity and cultivate European unification, then European Parliament president, Hans-Gert Pöttering, said in 2007.
But “that seems like a futile endeavor,” historians like professor and expert at European identity, Patrick Pasture, argued. What is shared heritage? And what’s being kept out of the EU’s often-told version of European history?
Researchers have devoted entire dissertation papers and even thesisses to the subject of the House of European History. Many of them are trying to pin down an answer to the core question: How on earth can you construct a museum that is balanced and comprehensive on the one hand, and yet avoids making a travesty of history on the other?
* * *
I wrote an essay on this issue, based on interviews with historians, MEPs involved in the discussion from the Parliament’s side and the academic team that is working out the details for the museum to open in the coming year(s).
You can read the full piece as published in MO* magazine in December 2014 (in Dutch). One click on the preview and you’re good to go!