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Remix of ‘The Boyfriend’ by Alžbeta Halušková. CC BY-SA. Source material: Za frajerom | Hanula, Jozef. Slovak National Gallery. Public domain. - Alžbeta Halušková

2018

Slovakia

CC BY-SA

I went to a bar for time travellers last night, a few blocks from Europeana’s office in The Hague, to have a few drinks and see what I could learn.

‘Do they know about Europeana in the future?’ I asked a patron as we waited for our drinks.

‘Europeana?’ she shouted, over the din of the crowded bar. ‘Of course! In the future it is beloved, one of the EU’s most important initiatives!’

She told me of Europeana in schools, homes and communities. Europeana in every country and every language. Europeana as a community, a celebration of the human spirit, a tool for reflection, cultural cohesion and positive change.

And as I listened in wonder, it struck me that Europeana’s mission, to transform the world with culture, had miraculously come true.

‘But how did we do it?’ I stammered. ‘What did we do to make this dream a reality?’

She didn’t know.

We asked everyone in the bar. Everyone knew Europeana and our shared cultural heritage were beloved, cherished, but not how they got that way, or what decisions helped along the way.

I felt dizzy as I said my goodbyes and walked into the cool night air. We know the future can be beautiful, but how to make it so? Will it be a technology? An insight? Funding and leadership? A new relationship between institutions and the people they are bound to serve?

It’s hard to say for sure. But as I think of the time travellers I met last night and the 25 years I’ve spent working on digital transformation in the cultural sector, I’m pretty sure of this: the future we want — engaged citizens in a healthy and resilient Europe — will only come true if we have the imagination and courage to rethink old assumptions, lift our vision, and make the world anew.

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