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2 minutes to read Posted on Thursday November 25, 2021

Updated on Monday November 6, 2023

portrait of Adrian Murphy

Adrian Murphy

Europeana Collections Manager , Europeana Foundation

Engaging the public with Europeana Sport events

Since April 2021, the Europeana Sport project has held 13 events inviting the public across Europe to share their stories, memories and memorabilia relating to sport. 10 of these events were held in-person. We spoke with project partners to hear about their experience of engagement from the public and reflections on running in-person events during the COVID-19 pandemic.

People sat around a table at the Amsterdam Olympic Stadium
Europeana Sports collection day at the Amsterdam Olympic Stadium
Sebastiaan ter Burg
Europeana Foundation

The Europeana Sport Generic Services project was proposed during 2019 and awarded CEF Telecom co-funding in mid 2020. Among other activities, the project planned to host a series of events across Europe, inviting members of the public to participate and share their sporting stories. Europeana's previous experience of hosting collection day events such as these has been very rewarding, with many people attending to share their personal histories, memories and reflections, and ultimately contribute to Europe’s shared cultural heritage.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic threatened to curtail our plans. We were unsure whether we would be able to hold the events planned under the project, or whether people would want to attend them. 

Nonetheless, through flexibility and adaptability, this year, 10 in-person events were able to take place in France, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Romania, Spain and the United Kingdom. Events were held in libraries, museums, archives, online, at a sporting event, in a school and at a stadium, and when the public health situation allowed.

Keeping in person events safe

A priority for all the in person events was the safety of organisers and participants. At the first two in-person events held in the 'Octavian Goga' Cluj County Library in Romania, an appointment system was used to minimise the numbers of people attending at any one time. Librarian Anca Docolin says, 'Our safety preparations included plexiglass screens, masks and gloves, and disinfectant available for everyone. The event was well-received by our visitors, who brought a variety of objects about a wide range of sports.' 

Organisers also used a variety of locations to ensure that the events could be well managed. Instead of inviting a public audience to a venue, in September Michael Culture Association held a collection day in Polangis primary school in Joinville-Le-Pont, a suburban city 20 minutes away from Paris. Michael Culture's Marie Hartmann explains that this allowed a workflow which ensured the pupils and organisers remained safe: 'One by one, they presented their story and object, and came to a classroom for us to photograph.'

Inviting the public

When it was possible and safe to invite the public to share their sporting memories at these events, the experience was rewarding for both participants and organisers. In October, the CRDI Ajuntament de Girona held an event relating to the city's rugby club history where more than 100 former players and members came together to share their memories. Organiser David Iglésias says, 'It was amazing to see how the rugby players were interested in preserving their stories. It became very clear how people value the work of archives, as a vital (and accessible) part of the city's life.'

The National Archives of Hungary organised an event in Balatonfüred, alongside a popular sailing race. Senior Archivist Dorottya Szabó says, 'This event was an opportunity to bring culture and archives closer to people. With the conversations, the presentation of the archives and the collection of stories related to sports and sailing at Lake Balaton, we were able to reach out to many people. We received countless positive feedback during the event'.

EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum combined hosting a series of events over summer 2021 with interviewing some contributors online. Senior Curator Nathan Mannion says, 'We’ve learned that there simply is no substitute for speaking directly with those who have stories and objects to share and that the interview element is critical'.

Europeana Sport events in Cluj-Napoca, Balatonfured & Girona. Copyright not evaluated.
Biblioteca Cluj-Napoca, National Archives of Hungary and Ariadna Matas

Collaboration and communities

A number of event organisers found that this experience helped bring Europeana closer to their communities, and showed the value of pan-European collaborative projects. The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision hosted a collection day in September at the Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam, in collaboration with the Amsterdam Sports Council. Aisha Villegas, Outreach & Communications Coordinator, says, 'The participants were enthusiastic to share their stories and reminded us of the importance of preserving the stories and memories of the community. The event was also an occasion for our institution to disseminate our and Europeana’s work, creating new connections and opening opportunities for future collaborations.'

ICCU, the Europeana accredited national aggregator for Italy, collaborated with the Centro d'Arte Mediterranea to hold an event in Torre del Greco. Project coordinator Antonio Davide Madonna - a native of Torre del Greco - says, 'It was wonderful to hear the memories of people from the town. The event was popular with local politicians and organisations, demonstrating the value of Europeana to the public and citizens of Torre del Greco'.

Online & hybrid

Some partners opted for hybrid events, with the National Library of Scotland organising virtual and in-person workshops. These are being held in collaboration with Scottish sporting organisations which work with under-represented groups: LEAP Sports Scotland (which promote LGBTQ+ sport participation), Scottish Disability Sport, Scottish Ethnic Minority Sports Association (SEMSA) and Street Soccer Scotland. Graeme Hawley, Head of General Collections at National Library of Scotland, says 'This approach allows us to collaborate to improve the diversity of the stories shared with the Europeana Sport project.'

Storytelling and more

Ad Pollé, Europeana’s Senior User Generated Content Projects Coordinator, says, 'In challenging circumstances, it's great to see all that the Europeana Sport partners have achieved through their collaborations. Sport heritage is an often overlooked part of cultural heritage. The events - and all the people who participated in them - have resulted in a wonderful series of events and stories that reflect diverse sporting heritage from all across Europe.' Read the stories.

If you are a cultural heritage institution interested in organising an event to engage the public with your sporting collections you can find out more on our Europeana Sport page or contact me (