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2 minutes to read Posted on Thursday June 27, 2019

Updated on Monday November 6, 2023

portrait of Steven Stegers

Steven Stegers

Executive Director , EUROCLIO - European Association of History Educators

How can we help history teachers teach from multiple perspectives? It starts with sources

Over the last 25 years, the term multiperspectivity has gained importance in history education and has been a key concept for the work of organisations such as EUROCLIO. Here we look at EUROCLIO’s multiperspective source collections and tell you how you can contribute.

main image
William Harvey demonstrating his theory of circulation of the blood before Charles I
Ernest Board
Wellcome Collection
United Kingdom

This painting depicts Harvey demonstrating his theory of blood circulation to King Charles I. It is useful for education. It can be used to demonstrate that a royal was personally interested in anatomy, to analyse what people knew at the time about the way the human body works, and what a scientist like Harvey looked like.

EUROCLIO and Europeana have been working together to give history educators access to sets of source material from Europeana Collections that are transnational and multiperspective. These collections, which are published on the Historiana platform, provide educators with ready-made thematic compilations of sources that educators can easily adapt to their own needs, and use to develop learning activities. 

In essence, multiperspectivity means that history should be studied and understood through different points of view. Although history teachers are widely supportive of the idea, implementation in practice often proves to be difficult. One of the challenges that teachers face is getting access to sources that come from different countries and are suitable to use with younger students.

A few multiperspective examples from our source collections 

The source collections that have been developed so far, including 12 new ones just  last month - focus on topics that are commonly taught across Europe, such as Napoleon and his times, the Industrial Revolutions and the European Renaissances. Topics that we will focus on next are Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, the Age of Revolutions, and the Reformation and Counter-Reformation

A screenshot of some of the new source collections

The source collection Medicine and Anatomy deals with the concepts of change and continuity in the development of medicine during the Renaissance. It challenges the commonly held concept that scientific methods completely wiped out the more supernatural beliefs around health and disease and gives a comprehensive overview of the main developments in the field. 

On this particular topic, some leading cultural heritage institutions, in this case the Wellcome Collections, host such a wide array of relevant sources that we can almost build a whole source collection just by using items from a single institution. There are only a few cultural heritage organisations with such an international scope, and they tend to focus on one particular aspect of history.  

In most cases, therefore, we have to combine sources from different cultural heritage providers. For example, in the source collection Precursors of the Renaissance we used sources from the Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art, the National Library of Denmark, and the National Library of the Czech Republic, among others.

The Precursors of the Renaissance source collection presents a critical view on established conceptions around the Renaissance. Common ideas on when the Renaissance started, the degree to which it was a revolutionary break with the past, who the main figures were, and the preponderance of Northern Italy as an epicentre of the Renaissance are all challenged in this source collection.

This eLearning Activity about Continuity and Change in Renaissance Medicine, is an example of how we use the source collections to create ready-to-use activities that promote historical thinking. Registered users can copy these eLearning Activities and adjust them to their needs. A full overview of the Source Collections and the eLearning Activities that EUROCLIO developed so far is available in the updated teacher training guide. 

Share your expertise and collections with us at Europeana 2019

Without Europeana, it would be much harder to develop a collection that makes use of sources from different cultural heritage institutions. The development of these collections clearly shows the added value of Europeana. Finding and matching these sources, however, requires considerable time, knowledge and effort. This is best done if we join forces with the cultural heritage institutions themselves. We therefore invite people who are working in these institutions to share their knowledge of history and of the items in their collections and contribute to the development of the historical source collections.

We will organise a face-to-face session during the Europeana 2019 conference in Lisbon for cultural heritage institutions interested in cooperating in the development of these collections. Here we also demonstrate how we use sources from Europeana for the creation of eLearning Activities. 

Get in touch!

If you are already willing to bring the content of your institution to history educators across Europe or are interested in learning how to create eLearning Activities with your collections, contact me now! 

I can best be reached at [email protected].