29 August 2013

"Europeana 1989 - We Made History” - a variety of memories from the 1980s

Category: XXw, Regional history, Discussion, sources, News, Open projects - aplications

June 2013 marked the launch of the international Europeana 1989 project, with Poles invited to publish with the online forum their memories of momentous changes at the end of 1980s. 

Europeana 1989 is an initiative launched by Europeana, a library, museum and digital archive. As part of the project, those who witnessed the fall of the Iron Curtain and kept relics from that time are encouraged to share their stories. The collection of memories is being prepared for presentation in 2014, when the world celebrates the 25th anniversary of the remarkable changes in 1989. 

The project officially began on the 8th of June, and Poland was the first country where the collection of memorabilia for Europeana 1989 got underway. Activities were inaugurated by a debate on the importance of preserving memories and items from the time of transition. It was attended by Europeana 1989 ambassadors from countries involved in the project: SarmīteĒlerte from Latvia, Tunne Kelam from Estonia, Petr Janyška from the Czech Republic, Wolfgang Templin from Germany and László Rajk from Hungary. Poland was represented by Tadeusz Mazowiecki, the first non-communist Prime Minister of the Republic of Poland, and by photographer Chris Niedenthal, who documented Poland's road to democratization.

The first collections of memorabilia, in cooperation with Europeana and Narodowy Instytut Audiowizualny (The National Audiovisual Institute), were held in Warsaw, Poznań and Gdańsk. During the collection sessions, volunteers digitised everyday objects, photos, videos and audio recordings. All recordings were returned to their owners and the electronic versions took their places in the digital archive at

“The collected items include”, the organisers stated, “underground press, election leaflets, food stamps, old banknotes, documents and
currency-exchange books popular in that period, as well as family photos, clothes or toys.” They further emphasised this very wide variety of memorabilia.

The digital archive features a huge private collection of black and white photographs from the famous Jarocin music festival, taken in 1988. ­The event was very popular in the 1980s and attracted participants from many colourful subcultures. Thanks to digitised photos, everyone can still see them up close. Souvenirs include complete albums with illegal postage stamps depicting well-known opposition activists from the 1980s. Their owner manufactured them himself, secretly copying them with friends in his private flat.

Frank Drauschke, coordinator of Europeana 1989, states that “in accordance with the project motto We Made History, we had a clear goal: documenting the history of transitions from the perspective of people who lived in those times, their stories, experiences, struggles, joys and sorrows. Ordinary people create extraordinary history and this is what we wanted to emphasise.”

Michał Merczyński, Director of the National Audiovisual Institute, adds that “We are happy that Poles brought in such diverse souvenirs. Even though from the very beginning we encouraged the participants to share their souvenirs and memories, we were surprised by the number of interesting stories hidden in seemingly ordinary items of everyday use. We believe it's a great material to commemorate those times.”

Currently the digital archive at contains almost 8,000, and is constantly growing.

After the project’s Polish edition concludes, Europeana 1989 will continue in other countries of Central and Eastern Europe. In August, souvenirs will collected in Vilnius, Tallinn and Riga to commemorate activities in the Baltic states, and in November the participation of Czechs will be invited in Prague, on the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution. Collections will take place in 2014, in Germany in May and in Hungary in June.

Digital archive of memories

Those who could not attend the collections in Poland can easily help expand the online archive. You just need to register at and submit digital versions of recordings, scans or photographs of items related to the events in the late 1980s, with descriptions of memories connected with them. Soon, thanks to successive expansion of the archive with new souvenirs from other participating countries, by visiting Europeana 1989 you will be able to witness how this period, so crucial in the development of Europe, unfolded across various cities and nations.



The Europeana 1989 online platform is the result of a strategic partnership between Europeana and Historypin. is hosted by Historypin and employs its technology, which unites people around family stories from different generations and cultures in order to conduct research and create a shared global archive as a complete, vivid picture of the past. allows users to submit images, videos, sound recordings and stories, then to pin them to a specific date and time on the Historypin world map. The project also makes it possible to integrate photos and videos from Google Maps Street View. This way it is possible to achieve fascinating, nostalgic "then and now" comparisons.


You can follow the development of the project on Facebook: and Twitter: @europeana1989.




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