Conference reports The EU-funded “Europast”project’s first summer school

June 19-23, 2023, a summer school of the international project “Europast” took place at Lund university. “Europast” is short for the project’s title “Facing the Past: Public History for a stronger Europe” and is an international project financed by the EU within Horizon Europe program that started in December 2022 and will end in November 2025.

Published in the printed edition of Baltic Worlds BW 2023:3, p 84
Published on on August 18, 2023

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“Europast” is short for the project’s title “Facing the Past: Public History for a stronger Europe” and is an international project financed by the EU within Horizon Europe program that started in December 2022 and will end in November 2025.

June 19-23, 2023, a summer school of the international project “Europast” took place at Lund university. This project connects four partners: the Institute of international relations and political science at Vilnius university (TSPMI) in Lithuania, the leader of the project, the Leibniz Center of contemporary History (ZZF) in Potsdam (Germany), the Joint Faculties of Humanities and Theology at the university at Lund university (Sweden) and the Center for contemporary and Digital History at the University of Luxemburg. As formulated in the program of the event, the project “aims to explore the theory and practice of engaging citizens in the co-production and communication of the past in digital age”. The overall goal of this cooperation is to establish an interdisciplinary research network by combining training, networking, research, and communication activities.

The summer school has been co-organized by Luxemburg University and Lund University representatives. As an especially experienced partner within the field of public and digital history, Luxemburg university is responsible for training activities in the framework of the project, including those during the summer school. The Lund team mobilized local research seniors and early carrier scholars for participation in the event took care of the venue, digital service, catering.

As this event was the first summer school of the project, its topic was public history in the most general sense. The event combined different structural parts:Workshops were meant for learning about public history, “conversations” were a sort of keynote speeches given by senior scholars that had a dialogue character and presentations of early carrier scholars (PhD-Candidates and postdocs) were meant to provide them with feedback on their current work. Even though the event was meant to be an internal event directed to the members of the project, it also welcomed some interested scholars from other universities such as University of Saragossa (Spain) and Copenhagen University (Denmark).

The first day had an introductory character. After the coordinator of the project, Violeta Davoliūtė, (Vilnius University) and the WP 3 leader and host, Barbara Törnquist-Plewa (Lund University), had said some welcoming words, the main organizer of the event, Thomas Cauvin, (Luxemburg university) introduced the participants in his presentation “Public History, Conflicting Narratives, and Democratic Practices?“ to some essential aspects of public history and their interrelation to other prominent research fields, thereby encouraging the participants to define what public history means to them.

The keynote speaker of the day was Peter Aronsson from Linneus university (Gävle, Sweden). He talked about cultural institutions, public culture and market actors and about their ways to negotiate the meaning of the past in the public sphere. He looked at these aspects by comparing national museums and their cultural potential to mobilize local and regional development in Europe.

The first day ended with a workshop titled “Public history teaching” that introduced the participants to the perspective of  public history makers. The workshop was presented by two colleagues from ZZF, Irmgard Zündorf and Josephine Eckert. Their hands-on workshop invited the audience to discuss the criteria that allows us to evaluate history presentations within the field of public history that eventually enables a common approach for public history analysis.

The second day of the summer school was opened by another workshop, this time on  digital storytelling, led by Sandra Camarda from Luxemburg University. The workshop introduced the participants to the concepts, theoretical and methodological approaches, and possible ways to apply it in historical practice as well as education and communication. The participants were able to try out their skills in a hands-on exercise based on simple case studies.

The day proceeded with presentations of early carrier scholars. A PhD student at Luxembourg University, Camilla Protesani talked about the participatory Public History Lab developed by the House of European History and Transnational Museum. Protesani addressed the challenges that the museum is facing because of the shared authority in the history making of museums. In the following presentation, the PhD candidate, Sebastian Graf (Lund University), looked at memory-making processes in the Ukrainian virtual museum “Meta History: Museum of War”, which was set up as a response to Russia’s full-scale invasion. The talk focused on the entanglement of the museum’s infrastructure, its engagement with the war, and its representation of the past. Finally,  Uršulė Toleikytė, a Phd student at Vilnius University, presented the methodological challenges within her dissertation on social theatre in the natural environment as a multidimensional practice, thereby answering the question how the artistic-social process manifests within a specific context.

The second day of the event ended with the “conversation” with Anamaria Dutceac-Segesten who presented the Horizon2020 project “SO-CLOSE” that – in cooperation with partners from Poland, Italy, Spain and Greece – co-created digital tools interesting for the field of public history. Moreover, she talked about the problems the project encountered and best practices it developed.

The third day started with a workshop on oral history methodology co-moderated by Eleonora Narvselius (Lund University) and Ainė Ramonaitė (Vilnius University). This workshop introduced the participants to the components and stages of the oral history process including collective memories of the public space, oral history sources, credible and non-credible narration, subject positions of narrators and collectors as well as interpretative strategies.

The day continued with presentations by early carrier scholars. The postdoctoral researcher Odeta Rudling (Lund University) analyzed in her presentation the memory politics related to Lithuanian cultural activist and politician, Juozas Ambrazevičius-Brazaitis, thereby showing why the perception of Brazaitis as a hero of the uprising 1941 dominates in Lithuanian memory politics while his WWII crimes are rarely addressed. Liucija Vervečkienė, a researcher at Vilnius university, presented a project on memory formation of the post-Soviet generation. She argued that it requires a specific type of memory work as the family and the state sometimes provide competing versions of the past. This generation therefore uses strategies that harmonise family narratives with the narratives of the state. After this followed the presentation of the postdoctoral researcher Martina Koegeler-Abdi. She presented a project on how Danish grandchildren use secrecy as a practice within the knowledge management of the family history of the WWII. She argued that a family secret was not only a trigger to revise the family narrative but also to connect personal and public histories.

The day ended with the “conversation” with  Joanna B. Michlic (Lund University/UCL/Hadassah-Brandeis University). She talked about the role of Jewish cemeteries in education in post-communist Eastern Europe – a research project that resulted in a book-report, published in early 2023. According to Michlic, the cemeteries are a powerful resource in high school and college education about pre-1939 Jewish Heritage and the Holocaust. One of Michlic’s main arguments  is that the cemeteries offer vital insights into the complex social history of the Holocaust, especially the difficult past in local communities.

The fourth day of the summer school began with a hands-on-workshop on Guided Museum Tours that a postdoctoral researcher, Dora Komnenovic, moderated. Within this workshop, she focused on the question, what it takes to conduct an informative, interactive, and impactful museum tour? What do we need to keep in mind before guiding a museum tour? Encouraging participants to share their own experiences and try out different approaches in a practical exercise, Komnenovic went through a number of important elements of this field.

The day proceeded with presentations of early carrier scholars. The postdoctoral researcher Jogilė Ulinskaitė presented her current project entitled “Stories of Pride During the Post-Communist Transformation in Lithuania” focusing on narratives of pride within the memory of the transformation period after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Looking at two industrial cities, Ulinskaitė compared two different groups, their experiences and narratives related to the pride rhetoric. Thereafter, the PhD candidate, Alena Minchenia (Lund university), talked about the moments of opening for a broader solidarity during the demonstrations in Belarus in 2020 as well as the “cracs” in this solidarity related to the lack of acceptance of the LGTBQ community.

In their “conversation” entitled “Memory World-War II-Era Ukrainian Nationalism in the Post-Soviet Ukraine”, the associate professor Per Anders Rudling (Lund university) and the PhD candidate and adjunct Niklas Bernsand (Lund university) discussed  about the ways to deal with sensitive chapters of Ukrainian history against the backdrop of the ongoing Russian aggression in the country. In an engaged heated discussion, Rudling argued for the importance of critical research in the field of the difficult Ukrainian past despite of the ongoing war, while Bernsand argued against because of Russian instrumentalization of the “dark” chapters of Ukrainian history.

  • by Odeta Rudling

    Is a project administrator at the Horizon project "Europast" at the University of Lund. I hold a doctoral degree (Dr. Phil) from university of Greifswald, Germany (2019), just finished my Post-doc position at the Department of History at Lund university (12/12 2021-30/06 2023) and started working as project administrator at East and Centraleuropean Studies (Öst och Centraleuropakunskap) in April (2023). I also currently teach contemporary history at the Department of History.

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