Mnemosyne. In search of the European Identity

Mnemosyne is a ten-year, pan-European and civic project. It offers a new way to consider exhibitions, memory policy and culture at a time of the greatest threats since the Second World War. Mnemosyne derives its name from the Greek goddess of memory, mother of the nine muses. The word memory also stems from her name.

The basic assumption of the civic project is that without (shared) memory, no stable, integrative and pluralistic identity can be formed. This applies to each individual, as well as to collectives, states and complexes* such as the European Union. Just as talking about oneself reveals a person‘s identity, communities likewise create their identity by means of narratives. This occurs through memories with a national, or, in the particular case of Europe, a pan-European reference. Europe lacks these broad, common, positive narratives.

Initially launched in 2014 as an exhibition project, Mnemosyne has become a nexus for the most diverse protagonists. Among these are universities, NGOs with a broad range of commitments from disseminating* human rights to sustainable urban renewal, technology companies, journalists, partner museums, collections and schools.

Mnemosyne, as a multimedia exhibition, research and mediation project reaches out to every citizen in Europe and beyond. It has embarked on a search for ideas, figures and stories concerning a common European self-image, which recognises the differences of the various national states and can vault over them. In other words, it is an invitation for people to identify with Europe and its culture and joyfully exclaim: "Yes, I’m a European! Yes, I can gladly identify with these values and with this community!"

In this sense, the Mnemosyne project follows a historical-political aim.

Voices about Mnemosyne

In Europe, history and a vision of the future are very closely linked. Europe‘s promise revolves around two decisive transformations:

1. From war to peace – from European history we learn that erstwhile mortal enemies become peacefully coexisting and closely cooperating neighbours.
2. From coercion to freedom – from European history we learn that dictatorships can become democracies.

In order to safeguard these values, the EU‘s indifferent phase must be followed by a phase of revival, emotion, renewal and engagement. The project Mnemosyne. In Search of the European Identity is heading in precisely this direction. We therefore support it wholeheartedly.

Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Aleida Assmann & Prof. em. Dr. Dr. h.c. mult. Jan Assmann coined the term “Cultural Memory”, which became a guiding concept of cultural sciences and general academic research. They are rated among the world‘s most significant memory theorists and most renowned intellectuals.

As a parliamentarian and Vice President of the Culture Committee in the European Parliament, I would hereby like to express my support for the project Mnemosyne. In Search of the European Identity. Mnemosyne wishes to strengthen a common European cultural consciousness and opens a new field of discussion regarding Europe‘s politics of remembrance. Without a clear conception of one‘s own past, without a common memory culture, Europe cannot possibly develop a common identity. Exploring this multifaceted and many-voiced past in a multimedia project seems to me more crucial than ever these days, when centrifugal powers are threatening the European freedom project.

Dr. Helga Trüpel is a parliamentarian and Vice-President of the Committee on Culture and Education in the European Parliament.

Michal Martychowiec, All is history, 2015

Michal Martychowiec, How far can you see?, 2013