#AllezDemocracy – a different kind of exhibition
Marta Musso, from the Archives Portal Europe Foundation, tells us about a social media campaign celebrating heritage relating to the history of European democracy.
Archives Portal Europe (APE) is an online portal and search engine bringing together documents relating to European heritage from more than 700 institutions in 30 countries. These fascinating archives are also available in Europeana Collections.
Thinking about democracy for the European Year of Cultural Heritage
To celebrate the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018, we at APE asked representatives from all countries in our network to choose example documents from their archives that relate to the broader theme of democracy.
Democracy is one of the greatest, all-encompassing themes in history. Across the ages, the aspiration to democracy has been one of the main engines of history in Europe. The ideas around what democracy is, what it does, what it should do, and the implementation of these ideas in governments on a national, local, and international level, are persistent features in the history of Europe. It was even one of the starting points for building the European Union. So it is a very fitting theme to use to celebrate European cultural heritage in 2018.
Piece of a newspaper regarding the announcement of a Feminist Union Meeting in order to claim women’s suffrage in local elections, 1922, National Archives of Romania. Public domain.
#AllezDemocracy success on social media
The contributors - archivists from all over Europe - chose documents that represented the ideas and practices of democracy in their countries.
We are now halfway through the campaign and have had an unexpected level of success both in terms of viewers and contributors. We received more than 100 documents from 25 countries. The documents span nine centuries, from the 12th century all the way to the 1990s, and come from throughout Europe, from Georgia to Portugal, from Iceland to Malta.
From constitutions to forgotten feminists
The documents are incredibly diverse: from the personal papers of forgotten characters such as Dora Winifred Russell, a British feminist and socialist campaigner active in Europe in the interwar period, to the Law of Epidaurus, the first constitution of Modern Greece after the independence of the country. And from the 1118 Tumbo viejo de la Catedral de Lugo, the monastic cartulary (manuscript) of the Lugo Cathedral in Galicia - the first administrative documents of the post-Roman era, to the Maltese Appello agli Elettori, the Appeal to the Electorate, written in August 1849, when the first general elections in Malta took place.
Appeal to the Electorate, 1849, National Archives of Malta.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of #AllezDemocracy is that it allows people to find gems from archives all over Europe, presenting often unseen viewpoints. Rather than just focussing on the celebratory examples of democracy given by the Resistance, or the battles for universal suffrage and women’s rights, the documents provide examples of the problems of implementing fair electoral systems, inclusive institutions and efficient bureaucracies: all elements of functioning democracies that are a contemporary challenge for institutions throughout Europe. Special attention has also been given to smaller countries within Europe, often forgotten in the grand narrative of the post-war European values that we know: countries like Estonia, Slovakia and Malta are amongst the largest contributors.
A different kind of exhibition
#AllezDemocracy is organised as a diffused exhibition throughout the web, marking a new way of using digital spaces for the organisation of virtual shows. Rather than aggregating all documents on a single website, #AllezDemocracy runs as updates on social media, following a chronological order that tells the story of the democratisation of Europe throughout nine centuries and 25 countries.
The exhibition can be followed by episodes, every Tuesday and Thursday, or by accessing the chronological list of documents, updated weekly, on a dedicated page of APE’s website. The best way to experience the exhibition, however, is by chasing the documents through the hashtag #AllezDemocracy, a treasure hunt following the footsteps of those who, throughout centuries, have believed in democracy as a universal value for the peaceful and the egalitarian coexistence of humankind.