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Archaeology behind the Iron Curtain – memories of excavations and digs in Lithuania from 1948 to 1968

Fri, 15/11/2019 - 13:09

The Iron Curtain was the non-physical boundary between Western and Eastern Europe after World War II. During these decades, Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union, affected by war and occupier repressions. All ways of life involved intricate situations – including archaeology.

This blog looks at the memories of those who worked on archaeological digs and projects in Lithuania during the Cold War, with a focus from 1948 to 1968.


Women and young boys were the main participants in archaeological excavations in this period. During World War II, more than a million people died, a third of the population of Lithuania. Thus, the workforce was dramatically reduced. As a result, students near the excavation sites were the main available labour force.

Young boys in the archaeological excavation of Galaliai settlement, Aldona Bernotaitė, 1958.
Vilnius University Faculty of Communication, CC BY-NC-ND Clothing

During archaeological excavations, participants wore traditional clothes. Men and boys usually dressed in trousers, shirts and jackets, while women wore dresses, shirts and skirts.

Attention should be paid to the women’s clothing because, from the 1960s, during archaeological excavations, women started to wear trousers and changed their style of dressing. Nevertheless, trousers were still the exception.

A number of factors underpinned this change in women’s clothing. The Soviet Union had began new reforms, with new industries created. Work in factories changed employees’ clothing. Women became part of the workforce. And a new wave of ‘modern and simple’ Soviet fashion began.

Working women in archaeological excavation of Pučkalaukis cemetery, Pranas Kulikauskas, 1953. Vilnius University Faculty of Communication, CC BY-NC-ND Collectivisation

At the end of World War II, collectivisation started in Lithuania. After five years, as much as 94% of the country’s land was collectivised. 

Remembering the first archaeological expeditions after the war, in 1949, archaeologist Adolfas Tautavičius wrote: An expedition took place under difficult conditions. The government started to found Kolkhoz collective farms and Sovkhoz state-owned farms, and began the deportation of farmers. Part of these farmsteads were empty – without windows, doors, overturned fences. Inhabitants were frightened.

Records of archaeological excavations mention digging activities in collective farms’ fields. Rimutė Rimantienė described: ‘We had to excavate a Stone Age settlement, but the leader of the Kolkhoz forgot and planted potatoes in this site. But everything was ok. The leader let us dig the potatoes. We dug it day after day and ate potatoes, kefir and salads, and later cucumbers and tomatoes.’

Participants of archaeological excavation rake hay in collective farm’s fields, Pranas Kulikauskas, 1955. Vilnius University Faculty of Communication, CC BY-NC-ND

RELATED: Explore the Cold War in photographs in Blue Skies, Red Panic, an exhibition of photographic perspectives of Europe in the 1950s

Tools and equipment

After the war, there was a lack of archaeological tools and equipment. Archaeologist Pranas Kulikauskas wrote about what happened between 1948 -1949: ‘We didn‘t have any tools or equipment. Trowel and brushes were borrowed from other museums. The Museum of Šiauliai gave us a camera. We drew the plans ourselves.’

Preparation of a grave of Linksmučiai cemetery, Mykolas Černiauskas, 1949. Vilnius University Faculty of Communication, CC BY-NC-ND

RELATED: Explore this gallery of archaeologists at work


Food was very important during the excavation. Normally, archaeologists cooked food for themselves. Sometimes there were exceptions, either hiring a cook or eating in canteens. In general, the particants sourced food in two ways. They bought milk products, bread and vegetables from local people. Other participants fended for themselves, by picking berries and mushrooms, and catching fish in rivers.

The ending feast of the archaeological expedition, Pranas Kulikauskas, 1954.
Vilnius University Faculty of Communication, CC BY-NC-ND

Archaeologist Rimutė Rimantienė remembered in a diary: ‘Here in Rudnia village, life is very good. The forest is full of berries. The girls picked a lot of berries, but we could not eat them all, so, from what was left, we cooked and made jam.

By Šarūnė Valotkienė, Vilnius University Faculty of Communications

Europe at Work: Share your story

Did you or your family work in archaeology in Lithuania or elsewhere? Share your story and help us tell the story of Europe through our working lives in the past and the present.

This blog post is a part of the Europeana Archaeology project, which digitises Europe’s rich heritage of archaeological monuments, historic buildings, cultural landscapes and artefacts


  • Kulikauskas, Pranas, Kelias į archeologiją. Vilnius: Vaga, 2003.
  • Rimantienė, Rimutė, Aš iš dvidešimtojo amžiaus. Vilnius: Vilniaus dailės akademijos leidykla, 2010.
  • Volkaitė-Kulikauskienė, Regina, Dienoraščių pynės. Vilnius: Lietuvos nacionalinis muziejus, 2016.
  • Tautavičius, Adolfas, Iš archeologo užrašų. Vilnius: Nacionalinis muziejus LDK Valdovų rūmai, 2016.
  • Eidintas, Alfonsas; Bumblauskas, Alfredas; Kulakauskas, Antanas; Tamošaitis, Mindaugas, Lietuvos istorija. Vilnius: Eugrimas, 2012.

Paper processes: tips for achieving a paperless office

Thu, 14/11/2019 - 08:00

What do you say when you discover the work paper recycling box is absolutely empty? Well I would say, ‘Congratulations, everyone!’ with a big smile. Paperless office achieved.

The term ‘Paperless Office’ (according to Wikipedia) was introduced in 1978 by Micronet, Inc., an automated office equipment company, and over the following decades has evolved into a highly visible movement with plenty of good intentions.

Computer, Helmut Klapper, Vorarlberger Landesbibliothek, CC BY

Just think, if each of us, in every office, in every city, took just small steps, this action could actually snowball into something greater than the sum of its parts. Imagine a workplace where none of us chooses processes that involve bleached-wood-pulp-brews; organic matter soaked in water, pressed into sheets, and cut to size. Paper comes from trees, and it is those trees that support the green lung of our blue planet.  

Ponderosa pine: two trees in open landscape, c.1857, Wellcome Collections, CC BY

Today, our offices probably can’t go completely paperless, but hopefully these suggestions will at least help us embrace workflows and processes that stop wasting paper while at the same go some way to improve productivity and, with that, our personal state of mind.

Tip 1 – Step away from the printer

Firstly, make it a little more difficult to print.

STL: Minicomputer and printer, Kulturarvsstyrelsen, CC BY

In time gone by, manuscripts were painstakingly copied out by hand – so only the very important documents got created. Now, we can, and often do, print everything out.

A simple change for the workplace would be to have fewer printers so that people will have to make more effort to retrieve their printouts. Human nature, being what is, won’t find this as convenient as having a printer at arm’s reach. Another simple solution is a double-monitor setup. By cross-referencing documents on two screens, we rely less on print-outs for comparison. A small step but one that is surprisingly effective!

RELATED: Read blog: From quills to typewriters: how the industrial revolution changed our writing culture

Tip 2 – Save and share via the cloud

Europeana Collections has centralised the holdings of thousands of libraries, archives and museums into a single, consolidated digital entity – it is, in fact, a paperless archive – pretty amazing if you ask me. 

Study of Clouds over the Sound, C. W. Eckersberg, Statens Museum for Kunst, CC0

When you find something specific – an artist, composer, or an object that you would like to present to your classroom or colleagues the next day – all you need to do is to save – ideally to a cloud that supports share-ability.  

A man growing as a tree with branches, fruit and roots, Wellcome Collection, CC BY

A paperless environment, however, is as much a state of mind as it is a practical roadmap – a catalyst for inspiring others to be as climate-neutral as possible. Do your bit and before long, we’ll all be taking paper out of the workflow, choosing email presentations instead of printable promotions, Tik Toks instead of birthday cards, barcodes instead of tickets, and podcasts instead of pamphlets.

RELATED: Read blog: The human crisis and the three Es: Environment, Equality and Endangered

Tip 3 – Make friends with a pot plant

And one more thing… if you can, don’t forget to bring a desk plant to work to improve indoor air quality, to add some nature to the office environment and create a cleaner, happier space for you to work in.

Painting, pot plant with Azalea, Flipje en Streekmuseum Tiel, CC BY

By Susan Hazan, The Israel Museum

Europe at Work: Share your story

Share your story about working in offices across Europe, and help us tell the story of Europe through our working lives in the past and the present.

Feature image: Biblioteca del Monestir, Ajuntament de Girona, Public Domain

Progress in war making: the industrialisation of World War I

Wed, 13/11/2019 - 07:45

Industrialisation played a major role in World War One. New military machinery could be produced at a much larger scale and at a much faster rate than before. Along with innovative technology, this led to one of the most devastating wars in human history. 

This concerns the production of materials for military purposes – clothing, aircraft and chemicals – as well as infrastructures – construction, railway, ports – that were laid out during the war to facilitate the war effort and to ensure the housing and mobility of the people. 

RELATED: Read this blog: The Treaty of Versailles: the end of World War I?

Production and assembly processes became more and more automated, making mass production of ammunition and weaponry possible.

Cannoni da 381-40, Biblioteca Universitaria di Genova, Europeana 1914-1918. CC BY-SA

The new industrial effort also brought with it important societal changes, in particular the massive participation of women, who, as men headed abroad to fight, took their place in factories, shops and offices.

RELATED: Explore this gallery: Women in World War I

Photographie de femmes fabricant des obus dans une usine, Archives départementales de Seine-Maritime, Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA

Armoured cars, motorcycles with sidecars, trucks, ambulances: motorized vehicles were commonly seen during World War One in greater numbers and growing variety.

Noël Eugène Baffert, conducteur d’auto-projecteur de signalisation, Nathalie Hubert via Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA Triumph WW1 motorcycle, Παναγιώτης Μαράτος via Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA

Other means of transportation that were new to the war were planes, used mostly to spy on the enemies and scout out battle territory from above, but they also carried guns.

Charles Dumas dans son avion 1915-1916, Archives Municipales de Sète, Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA

The Zeppelin, a German creation from before the war, was lighter than air, filled with hydrogen, and held together by a steel framework. The German armed forces used several Zeppelins for observation as well as flying bombs, each capable of travelling at about 85mph and carrying up to two tonnes of bombs.

Beobachtung Zeppelin, Muzeul National Brukenthal Sibiu – Muzeul de Istorie “Casa Altemberg”, Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA

The major vehicle that was to play a decisive role in the last years of the war was the tank, a British invention. At first it was mainly used to cross battle areas safely, but soon a more offensive version was developed which had a revolving turret. The French fielded their first tanks in April 1917 and ultimately produced far more tanks than all other countries combined. In 1918, the manufacturer Renault produced more than 3,600 tanks. 

Maquette du char d’assaut Renault 18 HP, Archives départementales de Saône-et-Loire, Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA

Mustard gas, or Yperite, was first used by the Germans in 1915 in the battlefields around Ypres. The sulphur based gas caused burning in the throat and chest and eventually suffocated its victims. One problem that often arose with gas was that the wind would blow it back at the troops who used it, harming the own troops instead those of the enemy.

World War I: a poisonous gas attack on the Canadians in Flanders, 24 April 1915, Louis Raemaekers, Wellcome Collection, CC BY

RELATED: See how artists depicted war machinery in this chapter of our World War I exhibition ‘Visions of War’

Flamethrowers date back as far as the 5th century, but World War 1 brought about a portable and far more destructive version. The weapon brought extreme fear as it was something that had never been seen before. By the end of the war flamethrowers had even been added to tanks.

Flammenwerfer am Stützpunkt 17, K.u.k. Kriegspressequartier, Lichtbildstelle – Wien, Austrian National Library, Public Domain

International world trade became more and more difficult because of global warfare and trade embargos, making the import of necessary resource materials difficult if not impossible. A growing effort was made to become independent and replace resources for other materials. In this video is shown how the production of belt straps is made possible by the use of paper and iron instead of leather and rubber.

RELATED: For more examples of work and industrialisation during World War One, explore these galleries:
The industry of making war: machinery
Europe at work during World War One

By Ad Pollé, Europeana Foundation

Feature image: Atelier de projectiles, Archives départementales de Saône-et-Loire, Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA

Textile technology: Joseph-Marie Jacquard and the loom that changed the world

Thu, 07/11/2019 - 07:35

Between 1801 and 1806, French weaver Joseph-Marie Jacquard developed a machine that was then seen as one of the most important technological advancements in history: the Jacquard Loom.

Before the 1800s, weaving was a repetitive and mechanical process: lots of time and skill were required in order to produce the embellished textiles that were all the rage amongst the higher strata of society.

Woven image, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, Luther & Fellenberg, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg, CC BY

Joseph-Marie Jacquard was born in Lyons in 1752, from a family of weavers. At the time, weaving not only required a skilled weaver to manage the loom, but also another professional, called a drawboy, who sat next to the weaver and moved the threads according to the design of the cloth.

Familiar with the process, Jacquared understood that, in order to make the most from the business, it was key to make these movements automatic.

Textiles: a mechanical Jacquard loom, three-quarter view with spectator, Engraving, Wellcome Collection, CC BY

On inheriting the family business, he devoted his time to studying and developing a new machine that could make the weaving process faster and more profitable. Jacquard worked on his invention at the end of the 1700s, but was interrupted by the French Revolution.

After the revolution, he went back to his project and developed a machine that he presented in Paris in 1804. There, his invention was patented and was given a medal. The French government claimed that the loom was to become a public property, leaving Jacquard with no more than a small royalty.

Jacquard loom in Biljard Company carpet factory, Gooi en Vecht Historisch, CC BY-SA

The Jacquard loom was based on a system of cards, needles and hooks. The cards were made of cardboard, where holes could be easily punched in order to create the design; the hooks and needles used followed the holes in the cardboard, passing through these holes and inserting the thread to create the pattern. The more intricate the design was, the more cards were arranged one after the other in the loom.

RELATED: Explore this gallery related to the textile industry

Thanks to the system on which it was based, the loom could create highly complex designs and patterns, in which new colours could be used and marvellous patterns developed.

Dress fabric of jacquard woven figured silk, made by Tholozan et Cie, Lyon, 1855, Victoria and Albert Museum, CC BY Cloth, Larvik Museum, CC BY-SA

Jacquard’s invention revolutionised the textile industry, and was also fundamental for a more general technological advancement. The Jacquard loom cut back on the amount of human labour, and also allowed for patterns to be stored on these cards and then repeated over and over again to achieve the same product. 

Scarf of Jacquard woven figured silk, England, ca. 1820, Victoria and Albert Museum, CC BY Dressing gown of jacquard woven silk, probably made in Great Britain, 1850-1870, Victoria and Albert Museum, CC BY

Therefore, the jacquard loom allowed patterns and motifs to be saved, on cards that could be archived and re-used, reducing time, labour and costs. 

RELATED: Liberation skirts: how post-war upcycling became a symbol of female solidarity

Since the system followed a mathematical algorithm, some have argued that the jacquard loom holds many similarities with computers. In fact, both machines work by storing and organising information, creating a shared technological language that runs through the machine itself, allowing reproduction and, of course, widening the possibilities of communication.

By Marta Franceschini, European Fashion Heritage Association

Europe at Work: Share your story

Did you or your family work in the weaving or textile industry? Share your story and help us tell the story of Europe through our working lives in the past and the present.

Feature image: Salle de tissage à la Jacquard, Société industrielle de Mulhouse, Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions

The Bor Mine in Serbia: labour and landscape throughout the 20th century

Wed, 06/11/2019 - 08:00

Mining has been taking place in Bor, eastern Serbia, for centuries – intensified and industrialised since the discovery of copper ore in the early 1900s. This blog explores the 20th century industrial heritage of mining in Bor.

In eastern Serbia, where the Bor Mine is located, archaeological excavation confirms that even the Romans were involved in mining in this area. At the time, only gold was sought for.

The rapid development of the area began in the 20th century, with the purely accidental discovery of copper ore in 1902, after official exploration had been terminated.

RELATED: Explore this gallery relating to the mining industry

Many local legends surround the discovery of copper-bearing ore in Bor. One of them is about Paun Meždinović, a young man from the locality, who found the first greenish copper ore lump. During his lifetime, Paun remained known as the boy who discovered copper-bearing ore.

The area underwent intense urbanisation, transforming its previously rural environment into a highly-industrialised mining region, changing not only the natural landscape of the area but also the occupational structure of its inhabitants.

Bor – a village at the beginning of exploitation, Public Library Bor, CC BY-NC

After the ore had been discovered, Đorđe Vajfert, an industrialist from Pančevo, who invested in the exploration of the area, sought the help of foreign capital in order to be able to initiate exploitation.

He managed to obtain support for this endeavour in France. After having signed a contract with the Mirabo Bank in Paris, the French Society of the Bor Mines, the Concession St. George (La Compagnie française des mines de Bor, Concession St. George) was formed on 30 September 1903.

Copper exploitation progressed rapidly. As early as 1904, the mine employed around 80 miners and, during that year, 5,500 tons of copper ore were excavated, resulting in 774 tons of pure copper. In the first five years, the French company capital was increased from the initial 5.5 to 7 million French franks in gold.

The smelter in the 1930s, Public Library Bor, CC BY-NC

For the most part, the work was manual. Copper was transferred to the nearest train station in Vražogrnci by ox-carts until 1911, when the Bor-Metovnica railway was built. The expansion of the mining-related facilities, particularly the smelter and the flotation system, brought about environmental pollution from the sulphuric fumes created in the ore-melting process. This had an indirect influence on the increase in the price of food products in the area, as well as protests from the local population involved in agriculture.

Flotation tanks, Dragoljub Mitić, Public Library Bor, CC BY-NC

Due to the economic crises in the early 1930s, the labour cost in the Bor Mine was drastically decreased. However, by 1933, there was a recovery, initiating the mine’s golden age, which lasted until 1940.

After the end of World War II, the period of socialism was marked with great working-class enthusiasm at the Bor Mine. As early as 1945, the Bor Mines and Smelters public company was founded by a Yugoslav Government decision.

Since the equipment was outdated and there were not enough funds for modernisation, digging was performed manually, using drills. Often, the workers used two drills, surpassing the pre-war performance first by 90%, and then by up to 160%. The number of voluntary extra hours was up to 96,000 during those years, which is unbelievable from the modern market economy perspective. 

French social-event building, Public Library Bor, CC BY-NC

Nevertheless, this brought about the recovery of the mine and the foundation of the Bor Mining and Smelting Combine in 1961, which marked the beginning of an era in which the workers managed the mine. Innovations included technological modernisation, continuous employee training, the participation of everyone in decision-making processes and the presence of women in the work processes.

A woman using a drill, Dragoljub Mitić, Public Library Bor, CC BY-NC

Bor continued growing along with its industry. In 1947, it was given the status of a city, with more than 12,000 inhabitants, many of whom worked at the mine. The population quickly increased, with new apartments built to house workers. By the mid-20th century, due to an intense influx of workers from all over Yugoslavia, Bor was home to people from nineteen different nations who spoke seven different languages. New schools were built and, in the spirit of self-management, courses for workers were held all the time, ensuring the continuous education of workers – exemplified by this photographs of miners in the library.

Miners in the library, Ljubomir Markov, Public Library Bor, CC BY-NC

By the end of the 20th century , after decades of exploitation, the share of copper in the copper ore decreased. 

Panoramic view of Bor, 1991, Ljubomir Markov, Bor Public Library, CC BY-NC RELATED: View more photographs of the mining industry in Bor

During those years, the landscape of Bor and the surrounding area has been completely changed. The urban core, formed around the mining colony, grew into a proper city, whose landmarks were chimneys and horizons of mined and burnt land. This landscape serves as a warning of the high price of copper exploitation, and has resulted in the permanent environmental pollution of the area.

By Saša Ilić, National Library of Serbia
Translated by: Tatjana Domazet, National Library of Serbia

Europe at Work – Share a story

Did you or your family work in mining in Bor or elsewhere? Share your story and help us tell the story of Europe through our working lives in the past and the present.

This blog post is a part of the Europeana Common Culture project, which explores varied aspects of our shared cultural heritage across Europe.

Feature image: Portrait of a miner with a pipe in Bor, 1947, Public Library Bor, CC BY-NC

The Chair Men: Gebrüder Thonet and the Number 14 Chair

Tue, 05/11/2019 - 08:00

Vienna’s cafe culture is legendary – coffee, kipferl, and kuchen are important ingredients. And another important part of the recipe are the cafes themselves and their furniture – in particular the Number 14 Thonet chair.

The firm of Thonet are synonymous with the furniture for Viennese cafes, as well as homes and establishments around the world. Their ‘Number 14’ chair was the world’s first mass-produced furniture.

Centenary Confectionery, Magyar Kereskedelmi és Vendéglátóipari Múzeum – Budapest, CC BY-NC-ND

Born in Germany, Michael Thonet was a pioneer of furniture design, and the industrialisation of furniture manufacture.

Michael Thonet, Austrian National Library, Public Domain

Through the 1830s and 1840s, he developed new techniques which allowed wood to be bent into curves and organic shapes. This process, known as bentwood, involves wetting wood (either by soaking or by steaming) so it can be bent into shape, hardening into curved shapes and patterns.

Rocking chair made according to Thonet’s technology, Maironis Lithuanian Literature Museum, CC BY Thonet mirror (part of hotel room), former MKVM Catering Exhibition Budapest 1981, Magyar Kereskedelmi és Vendéglátóipari Múzeum – Budapest, CC BY-NC-ND

The techniques pioneered by Thonet enabled him to design elegant and lightweight furniture. Crucially, his innovative bending of wood in this way allowed for chairs to be produced industrially for the first time.

Chair, Skåne Region medical history collections, CC BY-NC-ND

In 1849, together with his sons, he founded a company. Gebrüder Thonet, over the years, established factories across Germany and central Europe – at their peak, the firm had upto seven factories.

Their big breakthrough came in 1859 with chair number 14 – the chair that is today an icon of design history associated with Vienna coffee houses. More than 50 million have been produced.

RELATED: Read migration story 'Bringing the Austrian Kaffee und Kuchen tradition to London' Chair, Upplandsmuseet, CC BY-NC-ND Thonet Chair Model Nr.14, Gebrüder Thonet, Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig, CC BY-NC-SA Thonet Chair Model Nr.14, Gebrüder Thonet, Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig, CC BY-NC-SA Thonet Chair, Musea Maaseik, CC BY-NC-SA Chair, Murberget Länsmuseet Västernorrland, CC BY-NC

The chair was an international success. Its industrial production meant that it could be exported: its modular design allowed for it to be assembled and disassembled in different factories and locations.

Sales offices were established in foreign countries, with a worldwide distribution system for the marketing of Thonet furniture, as evidenced by the advertisements below. Their furniture, mass-produced at affordable prices, became a global success.

Gebroeders Thonet poster, Mathé van der Weiden, Drents Museum, CC BY-NC Gebrüder Thonet advert in Altonaer Nachrichten (Hamburger neueste Zeitung), 30 April 1905, Hamburg State Library, Public Domain Gebrüder Thonet advert in Berliner Tageblatt, 16 December 1907, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Public Domain RELATED: Read more reports about Thonet from historical newspapers

Today, Thonet develop both wooden and steel furniture – and are still producing the number 14 chair which brought the firm’s early fame and fortune.

By Adrian Murphy, Europeana Foundation

Europe at Work – Share your story

Did you or your family work in for Gebrüder Thonet or other furniture manufacturers? Share your story and help us tell the story of Europe through our working lives in the past and the present.

Feature image: Wien Kaffeehaus, Austrian National Library, Public Domain

Neon nights: how advertising signs lit up the city

Thu, 31/10/2019 - 07:00

Neon lighting’s distinctive glow has been brightening cities across Europe and the world all through the 20th century. Neon signs and lighting animate city centres, evoking both a modern, urban world, both futuristic and nostalgic.

Piccadilly Circus, London, England, Ivar Spak, Malmö Museums, CC BY

Neon signs first lit up the skies in Paris in the 1910s, less than two decades on from neon’s discovery. British chemists Sir William Ramsay and Morris W. Travers had first identified the gas neon in 1898, naming it for the Greek word neos, meaning new.

Neon tubes, Sörmlands museum, CC BY-SA

Neon – dubbed ‘liquid fire’ – gives a distinct reddish-orange glow when used in tubes and lamps, which was soon put to use in industrial settings, particularly in advertising signage and lighting.

Telegrafens å Posten’s new neon sign, Arne Andersson, Bohusläns museum, Public Domain

Neon is a rare gas, but French engineer and inventor Georges Claude’s company L’Air Liquide produced a lot of neon as a by-product of their activities. In the 1910s, Claude demonstrated the use of neon in tubes to create eye-catching advertising signs.

The neon sign as we know it was born, and was instantly successful.

Le savant Georges Claude, Agence Meurisse, Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions

Through the roaring twenties and 1930s, the intense vibrancy of neon suggested progress and modernity, giving cities colourful urban landmarks.

Rain, dusk, traffic and neon signs on Södergatan, Malmö, Erik Liljeroth, The Nordic Museum, CC BY-NC-ND Neon advertising signs on house facade, Karl Heinz Hernried, The Nordic Museum, CC BY-NC-ND Neon advertising, Hungarian Museum of Commerce and Hospitality – Budapest, CC BY-NC-ND

Skilled workers known as glass benders, neon benders or tube benders can shape neon tubes into curving artistic form, such as letters or pictures.

As the signage and advertising developed, although tube lights with other colours are often called “neon”, different gases were used to create fluorescent lighting.

Neon lighting and advertising made our cities brighter, more commercial. Symbols and signs adorn buildings and walls, inspiring artists to capture their distinctive character.

Neon lights, Henrik Ørsted, Oslo Museum, CC BY-SA Pastel of the ‘White House’ at night with illuminated advertising from “Van Nelle”, Herman Heijenbrock, Museum Rotterdam, CC BY RELATED: Check out this neon-inspired entry for GIF IT UP 2019 - the annual cultural heritage GIF-making competition Untitled drawing from Southern Europe, Asger Muchitsch, The Royal Library: The National Library of Denmark and Copenhagen University Library, CC BY-NC-ND

Neon particularly seems to evoke the night-time and leisure economy – their use as signage or advertising for hotels, bars, nightclubs, beauty salons and more became commonplace.

Facade of nightclub Pigalle in Paris, Jan Basshuus-Jessen, DEXTRA Photo, CC BY Neon sign from Roos Neon, Knut Borg, Örebro County Museum, Public Domain Maxim Variety nightclub, Sándor Bauer, Fortepan, CC BY-SA Rich House with neon advertising, Sven Türck, The Royal Library: The National Library of Denmark and Copenhagen University Library, CC BY-NC-ND

Through the 1960s and 1990s, neon signs became associated with run down areas of inner cities. Their popularity waned somewhat, with today’s LED signage adopted more.

Winter picture, February, Stockholm, KW Guller, The Nordic Museum, CC BY-NC-ND

Neon signs today can be considered landmarks in our urban landscapes, cherished and preserved as part of the industrial and social heritage of cities across Europe.

By Adrian Murphy, Europeana Foundation

Europe at Work – Share your story

Did you or your family work in the neon or advertising industries? Share your story and help us tell the story of Europe through our working lives in the past and the present.

Feature image: Lilletorget 1, Atelier Rude, Oslo Museum, CC BY-SA

‘Self-pride and knowing yourself’: marking Black History Month in Britain

Wed, 30/10/2019 - 08:00

Throughout the history of Britain, renowned people of the African Diaspora have left their mark, shaping the country by making it face up to its role in slavery, colonial impact, perpetual discrimination and the white washing of its history.

As October in the United Kingdom marks Black History Month, this blog looks at moments in the history of Britain’s Black communities with a focus on the development of Black History Month. 

Of the many who left their mark in Britain, Ignatius Shancho (1729- 1780) was the first person of African descent to vote in Parliament elections. He was a British writer, composer and actor who helped stir the discussion on the immorality of the slave trade. 

Statue of Mary Seacole, acediscovery via Europeana Migration, CC BY-SA

Mary Seacole (1805 – 1881), a British-Jamaican nurse famous for her work during the Crimean war, opened up an establishment called British Hotel behind the lines to nurse the wounded back to health.

Throughout World War I and World War II, many men were recruited from the Caribbean and West Africa to help fight the wars, as well as African-American GIs during World War II.

Of those who survived, some stayed and settled, while the rest went back to their home countries.

After the war, due to workforce shortages, a large immigration campaign was set to attract people from Jamaica and Barbados to work in Britain. The Empire Windrush ship brought one of the first large groups of these post-war immigrants to the United Kingdom. British Caribbean people who came to the United Kingdom in the period after World War II are now remembered and referred to as the Windrush generation. 

RELATED: Listen to oral history interviews with some members of the Windrush generation

The amount of Caribbean and African born people living in Britain by 1951 reached roughly 20,900. 

Dignity in Poverty, Hackney; Growing Up Black, Dennis Morris, Victoria and Albert Museum CC BY

Non-whites living in Britain faced racism, housing discrimination, race perpetuated riots, and, to this day, have a higher chance of being unemployed.

Those born in Britain faced an identity crisis trying to reconcile Britain’s past with its present, all the while still facing similar treatment as the generation before them. 

RELATED: Explore these photography collections of Black life in London from the 1960 and 1970s, by photographers Armit Francis, Dennis Morris, Al Vandenberg, James Barnor and Normski.

In the 1980s, Ghanaian-born Akyaaba Addai Sebo, a special projects officer of the Ethnic Minorities Unit at the Greater London Council, and chairman of the African Refugees Housing Action Group, was stirred by the identity crisis that Black children faced.

He decided to start the UK version of Black History Month in 1987 upon hearing a colleague open up about her child who had asked why he couldn’t be white, and after observing and talking to children who didn’t identify with Africa.

Untitled [three boys in descending height order, centre one with cloth cap] from the series On a Good Day, Al Vandenberg, Victoria and Albert Museum, CC BY

In a 2017 interview, he mentions that he was ‘awakened to the fact that even some Ghanaians tried to mimic being Afro-Caribbeans and some Afro-Caribbeans would take offense being referred to as “African”’.

His team became fixed on challenging the Eurocentric version of history that was being taught in the school system by conceiving an annual celebration of the contributions of Africa and people of the African Diaspora to world civilization throughout history.

The Brothers, Black House; Growing Up Black, Dennis Morris, Victoria and Albert Museum, CC BY

The month of October was chosen because it was the start of a new academic year, and they believed that children were more likely to ‘absorb more if their living environment buzzed with positive vibes, instructions and images about themselves and their origins, thus celebrating who they are as “Africans”‘.

Untitled [school girls in a line] from the series On a Good Day, Al Vandenberg, Victoria and Albert Museum, CC BY

Some criticise Black History Month as only teaching Black history in the space of one month, and allowing it to be ignored for the rest of the year.

However the importance of Black History Month paves the way for recognition that Black history is European history, American history and African history.

‘[Black History Month] is to inculcate self-pride and especially in children. Self-pride is the catalyst for achievement and there is no greater “truth” than knowing yourself’

– Akyaaba Addai Sebo, 2017

By Marijke Everts, Europeana Foundation

Feature image: Self-portrait in Mirror, Armet Francis, Victoria and Albert Museum, CC BY

The fragrance factory: Roure-Bertrand Fils and the perfume industry in Grasse

Tue, 29/10/2019 - 08:00

When we spray on perfume, how often do we think about how the fragrance was made?

The process to extract fragrances and oils from flowers is a perfect blend of nature, science and industry, as illustrated beautifully by this short book about Roure-Bertrand Fils factory in Grasse, France.

Industrie des Parfums à Grasse, Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions

Perfume and scents have been worn by people for centuries, becoming an industry in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Grasse – a world capital of perfume – was home to the perfumerie of Roure-Bertrand Fils whose origins date back to 1820.

‘Usine Roure Bertrand Fils’ Industrie des Parfums à Grasse, Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions

Roure-Bertrand provided aromatic plants and essential oils to create fragrances for other brands, who mix, blend, bottle and sell the perfume.

The firm’s technical and scientific innovation in extracting oils and essences helped establish them as a leader in modern perfumery. In 1900, Roure Bertrand Fils was presented with a grand prize at the Universal Exposition in Paris.

This book – part of the digitised collections of the the Bibliotheque national de France – dates from then, and contains 30 photographs illustrating the process from flower field to bottled perfume.

This selection shows highlights of the process – you can also browse the full book here.

Picking roses, Industrie des Parfums à Grasse, Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions Violets arriving, Industrie des Parfums à Grasse, Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions Separating roses, Industrie des Parfums à Grasse, Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions Distillation of geraniums, Industrie des Parfums à Grasse, Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions Jasmine cold ointment, Industrie des Parfums à Grasse, Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions Chemical laboratory, Industrie des Parfums à Grasse, Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions Flower essences, Industrie des Parfums à Grasse, Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions RELATED: See photographs of how the factory looks today

By Adrian Murphy, Europeana Foundation

Europe at Work – Share your story

Did you or your family work in the perfume industry in Grasse or elsewhere? Share your story and help us tell the story of Europe through our working lives in the past and the present.

Miloš Crnjanski: a literary life of migration and exile

Fri, 25/10/2019 - 08:00

Author Miloš Crnjanski’s works form an invaluable part of Serbian 20th-century literature. His creative writing – poetry and prose – as well as his life in general, were marked by key elements: migration, exile and existential drama.

Crnjanski was born in Csongrád (a town in Hungary he referred to as ‘Siberia for clerks’), where his family lived quite humbly. Later, he moved to Timisoara where he graduated from primary and secondary school, played football and wrote his first verses.

In 1912, he relocated to Belgrade and then to Rijeka and Vienna, where he began his philosophy studies (1913-1914).

He was in Vienna at the onset of World War I, so he was forced to be a soldier for the Austro-Hungarian army. He had to participate in battles taking place in Galicia and Italy, constantly facing the atrocities of war.

Miloš Crnjanski in uniform, National Library of Serbia, Public Domain

At the end of the war, Crnjanski returned to Belgrade where he enrolled in literary studies and began editing the Dan periodical.

His first books portrayed the futility of war suffering and the tragic division of the young generation. A warrior’s return to his homeland is the central motif of his poetry collection Lirika Itake (The Lyricism of Ithaca), published in 1919.

Crnjanski laid the foundations of the early avant-garde movement in Serbian literature. That can be illustrated with a sentence in his Objašnjenje Sumatre (The Explanation of Sumatra) from 1920: ‘The world still hasn’t heard the terrible storm above our heads, while shakings come from beneath, not from political relations, not from literary dogmas, but from life. Those are the dead reaching out! They should be avenged.’ 

War motifs and indignation due to war carnage also shaped the tone of his poetic novel Дневник о Чарнојевићу (A Diary of Čarnojević) from 1921, which re-shaped the traditions and fixed patterns that dominated Serbian novels of the time.

RELATED: The Trailblazer: Jelena Dimitrijević, Serbia’s first feminist author

After briefly travelling around Europe, he returned to Belgrade, where he married Vida Ružić, his life-long companion. 

After graduating from the Faculty of Philosophy in 1922, he started teaching at the Fourth Belgrade Grammar School. Simultaneously, he published opinionated articles in distinguished periodicals, such as Politika, Vreme, etc. Representing radical Modernism, his articles published in the weekly periodical Ideje caused fierce literary and political debates at the time.

Miloš Crnjanski in Berlin, National Library of Serbia, Public Domain

Crnjanski’s professional journey further led him into the diplomatic service for the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. He worked in Germany (1935-1938) and Italy (1939-1941). When Yugoslavia took part in World War II, he was evacuated from Rome to Lisbon, across Madrid, and later he got to London.

Crnjanski had a harsh life in London, as he had lost all his sources of income. 

Even though he had a university degree and spoke five languages (Hungarian, German, French, Italian and English), he spent some time working in a bookstore, delivering Christmas cards and as a bookkeeper in a shoe store.

Queens Court Building 31-155 in London, where Miloš Crnjanski lived from 1953-1965, National Library of Serbia, CC BY-NC-ND

By the 1950s, he became a London-based correspondent of El economist, an Argentinian periodical published in Buenos Aires. He wrote prolifically. At the time, he wrote Roman o Londonu (A Novel on London), a powerful cosmopolitan work on exile taking place in London, with a Russian protagonist.

RELATED: Read and browse a version of Crnjanski's Roman o Londonu manuscript

He also wrote a masterpiece Druga knjiga Seoba (The Second Book on Migration) and a poetic Odyssey Lament nad Beogradom (Lament over Belgrade).

RELATED: Read Lament over Belgrade

As a political emigrant, Crnjanski spent time completely away from the Serbian literary scene. In the 1950s, he published some of his writing in periodicals of emigrants in America, Canada and Germany. 

However, when he returned to Serbia in 1965, some of his books had already been published there, including Seobe (Migration), Dnevnik o Čarnojeviću (A Diary of Čarnojević), Konak (Lodging), Itaka i komentari (Ithaca and Comments), Druga knjiga seoba (The Second Book on Migration).

Miloš Crnjanski on his return, National Library of Serbia, CC BY-NC-ND

Therefore, to Crnjanski, life in emigration represented a drama on cultural marginalisation, which had a powerful impact on his creative work.

The feeling of being a foreigner affected his inner self, with the central figure in his works being a man in a foreign place. He portrayed emigrants, outsiders, people living on the margins and borders of society. With the power of extraordinary literary language, Crnjanski managed to show that a man at the edge of existence could still possess a shine of true greatness. 

At the same time, Crnjanski’s genius is reflected in the fact that his works enable us to truly feel the spirit of the epoch we still live in (for instance, neoliberalism in Roman o Londonu).

RELATED: Read more blogs on authors and writers

Crnjanski was able to live his elderly days peacefully in his homeland.

Miloš and Vida Crnjanski in an apartment in Belgrade, National Library of Serbia, CC BY-NC-SA

Soon after he returned from his 20-year-long exile, his Sabrana dela u 10 tomova (“Collected works in 10 volumes”) were published in 1966. In 1971, he received the respected NIN award for Best Novel of the Year and the Most Read Book of the Year award for Roman o Londonu. 

In 1977, he died at the age of 84, with his widow gifting his complete legacy to the National Library of Serbia. In 1993, the Miloš Crnjanski Foundation published a critical edition of his works.

By Milena Đorđijević, National Library of Serbia
Translated by Tatjana Domazet, National Library of Serbia

This blog post is a part of the Migration in the Arts and Sciences project, which explores how migration has shaped the arts, science and history of Europe.

Feature image: Miloš Crnjanski in Cooden Beach, National Library of Serbia, CC BY-NC-SA

Fàbrica Gròber: the rise and fall of an industrial landmark in Girona

Thu, 24/10/2019 - 08:00

Fàbrica Gròber, a textile factory specialised in trimmings, buttons and haberdashery, is a landmark of Girona history, even today 40 years after it closed.

This blog looks at the rich history of the factory which offered jobs and economic prosperity and modernised culture and society in its region.

End of the working day at Fàbrica Gròber, 1911 Fototípia Thomas, Ajuntament de Girona, Public Domain Origins of Fàbrica Gròber

The Franciscan friars of Girona were forced to leave their monastery in 1835. They could never have imagined that its grounds would become an industrial site.

Façade of the Fàbrica Gròber at the crossing of Carrer Cristòfol Gròber and Carrer Nou, 1910 Fototípia Thomas, Ajuntament de Girona, Public Domain

After the demolition of the monastery and the redevelopment of the site by a group of entrepreneurs, Cristòfol Gròber – a businessman with Italian roots – laid the factory’s foundations.

Map of the province of Girona, with the city on the lower right, 1902 Benito Chías y Carbó, Joaquín Ribera, J. Soler Biblioteca Virtual del Ministerio de Defensa, CC0

Gròber’s choice of Girona was well-considered. The nearby Monar reservoir guaranteed a steady water supply, Girona offered a large potential workforce and several other Italian families ran successful businesses in the city. After buying buildings in Girona to house his factory, Gròber also purchased land in the neighboring town Bescanó for a new hall and hydroelectric plant.

The rise of Fàbrica Gròber

After the turn of the 20th century, Gròber acquired more property in Girona, and established an extensive industrial site in the city centre.

Rear aspect of the factory halls, 1910, Fototípia Thomas, Ajuntament de Girona, Public Domain

World War I did not stop the rise of the Fàbrica Gròber. International demand for its products was high and competition was low, resulting in growth and prosperity.

By that stage, unions had been founded to improve working conditions. The Gròber workforce was required to work ten-hour days with no social support. However, medical care was made accessible through the ‘Germandat de Socors Mutus, Sant Cristòfol’ scheme created by the company, and a dedicated cooperative made affordable consumer products available.

Remarkably, in the early 1900s and throughout its 90 years, Fàbrica Gròber predominantly employed women, who comprised up to 93% of its workforce.

RELATED: ‘A woman’s work is never done’: women’s working history in Europe Women and children at work at Fàbrica Gròber, 1910/20, Josep Thomas Bigas, Ajuntament de Girona, Public Domain.

Cristòfol Gròber retired in 1919 and the factory became a company, with the Portabella brothers as main shareholders. They led the business into the 1920s, a prosperous period for Fàbrica Gròber.

King Alfonso XIII visits the factory, 1930, Ajuntament de Girona, Public Domain War, destruction, and redevelopment

The 1930s was a time of crisis which intensified during the Spanish Civil War, and ended with a devastating fire that destroyed much of the factory’s produce, warehouses and machines.

This disaster threatened job losses for over 1,000 workers at Fàbrica Gròber, and for many more people employed by companies depending upon the factory’s orders. A quick recovery was vital.

New infrastructure, inaugurated in 1940, modernised the factory’s workflow and improved its integration in the city. Part of the factory leading onto the central city streets was dedicated to administration and personnel services.

In 1944, the factory’s infrastructure expanded to include a daycare centre for the children of its 1,700 workers.

The daycare centre at the factory, 1967, Martí Massafont Costals, Ajuntament de Girona, CC BY-NC-ND Photographing the factory

Many of the photographs of the factory in this blog – now part of the collections of Ajuntament de Girona / Centre de Recerca i Difusió de la Imatge (CRDI) – are by Josep Thomas Bigas, an architectural photographer from Barcelona.

RELATED: Explore more photography by Josep Thomas Bigas The interior of a factory hall seen through the lens of a master-photographer, 1918, Josep Thomas Bigas, Ajuntament de Girona. Public Domain

The images are also aesthetically striking, reflecting vital aspects of Girona’s social and industrial history. Their architectural compositions, ingenious camera positions, well-balanced scenes, geometric qualities and intriguing patterns appeal to the eye and provide a fitting visual counterpart to the company’s history.

RELATED: Explore more photographs of Fàbrica Gròber Closure and legacy

In the following decades, Fàbrica Gròber kept up with industry advancements in machinery, workflow, infrastructure and technology. In 1970, a massive boiler explosion killed four people, and marked the beginning of the end for the factory.

The devastation left by the boiler explosion at Fàbrica Gròber, 1970, Ramon Martí Capel, Ajuntament de Girona, CC BY-NC-ND

A few years later, its operations moved to Bescanó. Subsequently Fàbrica Gròber’s buildings were demolished and the Mercadal-district was redeveloped.

Today, the factory’s legacy lives on in the “Carrer” named after its founder, with many people in Girona holding vivid memories of the factory’s era, its mighty halls and role in Girona’s industrial heritage.

By Sofie Taes, KU Leuven

Europe at Work – Share your story

Did you or your family work in Fàbrica Gròber in Girona or Bescanó? Share your story and help us tell the story of Europe through our working lives in the past and the present.

This blog post is a part of the Europeana Common Culture project, which explores varied aspects of our shared cultural heritage across Europe.

Feature image: Fàbrica Gròber, Josep Thomas Bigas, Ajuntament de Girona, Public Domain

Catchpenny prints in The Netherlands

Tue, 22/10/2019 - 08:20

What did the people in the lower orders of society and children read in the 18th and 19th centuries? In the Netherlands, their main reading material was catchpenny prints.

They were cheap, mass-produced sheets printed on one side on unfolded sheets of paper. Because they were sold for one or more cents, they were known as catchpenny prints or ‘centsprenten’ in Dutch. The prints of about 30 x 40 cm size contained one or more images and a short accompanying text, often written in rhyme and secondary to the images. Retailers or merchants sold the prints per piece and teachers sometimes gave a print as a reward to students.

Subjects and themes

Catchpenny prints cover all kinds of subjects. There are prints with images of ships, soldiers, animals, tools, people in other countries, but also board games and narrative prints with fairy tales, murder stories, farces, stories from Dutch history, Bible stories and more. A popular theme on catchpenny prints are children’s games: next to marbles and riding in a goat cart, also less charming games such as knocking off a goose’s head and shooting birds are depicted.

Ziet mijn bokje eens moedig stappen [Take a look at my goat], J. de Lange, between 1822-1849,
National Library of the Netherlands, CC0

Another popular subject was the history of Jan de Wasser. Jan and his wife Griet ‘swapped pants for apron cloth’, after which Jan did women’s work such as cooking and cleaning. Together they sailed to an island with a baby tree to ‘have’ a baby and after this ‘childbirth’ Jan had to stay in bed instead of his wife. Jan de Wasser was the typical example of a henpecked husband.

Detail from: De vernieuwde Jan de Wasscher, 19th century
National Library of the Netherlands, CC0

At the end of the eighteenth century, the ‘Maatschappij tot Nut van ‘t Algemeen’ (Society for Public Welfare) began to encourage publishers to produce prints with more educational value. The images became neater and the language of the prints was cleaned. It was the intention or the hope that both children and parents would become more aware of important civil norms and values.

Belooning en vermaning, I. de Haan, between 1875 en 1902,
National Library of the Netherlands, CC0 Price

The quality of the paper was poor and so was the quality of the images, but that kept the price low. In order to save costs, prints were often sold uncolored or with a coarse stain. More expensive prints in colour were produced using templates. Low prices made catchpenny prints very popular and they were spread widely.

Geschiedenis van Rood-Kapje [Story of Little Red Riding Hood], Charles Perrault, published by Établissements Brepols S.A., between 1911-1935,
National Library of the Netherlands, CC0 Research

Catchpenny prints provide an excellent insight into the subjects that the Dutch population was interested in, which makes them a veritable treasure trove for everyone who is interested in the history of the Netherlands. The prints can serve as a source for a wide range of research on text and language, on the daily life of our ancestors, on disappeared crafts and professions, on pedagogical views and role patterns. Illustration techniques and dissemination can also be studied using the prints.

De Kat [The Cat], with caption: a poem by Hieronymus van Alphen ‘The patience’, published by Glenisson & Van Genechten(?) between 1833-1900,
National Library of the Netherlands, CC0 Collecting prints

Millions of catchpenny prints have been printed and distributed in the Netherlands and Flanders by dozens of printers, publishers and resellers. More than 100.000 prints came off the press every year and most of them have been passed on to others, got lost, left in the pub or ended up as packaging material. Fortunately, the National Library of the Netherlands holds a large collection of four thousand catchpenny prints from 1730-1935; it is largely built up by donations. The largest part of the collection was donated by private collectors Aernout and Leny Borms-Koop. 1,255 of their prints are now available online at Europeana for everybody to research and enjoy.

By Karin Vingerhoets,
KB | National Library of the Netherlands

The blog post is a part of the Rise of Literacy project, where we take you on an exploration of literacy in Europe thanks to the digital preservation of precious textual works from collections across the continent.

Featured image: 
Detail from: De vernieuwde Jan de Wasscher, 19th century
National Library of the Netherlands, CC0

Maggi: a Swiss seasoning that found a home in various cultures

Fri, 18/10/2019 - 08:00

As a child growing up in Senegal, Maggi cubes and Maggi sauce were a big and important ingredient in many Senegalese dishes, if not all of them.

I remember watching countless advertisements on TV promoting Maggi cubes, with a Senegalese lady in her boubou (traditional clothing) preparing a meal.

Senegalese woman carrying a bundle, in front of MAGGI advertising (western Senegal), Manuele Zunelli – Flickr, Wikipedia, CC BY

So imagine my surprise when, 16 years later, living in the Netherlands, I stumbled across Maggi cubes in supermarkets. Was it possible that Africa had somehow brought Maggi to Europe? I was even more confused when I sat in a Polish restaurant waiting to try some delicious pierogi and saw the infamous bottle of Maggi sauce laid on my table.

RELATED: Read stories of migration from across Europe relating to food Flasche & Warenmuster, Spielzeugmuseum der Stadt Nürnberg (Museum Lydia Bayer), CC BY-NC-SA

The Maggi brand originated in Switzerland in the 1880s, created by entrepreneur Julius Maggi when he took over his father’s mill (who himself was an Italian immigrant).

He wanted to improve the nutritional consumption of working families, creating plant-based ready made meals and instant soups rich in protein. In doign so, he became a pioneer of industrial food production.

Economie 50% sur le boeuf, le Maggi rend exquis les bouillons… [poster], Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions

Not long after, he went on to create his popular dark seasoning sauce from hydrolyzed vegetable protein, making foods taste meaty for the working classes who couldn’t afford it. By 1908, he had created meat substitute bouillon cubes.

RELATED: View more objects relating to Maggi Round tin of Maggi bouillon cubes, Stadsmuseum Harderwijk, CC BY

The product became popular across Asian and African countries through  colonisation and immigration, as well as trade deals.

Maggi advert in Berliner Volkszeitung, 6 December 1927, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Public Domain

By the 1970s, and at this point already owned by Nestlé since the late 1940s, Maggi introduced its new product line of instant noodles to Malaysia, which then gained massive popularity in India as well.

Maggi advertising, Magyar Kereskedelmi és Vendéglátóipari Múzeum, CC BY-NC-SA

To this day, Maggi cubes and Maggi sauce are an important ingredient in the staple foods of many countries including Ghana, Senegal, Germany, Poland, Romania, Thailand, China and across Latin America. Maggi instant noodles are popular in other countries like India, Bangladesh, New Zealand, Malaysia, Australia and Pakistan. 

RELATED: Read Pizza: a slice of migration history Maggi seasoning advertising, eSbírky, CC BY Maggi advertising, Magyar Kereskedelmi és Vendéglátóipari Múzeum, CC BY-NC-SA Neh met Maggi für Eure Suppen, Brynolf Wennerberg, KIK-IRPA, Brussels, CC BY-NC-SA Les trois spécialités Maggi profitent à tout ménage [poster], Firmin Bouisset, Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions

The brand adapts its product to suit local tastes and, due to its advertisements suggesting it is locally produced in each individual country, Maggi has been able to invoke a feeling of ownership, home and nostalgia across cultures.

By Marijke Everts, Europeana Foundation

Europe at Work – Share your story

Did you or your family work for Maggi? Share your story and help us tell the story of Europe through our working lives in the past and the present.

Feature image: Les trois spécialités Maggi profitent à tout ménage [poster], Firmin Bouisset, Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions

From quills to typewriters: how the industrial revolution changed our writing culture

Wed, 16/10/2019 - 08:00

Documents written centuries ago are fascinating, revealing not only the thoughts of those who wrote them but a history of how they were written. This blog looks at the changes in the way we have expressed our thoughts through the written word since the industrial revolution.

The industrial revolution brought about a shift from an economy based on agriculture and handicrafts to one focused around large industries and factory systems. Alongside this, increased need for written documentation developed. During this period, new technologies and materials changed writing practices, in private as well as in the workplace.

Writing with quills Gåspenna (Quill), 1875-1900, Skansen, CC BY-SA

For centuries, feathers had been the most popular writing tool. However, writing with feathers was not easy.

A man sits at a desk with a knife and a feather quill in his hands, Coloured lithograph by Vander Meulen after Philip van Dyk, Wellcome Collection, CC BY

Turning a feather into a working quill required other tools, such as a small knife to cut the feather and produce its narrow end. Writers need to sharpen the point and remove the hollow shaft inside. This required care, as feathers tend to break easily. Additionally, writers needed sand and ink, and an inkstand to store them in. Why sand? To blot the page after writing.

RELATED: Read our blog Reading habits in the past Enter the pen Pen crafted in the trenches, Antoine Bruel, 1914 / 1915, Europeana 1914-1918, CC BY-SA

Until the 19th century, the quill was the most common writing instrument. It was replaced by factory-manufactured dip pens with steel nibs. Pens were less fragile than quills, and retained their sharp edges for longer. Extra equipment was still required: a holder for nibs of different shapes or sizes, pots of ink and sand.

Mass-produced steel nibbed pens were affordable for large parts of European society, making writing accessible to many people for the first time. Birmingham was a centre for pen production, producing more than half of the world’s steel nibs.

Steel pens, Hallwylska museet, CC0 The fountain pen Fountain pen, Faber with box and manual, 1890s, Sörmlands museum, CC BY-SA
(A. W. Faber was the name of today’s Faber-Castell until 1900 – they still manufacture pens).

From the 1880s onwards, fountain pens became a worldwide success.

Ink was not free-flowing in steel-nibbed pens, posing a problem for manufacturers. Fountain pens, on the other hand, had an inner reservoir of ink, removing the messy process of unscrewing the inkstand and dipping the nib into ink. Nevertheless, they still required an ink pot to fill up the inner reservoir.

‘Write with Remington’: the invention of the typewriter Advertisement for Remington typewriters, Remington Typewriter Company, 1900sm Upplandsmuseet, CC BY-NC-ND

Despite advancements in pen design, factories and companies’ need for faster and more efficient communication grew during the 19th century.

The advert above reads ‘Empty your inkpots, break your pens, and write with Remington’, reflecting one of the first and major shifts from handwriting to typing.  The invention of the typewriter revolutionised the speed at which information could be put on paper. In 1853 the record for writing with a pen was set at 30 words per minute; at the same time, stenographers and telegraphs could already achieve 130 words per minute.

RELATED: Explore more historic typewriters on Europeana

The typewriter solved time-efficacy problems in businesses worldwide, bringing a new writing culture that no longer needed handwriting.

Remington Standard, Philo Remington, Hallwylska museet, CC BY-SA

Typing machines developed throughout the 19th century. The first commercially successful typewriter was the “Sholes and Glidden Type-Writer”E. Remington and Sons acquired the patent for this typewriter in 1873. Their “Remington No. 2” had the first QWERTY keyboard for the Latin alphabet and, due its international success, it remains widely used.

RELATED: Read our blog Europe’s First Printed Book Typing today Typewriting lessons at Åtvidaberg’s Industries institute (teacher Wera Carlsson in the background), 1946, Upplandsmuseet, CC BY-NC-ND

For decades, typewriting has been the most common method of written communication in business. Even today, people worldwide experience the typewriter’s heritage in their physical or digital keyboards, laptops and smartphones.

RELATED: Explore this gallery of alphabets

Although the machines that we type our thoughts into have become digital, the heritage of the way we write in our offices, schools and everyday lives was shaped by inventions long ago.

By Larissa Borck, Swedish National Heritage Board

Europe at Work – Share your story

Did you or your family use any of these writing tools in your work? Share your story and help us tell the story of Europe through our working lives in the past and the present.

This blog post is a part of the Europeana Common Culture project, which explores varied aspects of our shared cultural heritage across Europe.

Feature image: Tintengeschirr (Inkstand), 1750-1800, Museumsdorf Cloppenburg – Niedersächsisches Freilichtmuseum, CC BY-NC-SA

Leuven’s University Library: Risen from the ashes

Thu, 10/10/2019 - 09:00

For Libraries Week,  we are putting the spotlight on the history of a remarkable university library. Leuven University’s library has had a past as rich as it has been turbulent, peppered with religious conflicts, political discord, and wartime catastrophe. 

The first university founded in Leuven is now known as the Old University of Leuven. The first rector, Willem Neve, travelled to Rome to ask the pope for his blessing in the founding of a new university. Pope Martinus V decreed the founding of Leuven’s university on the 9th of December 1425, making it the first university in the Low Countries.

De instelling van de Leuvense Universiteit, André Hennebicq, 1888. Museum M, Belgium, CC BY-NC-SA.

Leuven’s university had to wait until the 17th century for a university library to be founded. Before that, students and professors had to rely on private collections to research and discuss.

In 1636, the Cloth Hall – the building which had been home to the cloth weavers’ guild – was given to the university to be used as a university library.

Oude dekenij van de lakenwevers in Leuven, Lodewijk Jozef van Peteghem, 1854-1859. Museum M, Belgium, CC BY-NC-SA.

Leuven’s university was founded as a deeply Catholic university and mainly stayed that way throughout the next centuries. 

During the 16th century, Protestant books were burned and an index was created at the library that listed forbidden books of Lutheran writings. The Louvain Index was the inspiration for the famous Index Librorum Prohibitorum later created by the Pope which contained a long list of forbidden books. 

Index Librorum Prohibitorum…, 1564.  Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal, Portugal, Public Domain Marked.

During the French Revolution, all universities were abolished so new Écoles Centrales could be founded. 

The Leuven university disbanded in 1797. The rich collection of its library was partly transported to Brussels’ École Centrale and to the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris. Ironically, the abolishment of the Old University of Louvain meant that most of its precious historical library was saved from future devastation.

L’ ancienne cour de Bruxelles, Marcellin Jobard & Jean Baptiste Madou, 1825. KIK-IRPA, CC BY-NC-SA.

The first half of the 19th century was a turbulent one for Leuven’s University.  In 1817 the Rijksuniversiteit Leuven was founded, a non-denominational state-driven university. Belgium gained its independence from the Netherlands in 1830 and founded a new Catholic University in Mechelen in 1834.

A year later it moved back to where the original Catholic University had resided for centuries, Leuven. Its library in the Cloth Hall was reinstated. 

…Grote leeszaal voor WO I, 1839-1939. KU Leuven, Belgium, Public Domain Marked

Catastrophe struck again in the 20th century. In 1914, at the start of World War I, the university library in the Cloth Hall was burned to the ground by German forces. 

Zicht op de Lakenhal in Leuven in 1915, Louis Neve, 1915. Museum M, Belgium, CC BY-NC-SA. Louvain : la bibliothèque, 1875-1930. Ghent University Library, CC BY-SA. Les Halles Universitaires de Louvain avant et après, 1875-1930. Ghent University Library, CC BY-SA.

About 300 thousand invaluable books were lost in the fire. Luckily the most valuable had been transported to Brussels and Paris more than a century earlier, saving a wealth of heritage and information from the flames. 

The burning of the library was widely used in anti-German propaganda to show the barbary and ruthlessness of the German soldiers. 

L’Offizier. – Kamerad ? – Plus depuis Louvain, Jean-Louis Forain, 1915. Bibliothèque de l’INHA, France, Public Domain Marked. En mémoire de l’incendie de la Bibliothèque…, 1918. Ghent University Library, Belgium , CC BY-SA.

This outrage sparked a movement that helped reinstate the library in a new building after the war, aided largely by the ‘Belgian Relief Fund’ founded by Herbert Hoover. With this money, a new monumental library was built and finished in 1928. 

La maquette de la nouvelle bibliothèque de l’université de Louvain, 1875-1930. Ghent University Library, Belgium, CC BY-SA. Bibliothèque de l’Université de Louvain, 1875-1930. Ghent University Library, Belgium , CC BY-SA. Voorgevel van de Universiteitsbibliotheek in Leuven, Philippe van Hove, 1921-1931. Museum M, Belgium, CC BY-NC-SA. Université de Louvain : bibliothèque, PHrs Réunis, 1875-1930. Ghent University Library, Belgium, CC BY-SA.

Discover more amazing images of the University Library here. The library still exists in all its splendour, and you can visit an exhibition on its history inside. Find opening hours and visitor information here

By Jolan Wuyts, Europeana Foundation

Feature image: De Universiteitsbibliotheek aan het Ladeuzeplein in Leuven, Hubert Jacobs, 1981. Museum M, Belgium, CC BY-NC-SA

Philips: illuminating the world from Eindhoven

Wed, 09/10/2019 - 08:00

Looking around your living room, kitchen or bathroom, it may surprise you how much has been thoroughly influenced by the innovation of a single company – Philips.

An immense variety of products has been produced by this entity: coffee makers, electric razors, X-Ray machines, cassette tapes, colour televisions…

But it all started in a small Dutch town in 1891, with a lightbulb moment.

Learn below how two brothers who wanted to make a lightbulb factory started the multinational concern that we now know as Philips. 

Gerard Philips, pictured above, was the youngest of three brothers.

In the picture, he’s experimenting with carbon filaments, which would become the main source of light in the lamps he would later produce.

On the back of the picture an anecdote is written that says that Anton Philips, Gerard’s brother, was never really interested in Gerard’s experiments, and on more than one occasion had tried to knock over Gerard’s experimental setups by throwing rotten apples through the window!

His interest in Gerard’s exploits increased later when he became the main salesman of the Philips’ company lamps. 

“Philips exists 60 years” Polygoon-Profilti, 1951. Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, The Netherlands, CC BY-SA.

Philips’ lamps became very successful very quickly, which allowed the company to grow and expand at a fast rate. Between its founding and World War II, Philips started creating new types of lamps, built new factories to produce new materials and products, and expanded into new markets.

PHILIPS Rádió“. Magyar Kereskedelmi és Vendéglátóipari Múzeum – Budapest, Hungary, CC BY-NC-ND.

In 1939 Philips started selling the first electric shaver with rotary blades, which would later become the Philishave and revolutionize the shaving and grooming market.

RELATED: Explore Philips electric shavers Collage of various Philips products, Norsk Teknisk Museum, Kulturarvsstyrelsen, Telemuseet, CC BY-SA

This rapid expansion led to a huge growth in the economy of places where Philips put their factories and warehouses and created jobs for swathes of employees.

Philips profited during World War I by gaining market share in the countries that boycotted the import of technological products from Germany, like the UK, France and Russia. In 1923, Svenska AB Philips was founded, a Swedish factory branch manufacturing radios.

RELATED: Explore pictures of the Swedish philips factoryWirsbo Bruk AB…” Svenska AB Philips, 1967. Tekniska Museet, Sweden, Public Domain.

During World War II, a significant amount of machinery in the Philips factories was seized by the Germans and transported to Germany. After the end of the war, these machines were sent back to Philips. 

“The machines of Philips return from Germany” Polygoon-Profilti, 1946. Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, the Netherlands, CC BY-SA.

The post-war era became a period of explosive expansion for Philips, in which they started producing radios and television sets, among other things.

This rapid expansion led to more factories abroad, and the start of encouraging migrant workers to come to the Netherlands to work for Philips. A large amount of migrant workers, predominantly from Spain, moved to the Netherlands to come work for the company.

RELATED: Explore migration stories from people who worked at Philips

Philips had a good reputation: they provided schooling and housing for workers, built libraries and provided grocery stores for Philips employees. These grocery stores, Etos, still existing today in the Netherlands. 

Reklamskylt” 2009. Kulturen, Sweden, CC BY-NC-ND. 

The history of Philips started small, grew quickly, and continues until this day.

Other things Philips invented or is famous for? Senseo coffee machines, the first casette tapes, X-ray machines, the VCR, the TV test pattern, and even video calling! Watch an explanation on one of the first videophones below. 

First test with videophone, by Polygoon-Profilti (producer) / Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision (curator), is licensed under Creative Commons – Attribution-Share Alike.

RELATED: Explore Philips products from the Swedish National Museum of Science and Technology

By Jolan Wuyts, Europeana Foundation

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Have you or your family worked for Philips or have you migrated to work in industry? Share your story and help us tell the story of Europe through our working lives in the past and the present.

Feature image: Radiomottaker, 1955, Philips AS, Radio Industri, Oslo. Telemuseet, Norway, CC BY-SA.

Ironopolis: Bolckow Vaughan and the growth of Middlesbrough

Tue, 08/10/2019 - 08:00

Industrial heritage can be ephemeral – the buildings where we work can disappear and are not always seen as important reminders of the past. This is certainly the case with the ironworks and steelworks of Bolckow & Vaughan, which drove the growth of Middlesbrough.

At the start of the 19th century, Middlesbrough, in the north east of England, was a village of less than 50 people. During the latter half of the 19th century, however, it grew rapidly to a large town.

The iron and steel industry dominated the area since iron production started there during the 1840s. One of the instigators of this growth was the industrial partnership of Henry Bolckow and John Vaughan.

RELATED: Explore this gallery of industrial architecture across Europe Blast furnaces for steel production on Bolckow, Vaughan & Co., Ltd factory site in Middlesbrough, Rijksmuseum, Public Domain

Henry Bolckow – who was born in Germany, and moved to Newcastle upon Tyne in 1827 – provided business expertise and investment, while John Vaughan contributed technical knowledge. Their partnership expanded from their early operations into coal mines, limestone quarries, brickworks, gasworks and a machine works. In 1864, a company, Bolckow, Vaughan & Co., was formed.

Their long-lasting and successful partnership transformed Middlesbrough to ‘Ironopolis’, the centre of ironmaking in Britain. By 1868, four million tons of iron per year were produced there, with Bolckow Vaughan considered to be the world’s largest pig-iron producers.

Middlesbrough from “Industrial rivers of the United Kingdom, The British Library, Public Domain

Such was the importance of the ironworks that Henry Bolckow became Middlesbrough’s first mayor in 1853 and, later, its first Member of Parliament in 1867. John Vaughan became the town’s second mayor in 1855.

Bolckow, who was born in Germany, was featured in this report in the Berliner Börsenzeitung newspaper in 1879.

Extract from report on page 4 of Berliner Börsenzeitung, 4 December 1879, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Public Domain (read full report at this link)

Bolckow paid for a landscaped free public park for Middelsbourgh, with Albert Park opening in 1868. He also built Marton Hall in Stewart Park which later too became a public park.

Marton Hall (Villa Bolckow) in Middlesbrough, Gustav Ludolf Martens, Architekturmuseum der Technischen Universität Berlin in der Universitätsbibliothek, CC BY-NC-SA

Sadly, Marton Hall burned down in the 1960s and, with Bolckow Vaughan in decline since the late 1800s and having been taken over by another company in 1929, now not much remains of the ironworks. But their legacy lives on in Albert Park, the ‘People’s Park’ of Middlesbrough.

RELATED: Listen to oral histories of the UK steel industry from the British Library

By Adrian Murphy, Europeana Foundation

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Feature image: Bolckow, Vaughan & Co., Ltd factory site in Middlesbrough, Rijksmuseum, Public Domain

The Flying Dutchmen: 100 years of KLM

Mon, 07/10/2019 - 08:32

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines celebrates its 100th anniversary on 7 October. To honour this jubilees, this blog explores the cultural heritage of KLM found on Europeana. Come fly with us to discover stories and pictures from aviation history.

KLM stands for ‘Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij’, literally translated as ‘Royal Aviation Company’. Despite having merged with Air France in 2004, KLM is still seen as a truly Dutch icon.

RELATED: Centenary Celebrations: eight firms that are 100 years old in 2019

Planes have, of course, changed quite a lot in the past 100 years. KLM has transported passengers in several types of aeroplane, including those made by fellow Dutch company, Fokker.

View of KLM Fokker and control tower, Beeldbank van de Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed, CC BY-SA Aircraft, interior view, G.J. Dukker, Beeldbank van de Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed, CC BY-SA KLM merchandise

While the makes and models of the aircraft change, one thing that persists is the desire to get a few more Dutch guilders or Euros out of the passengers by encouraging them to buy food, drinks and merchandise – such as dolls wearing one the many uniforms KLM staff have worn over the years.

KLM stewardess, Museon, CC BY

Particularly famous are a collection of small ceramic houses. Containing small bottles of genever, these have been given as gifts to business class passengers and have become collectors items.

Delft Blue KLM house, Deventer Musea, CC BY-SA Amazing race

In 1934, a KLM aircraft ‘Uiver’ (meaning stork) and its crew took part in the MacRobertson Trophy Air Race (also known as the London to Melbourne Air Race). They came second overall, flying the route in 90 hours. The Dutch were very impressed by this success, producing souvenirs like this commemorative coin, plate and badge.

Bronze medal, Return of the Uiver, 1934, Rijksmuseum, Public Domain Plate, London – Melbourne race, October 1934, Rijksmuseum, Public Domain Flight of the Uiver from London to Melbourne, Rijksmuseum, Public Domain RELATED: Explore this gallery of aerial photography Special passengers

Oblivious to the merchandise is a very special type of passenger – animals. KLM even maintain an ‘animal hotel’. This footage from 1952 shows how a young elephant was escorted by a ‘KLM-trained’ chicken, who was tasked with stopping the elephant feeling lonely during the flight.

De geschiedenis van de olifant en de kip, by Polygoon-Profilti (producent) / Nederlands Instituut voor Beeld en Geluid (beheerder), is licensed under Creative Commons – Attribution-Share Alike.

Working for KLM

This nostalgic footage from 1964 shows what happens after landing. The crew and airport staff performed the same operations as they do nowadays, but the design of the rolling stock and the technical tools has changed.

The varied fleet, by Polygoon-Profilti (producer) / Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision (curator), is licensed under Creative Commons – Attribution-Share Alike.

That operation looks to have gone smoothly, but it hasn’t always been plain sailing for KLM staff. In 1952, 600 KLM pilots went on strike for four days because of a row with KLM management.

Strike of KLM pilots, by Polygoon-Profilti (producer) / Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision (curator), is licensed under Creative Commons – Attribution-Share Alike.

KLM were one of the first airlines in the world, but like all aviation companies today, they face great challenges in terms of the climate crisis and sustainability. With 100 years of innovation behind them, here’s wishing KLM a happy birthday and successful future.

By Peter Soemers, Europeana Communicators Community

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Feature image: Airplane Model, Tekniska Museet, CC BY

Farming landscapes in Scandinavia: how industrial agriculture transformed rural life

Thu, 03/10/2019 - 08:00

Agriculture lies at the heart of social developments all over the world. Farming has transformed the lives of farmers, and also people and nature worldwide.

Focusing on Scandinavia as an example, this blog explores the drastic changes in people’s everyday working lives related to the agrarian revolution in the 19th and 20th century.

Jordbruk (Agriculture), 1940, Blekinge museum, Public Domain

Pre-industrial agriculture looked quite different to today’s farming.

In 1870, two thirds of Swedes were working in agriculture and living in rural areas. Subsistence and small-scale farming, together with part-time work in fishing and forestry, were the most common practices. This satisfied families’ basic needs, ideally giving them goods to barter or trade locally for everything else they needed. 

Everyday life depended heavily on seasons. Droughts or long winters could diminish a harvest or result in not having enough food for both animals and people.

Reforms and changes

Häckelsäng village in 1891 before the third land reform in 1902-1907, Länsmuseet Gävleborg, CC BY-NC

From the 18th century onwards, land reforms (skiftet in Swedish) were one of the first major changes in Scandinavia. 

In Scania (a region in southern Sweden) people lived together in villages. Every family owned different patches of land distributed over the area. Based on a principle of fairness, everyone owned both more and less fertile land.

But with growing populations, this system was less and less able to provide enough food. Overuse of the land was a consequence. Thus, politicians and landowners decided to distribute farmland differently.

Farming families now lived on and owned connected pieces of land, transforming former village structures. These reforms led to an increase in productivity, and consequently in wealth and population growth. New crops and plants such as the potato, imported from America, also had an impact.

Unknown cultural landscape, Håkon Prestkværn, 1930-1960, Domkirkeodden, Public Domain

In Norway, another system was common in the 19th century: tenant farming, where tenants rented buildings and soils from the farmer. 

Bad harvests in the 1830s forced people to leave their farmsteads or emigrate. Especially for single young women, moving to cities also meant the dream of escaping the harsh conditions of agriculture. This lead to half of all Swedish women employed in agriculture leaving the sector between 1890 and 1940. 

RELATED: 'A woman's work is never done': women's working history in Europe Changing practices

Through the 19th and half of the 20th century, farm work was mostly manual labour, with animals playing an important role.

Planting potatoes at Lilleaker farm, Eyvind Botolfsen, 1920, Oslo Museum, CC BY-SA

Horses for example were needed to cultivate fields or pull wood in forests. They also were essential for local trade and transportation. Agricultural practices also shaped domesticated animals – horses such as the Norwegian Dølahest were especially bred for heavy farmwork. 

Dovre, Dombås, Hans H. Lie, 25.09.1914, Maihaugen, CC BY-NC

Some of the fastest changes in agriculture took place in Scandinavia in the 20th century, with three factors playing a significant role in this development. 

Political programs were set up to support people in owning their own small farms, reacting to the large emigration waves that harmed the countries’ workforce. 

Innovations made these small farms profitable: at the turn of the century, artificial fertilisers and pesticides were invented that allowed for cultivation on formerly poor soils. Mechanisation with steam engines and tractors started to transform work. 

Woman with cow, Uppland, Brita Skötsner & Per Elis Edhlund, Upplandsmuseet, Public Domain Two families transformed

Stories from two families, preserved by Maihaugen and Skansen, show how life on these small farms were transformed. 

The Åkesson family in Skåne

In the early 20th century, manual labour was a common feature of the Swedish Åkesson family’s life.

Bengta and Per lived with their two sons at Skånegården, a farmstead built during the 18th and 19th century. The Åkessons did not pursue subsistence farming – they delivered the primary products for a growing urban population.

Through innovations in breeding and cultivation, they made good profits by growing sugar beet and keeping some pigs and cows. This coincided with a growing demand for sugar, wheat, milk and butter. 

Insecticide sprayer, 1920-40, Skansen, CC BY-SA Knife, 1900-1930, Skansen, CC BY-SA

Although Bengta still had to harvest the heavy sugar beet by hand with a knife like the one above, they were able to use machines such as early reapers or seed drills. Those were still drawn by horses – tractors were not common in Scandinavia until the 1950s.

After World War I, the Åkessons had to sell the farm. Within ten years, it had become too small to earn a living.  Innovations in machinery and growing dependencies on selling goods at market prices affected their ability to make a living from the farm.

Afterwards, their land was united with the neighbours’ farm, a sign of the more rationalised and mechanised agriculture. 

The Morken family in Lillehammer

The Morken family in Norway offers another typical 20th century story for småbruk (small-scale farming in Norwegian and Swedish).

Horse, 1900-1930, Museums in Nord-Østerdalen, Public Domain

After World War I, they benefited from new settlements intended to limit Norwegian emigration. With state funding and an interest-free bank loan, Karen and Anton built a simple farmhouse and a barn, based on standardised architectural plans.

At first, they only used the kitchen and a small ground-floor room, where the couple slept together with their son. Instead of using the second floor themselves, they rented it out as a leisure home. It was not until World War II that their farmstead got connected to electricity; running water and a sink were installed in 1948.

The Morkens had several animals on their farm – a horse, ten cows and three calves, five sheep and a pig.

As their small farm did not make enough profit to earn the family’s living, Anton additionally drove local children to school. Other men worked in the forest industry or road-building. Women usually baked or sewed for others and picked berries for an additional income.

Twentieth century transformations

In the second half of the 20th century, agriculture went on to change profoundly. 

Olaf Kristiansen drives a Ferguson tractor with a mower, Helger Normann, 1953, Domkirkeoddens Fotoarchive, Public Domain

Tractors became common tools on every farm in Scandinavia. Mechanisation, automation, fertilisers and pesticides enabled intensive farming in Scandinavia, as well as many regions across the world.

The amount of farms decreased, while the farms grew larger. Rationalised planting, growing and harvesting led to fewer farmers managing much more land. Machines could now fulfill the tasks that many seasonal workers and family members used to do.

With less people needed in forestry and on farms, villages that formerly flourished became deserted as urban industries became the major way to earn a living in 1950s and 1960s Europe. 

With the aim to maximize profits, European agriculture has profoundly changed in few centuries to feed more and more people with growing demands – often at the cost of environment and biodiversity.

By Larissa Borck, Swedish National Heritage Board
With the support of Anders Hansson, Jamtli, Ewa Kron and Johanna Krumlinde, Skansen, and Kjell Marius Mathisen, Maihaugen (Stiftelsen Lillehammer museum)

Europe at Work – Share your story

Did you or your family work in farming or agriculture, in Scandinavia or elsewhere? Share your story and help us tell the story of Europe through our working lives in the past and the present.

This blog post is a part of the Europeana Common Culture project, which explores varied aspects of our shared cultural heritage across Europe.

Feature image: Agriculture, 1955, Jamtli, CC0

Centenary celebrations: eight firms that are 100 years old in 2019

Wed, 02/10/2019 - 08:00

1919 was an industrious year, with many organisations we know today being founded.

In the wake of World War I and the Treaty of Versailles, many entrepreneurs and companies were able to take advantage of the advances in technology during the war years, as well as, in advance of the 1920s, a modern, forward-thinking climate to increase trade and cooperation.

From aviation to fashion, food and drink to vacuum cleaners, here are eight well-known European firms celebrating their cententary in 2019.

RELATED: Beautiful & useful: Bauhaus and Walter Gropius - 100 years of Bauhaus Bentley Personbil, Bentley Motors Ltd, Tekniska museet, CC BY

Iconic British motor firm Bentley was founded in 1919 by Walter Owen Bentley, who had designed and supplied engines for the war effort. Following the war, his contribution was recognised with an MBE and £8,000 from the Commission of Awards to Inventors.

This gave him the capital to establish a premises in Cricklewood, North London where he turned his engines business into one for car production.

The company grew through the following decade, in particular associated with motor racing with five victories at Le Mans in the 1920s. Now, 100 years later, Bentley Motors are located in Crewe, one of Europe’s leading luxury car manufacturers.

British Airways Puzzle, Sörmlands museum, CC BY-SA Dockväska, Kulturen, CC BY-NC-ND

The company we know today as British Airways has its origins 100 years ago, tracing its origins to the beginning of civil aviation.

In August 1919, Aircraft Transport and Travel Limited, a forerunner company of today’s British Airways, launched the world’s first daily international scheduled air service, between London and Paris. On board: one passenger, a consignment of leather, several brace of grouse and some jars of Devonshire cream.

Many mergers and name changes later, today British Airways celebrates its 100 years as one of the world’s largest airlines and a century of heritage to look back upon.

Citroën Garage Citroën, Agence Rol, Bibliothèque nationale de France, No Copyright – Other Known Legal Restrictions Citroen in Vestlander, Håkon Prestkværn, Domkirkeodden, Public Domain

French car manufacturer Citroën was founded in 1919 by the industrialist André-Gustave Citroën.

1n 1908, Citroen became the chairman of automobile manufacturer Mors. During World War I, he was responsible for mass production of armaments. After the war, realising he would have a modern factory without a product, Citroen returned to cars.

Launched in 1919, the Citroen Type A was the firm’s first model. From there, Citroën became the first mass production manufacturer in Europe and, by the 1930s, the fourth largest automobile manufacturer in the world.

RELATED: Volkswagen Beetle: birth of an industrial icon Danone Danone, Design Museum of Barcelona, CC BY-NC Danone factory exterior, Juan Miguel Pando Barrero, Institute of Cultural Heritage of Spain, CC BY-NC-ND

Danone – a multinational food corporation now based in France – has its roots in 1919.

Isaac Carasso, a Sephardic Jewish doctor, who was born in Thessaloniki and moved to Barcelona in 1916.

There, concerned for stomach ailments of the city’s children, including his own son Daniel, he began producing yoghurt, selling it in pharmacies. Carasso named the yoghurts Danone, after his son.

A decade later, in 1929, Daniel Carasso joined the family business, moving the company from Spain to France, and later, during World War II, to New York where the brand name was changed to Dannon to sound more American.

Now Danone – again based in Paris – sells products in more than 120 countries.

Electrolux Electrolux vacuum cleaner model I, Dagens bild, Tekniska museet, Public Domain Electrolux advertising, Nuevo Mundo magazine, 16 October 1925, Biblioteca Digital Memoria de Madrid, CC BY-NC

Swedish home appliance company Electrolux was founded in 1919.

Its founder Axel Wenner-Gren had launched his first vacuum cleaner, the Lux I, seven years earlier in Stockholm.

In 1919, his firm was acquired by Svenska Elektron A, changing the naame from Elektromekaniska AB to Elektrolux. In the early years, it sold Lux vacuum cleaners in several European countries.

During the 1930s and 1940s, the firm drew inspiration for its products from the car industry, with modern, fashionable, streamlined products.

Today, Electrolux produces and sells many types of household appliance in more than 150 countries worldwide.

KLM Stereo glass slide of departing plane of the KLM in Rotterdam in 1928, W. Nolen, Museum Rotterdam, CC BY Aircraft of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Sándor Bauer, Fortepan, CC BY-SA

Dutch airline KLM was founded in 1919, when a consortium of eight businessmen founded the firm on 7 October, one of the world’s first commercial airline companies. Two weeks later, the firm’s first office opened on Heerengracht in The Hague.

The first KLM flight took place on 17 May 1920 flying from London’s Croydon Airport to Amsterdam Schiphol.

100 years later, today KLM flies to 145 destinations around the world.

RELATED: More than 1200 aerial photographs by KLM Tesco Cashier badge used in TESCO stores in Hungary, 2007-2008, Hungarian Museum of Commerce and Hospitality, CC BY-NC-SA

British supermarket retailers Tesco were founded in 1919 by Jack Cohen as a group of market stalls, although not initially called Tesco.

That name appeared 5 years later when Cohen bought a shipment of tea from Thomas Edward Stockwell and sold it under the name combining these initials with the first letters of his surname. It was still later, in 1931, when the first Tesco store opened in Burnt Oak, a suburb of London.

Related: Explore more than 450 oral history interviews about Tesco

Through its century, Tesco has grown from market stalls to a leading supermarket chain across Europe – with stores now in the United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Hungary, Ireland, Poland and Slovakia as well as a number of coutnries in Asia

Wasabröd Wasabröd trade fair display, Carl Larssons Fotografiska Ateljé, Gävleborg County Museum, CC BY-NC Wasabröd packaging, 1930s, Sörmlands museum, CC BY-SA

Sweden’s Wasabröd is the world’s largest producer of Scandinavian style crisp bread – knäckebröd in Swedish.

Its name, Wasa is associated with Swedish king Gustav Vasa and was chosen to create an easily recognisable brand.

Its first bakery was opened in Skellefteå in 1919 by Karl Edvard Lundström. In 1931, the company opened another bakery – completely mechanised – in Filipstad which still operates today (along with another factory in Celle, Germany).

Today, wasabröd products are sold in 40 different countries.

By Adrian Murphy, Europeana Foundation

Share your story

Did you or your family work for any of the companies in this blog? Share your story and help us tell the story of Europe through our working lives in the past and the present.

By Adrian Murphy, Europeana Foundation

This blog post is a part of the Europeana Common Culture project, which explores varied aspects of our shared cultural heritage across Europe.

Feature image: 100 Years Dalang factory, Museen Muttenz,, CC BY-NC-SA