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The cultural project Print E-mail
A document consisting of more than 300 pages and sketches was approved in December 2004 by the Museum Support Committee, which brings together the International Committee of Museum Directors and the International Orientation Council. This was the result of a long-term effort, during which continual innovations proved essential. There were innovations concerning the method : an integrated team focusing on interdisciplinarity and Europeanness. There were innovations concerning the relationships with other institutions : the creation of the European Museums network. There were innovations concerning the scientific scenario : it took more than seven versions to arrive at a European history of Europe, with which every European citizen, whatever their origin, could identify. Finally there were innovations concerning the museographical project : it’s based on two spaces – one permanent, the other variable – for exploring the long history of Europe.

1. Interdisciplinarity and Europeanness

The content planning studies were conducted according to the following two principles :
•    interdisciplinarity: at each stage of the studies, the historians entered into dialogue with the scriptwriters, the designers and the technical managers;
•    and Europeanness: not only was the museum team European from the outset, but the works were also subjected to the critical eye of an International Orientation Council and an International Committee of Museum Directors, comprising the Support Committee for the project.
This procedural framework imposed a radical revision of the drafts on several occasions. An initial presentation of the content of the Museum was made to the Orientation Council in October 2003 and a second, to the International Committee of Museum Directors, was made in January 2004. These exchanges between historians, museum directors and museographic experts enabled the choices regarding the content of the exhibition spaces and the cultural planning to be honed. In December 2004, the general concept of the Museum was approved by the European Advisory Council.
The final report on the general conception phase (December 2004), a summary of 350 pages, constitutes the Museum’s cultural project.
A museum of history, the Museum of Europe is also a museum of identity – as are numerous other museums at local, regional and national level – to contribute to the emergence of a European civic spirit.

2. A European history of Europe

The history dealt with here is not the sum of national histories. It is conceived as a history of the emergence, maturing and break-up of a level of integration that is suprastate or supranational. It aims to show that the process of unification is based on foundations provided by a movement that began in a distant past.
The current unification is not the first: Europe has already experienced two other periods of unification, which were each shattered by a rupture.
As such, the history of the unification of Europe can be summed up in a simple sequence: three periods of unity – unity through faith (10th–15th centuries), unity through the Enlightenment (18th–19th centuries), and unity by design (since 1945) – interrupted by two periods of rupture : the Wars of Religion (16th–17th centuries), and the Wars of Ideologies (1913–1989). This way of conceiving the history of Europe brings us to an integration of ‘ heritages ’ (Celts, Greeks and Romans) and ‘ proximities ’ (to Byzantium particularly) – cultural strata which have helped to give European civilisation its distinctive face(3).

3. The museographical project

The ambition of the Museum is to become the cultural link between Europe and the citizen, thereby attracting everyone keen to understand the past and future of European integration to visit the museum. Having observed the distant relationship of citizens with history (which is of little concern to them) and with Europe (which they know little about), the planning of the museum was designed as an attempt to reconcile citizens with their history and with Europe, without imposing on them an indigestible visit examining a thousand years of history all in one go.
The Museum will therefore house a permanent section and a variable section, rounded off by temporary exhibitions and a dedicated children’s space.
The permanent space is divided into two self-supporting sections : It’s our History !, an installation presenting the history of the European Union (unity by design) ; and the ‘ Map Room ’, a spectacular display of maps with a view to establishing the spatial and temporal landmarks in European unification.
The Chronicle of Europe is the variable section of the space. It will be made up of seven temporary exhibitions presenting the chapters in European history developed by the scientific project.
Other thematic temporary exhibitions are envisaged, to reflect current events or develop a subject that has been rapidly sketched elsewhere in the museum.

The place of the object in these spaces has also been defined. In a history museum, whatever its nature, the object must serve a purpose comprised of ideas, concepts and mental structures. As soon as it is installed in a display, it may prove to be out of context. The object therefore has to be ‘recontextualised’, by linking it to others, and by surrounding it with systems of interpretation to take account of the double gaze to which the object is subjected – that of the user and that of the visitor – and to ‘ make the objects talk ’ as Marie-Hélène Joly puts it. The absence of Museum of Europe collections may be perceived as a problem. And indeed it is. But it is also a genuine opportunity to modify the way in which the existing collections are seen, in order to present elements of it in a European perspective, and no longer in a purely national, regional or local perspective. For the presence of authentic objects is essential for bringing the citizen closer to history.

4. Feasibility studies

The cultural project is accompanied by several studies conducted to analyse the economic, financial and legal feasibility of the Museum of Europe, and to translate its needs into a general functional programme.
These studies, conducted in collaboration with external experts (research consultancies, architects, consultants, etc), have helped to convince :
•    Economical and Financial Feasibility;
•    Marketing Study;
•    Architectural Program Study.