“European Discoveries: from the New World to New Technologies” – the impact of the exhibition on the Portuguese public

With the objective of evaluating the impact of the exhibition “European Discoveries: from the New World to the New Technologies”, which took place in Lisbon, at Torre do Tombo National Archive (ANTT), from July 22 to October 30, with the Portuguese public, the information collected in the scope of the guided tours carried out by ANTT was used. The limitations resulting from the pandemic affected the number of visitors, reducing the impact of an event with these characteristics. In the current year 2021, the total volume of visitors to ANTT, compared to the same pre-pandemic period, dropped by 35%. Nevertheless, between September and October 2021, it was possible to carry out a total of 13 guided tours to groups, involving 125 visitors, broken down as follows:

    • 4 groups from secondary education (15-17 years): 49 visitors;

    • 6 higher education groups (17-25 years): 58 visitors;

    • 3 groups of other visitors (over 45 years old): 18 visitors.

Guided Tour.

The exhibition was also seen by 730 individual visitors, 13 of whom shared comments in the “Visitors’ book”. Among the latter, there are two professors and an archivist from Brazilian Universities.

Having characterized the universe of visitors, there is nothing better than listening to the testimony of the person responsible for conducting the visits, Maria Trindade Serralheiro, ANTT-DSIEQ technician.

Interviewer: Generally speaking, and from the point of view of visitors, what are the advantages of conducting guided tours of this type of exhibition?

Maria: The great advantage lies in the fact that the information transmitted can be directed to different audience profiles, allowing the visitor to enjoy mediation that meets their cultural interests, their knowledge or even their perceptions of matters related to the exhibited documents. As an example, visits aimed at groups of students can be more directed towards a specific curricular content, pre-established when scheduling the visit with the responsible teacher. In this specific case, it could focus on knowledge of primary sources and themes such as bioethics, human rights, public health, European citizenship, etc.

This is an innovative exhibition, given that it is a collaborative production carried out by European archives, whose thematic scope should be highlighted by the mediator, as it can contribute to reinforcing the awareness of identity belonging, both national and European. The archival documentation, properly framed, referring to different times and spaces, can contribute to sustain the affirmation of a shared memory.

Interviewer: Given the visits made to previous exhibitions, did this one stand out?

Maria: Yes, the visits stood out for their access to a great diversity and types of documents, only possible in a collaborative protection such as “European Digital Treasures”. In addition, alignment with the curricular programs at different levels of education was not only possible but also advantageous, as it enabled integration in a European context, which, although it has always existed, is not always highlighted with the deserved relevance in national school curricula. It should be noted that European History is present in the curriculum of History, but in a very discontinuous way, not allowing the establishment of belonging, an identity rooted in a European context.

Interviewer: Did the other activities carried out within the scope of the EDT project with teachers and schools, in the context, for example, of the “Course of Literacy in Archives”, have an impact on the number or profile of visitors?

Maria: Except for a single specific case, it was not found that the activities developed with the professors through the “Literacy in Archives Course” had worked as a motivational factor for a visit to this exhibition. In fact, as the Portuguese teachers participating in the course stated, it will only have an impact when translated into the mother tongue of students and teachers, as is, in fact, expected in European projects.

Visitors to this exhibition fit the usual profiles: secondary school students (10th, 11th and 12th grades) and groups of students starting university education who come to know the ANTT’s potential for research .

Interviewer: What knowledge did visitors reveal about European History?

Maria: They revealed some knowledge, very fragmented, favoring emblematic and high-impact facts, such as the European Wars, for example, but with little relation to the European political, social and cultural space as a whole.

Interviewer: Is it important that students have some preparation for the visit or, on the contrary, is it better that there is no prior preparation?

Maria: When they are motivated and curious students, preparation doesn’t make much difference. It is important that the school proceeds with the exploration of the contents covered in the exhibition, through the respective catalog, the information accessible through QR-CODE or the website of the promoters.

The contact with such a great diversity and typologies of documents from European archives is very stimulating to broaden horizons and to develop the awareness that archives are fundamental to interconnect peoples, times and places through the construction of a collective memory and that everybody can access it freely, through digital platforms. In this European approach, there is a phenomenon of cultural relativization between the “I” and the “other”, which proves to be very healthy.

Interviewer: Of the various exhibition centers – medicine, energy and industry, transport and navigation – which ones aroused the most interest?

Maria: It was undoubtedly the “pillar” of medicine, the theme of combating the disease, because in a context of public health crisis caused by the pandemic, scientific discoveries in the area of ​​medicine are front-page news. In front of an exhibition that highlights the creativity of European scientific discoveries and technological innovations, the curious and creative young visitors said that if they were allowed to make a scientific discovery to improve the quality of human life, it would be in the area of medicine that they would like to make their contribution.

This nucleus also allowed some reflection on scientific knowledge. The work of Garcia de Orta, a Portuguese physician who wrote about plants and other medicinal products from India (1563), was a pretext to question the nature of scientific knowledge, based on his phrase “What we do not know today, we will know tomorrow”. In times of uncertainty in the face of a pandemic that confronts us with the fragility of knowledge about a new virus, we see how in the past, in similar contexts, scientific discoveries were able to save lives and bring relief; the recognition of ignorance – “what we do not know today” – as a condition for discovery and, on the other hand, optimism in human capacities – “tomorrow we will know” – as a horizon of hope. And also about the obsolescence of scientific knowledge, based on a Nobel Prize in Medicine awarded to a practice of psycho-surgery, prefrontal leucotomy, which was later banned.

The centers (energy and industry, transport and navigation) also deserved special interest, depending on the training areas of the visitors. Students at the Aviation School, for example, “felt at home” in the face of pioneering aviation experiences and the complex and risky challenges of contradicting the law of gravity…

Interviewer: Did the fact that many documents are not physically present have an impact?

Maria: Yes, document reproductions are at a great disadvantage compared to originals. In future exhibitions, it would be good to improve the quality of the reproductions, so that they can compete with the originals. In this domain, but extending to all selected documentation, it would be important to improve contextualization, which is not always accessible to a non-specialized audience.

Interviewer: What is the impact of video games?

Maria: In a 45-minute group visit, the exploration work focused on the exposed documents, leaving this resource to be explored in the next visit or, eventually, at home or at school.

Interviewer: What is the impact of merchandising products?

Maria: The products’ creativity and aesthetics were highly valued, but the fact that they could not be purchased following the visit was disappointing, taking on the role of prolonging the visitor’s fascination.

Interviewer: What are the positive aspects to highlight?

Maria: For young people, Europe is, above all, a space without borders and a space of choice: where to live, where to study and where to practice your profession. Exhibitions of this nature are a resource that archives can make available to support decision-making based on knowledge of the multifaceted history of European culture.

In the visitor satisfaction survey, 85% rated the theme of the exhibition as “Very interesting”. The students who registered comments in the “Visitors’ book” used phrases such as: “Bué gira”, “I really liked it”, “Very cool”. Regarding the contents, phrases such as: “Very interesting”, “Very enlightening”, “Historically rich” stand out. As for the relevance of the themes in general: “Relevant themes”, “it never hurts [the European approach to History]; “The approach to the European dimension was lacking in secondary education”, “the exhibition multiplied my interest”.

Interviewer: What are the aspects to improve?

Maria: The dissemination strategy, which would benefit from being more aimed at schools, through, for example, promotional videos.

Guided Tour.

Written by General Directorate of Books, Archives and Libraries, Portugal.

The Holy Right Hand of Stephen I, King of Hungary

The Holy Right Hand is a Hungarian national and Catholic relic, which is believed to be the naturally mummified right hand of Stephen I, first king of Hungary, referred also as St. Stephen.

St. Stephen (in Hungarian Szent István) was born around 970-975 in Esztergom. He was a member of the Árpád dynasty, born a pagan but was baptized as a Christian. In 996, he married Gisela of Bavaria, sister of the future Holy Roman emperor, Henry II. After the death of his father, Grand Prince Géza, Stephen combated an insurrection led by his cousin, Koppány, who claimed the throne in accordance with Árpád succession rules. After defeating Koppány, Stephen was crowned as (the first) king of Hungary with a crown received from Pope Sylvester II.

His coronation took place around 1021 years ago, on Christmas Day in 1000 and it signified Hungary’s entry into the family of European Christian nations. Stephen treated the church as the principal pillar of his authority, dispatching missionaries throughout his realm, founding bishoprics and abbeys and making the building of churches mandatory. He died in 1038 and became Hungary’s patron saint.

The king’s naturally mummified right hand is one of the most significant Hungarian national relics, found when his stone grave was opened on August 20th, 1083, in Székesfehérvár. (The identification mark of the right hand was the king’s ring, which adorned the hand.) The relic saw a few adventures in its time. During the Turkish occupation, it ended up in Ragusa (today: Dubrovnik, Croatia), where it was guarded by Dominican friars, attracting a growing number of pilgrims to the city.

Queen Maria Theresa (1717–1780), late successor of St. Stephen on the Hungarian throne, negotiated the return of the Holy Right Hand in 1771, offering to the historical city of Ragusa her protection against the threat of Russian invasion in return. In her charter decree, she set out how the relic, St. Stephen’s mummified hand is to be respected throughout the country.

During World War II, the Holy Right Hand was concealed – similarly to the coronation jewels – near Salzburg, in Austria. The relic arrived back to Hungary in 1945, and it has been on display in Saint Stephen’s Basilica in Budapest since 1987.

The charter issued by Queen Maria Theresa on 7th August, 1772 in Vienna is a parchment volume, sealed with the greater Hungarian secret seal and consists of 10 pages. It is kept by the National Archives of Hungary, in Budapest (under the reference code HU-MNL-OL – C 90 – № 11).


The record is showcased in the first thematic exhibition of the European Digital Treasures project, entitled Construction of Europe – History, Memory and Myth of Europeanness over 1000 years.

Written by Dorottya Szabó
Senior Archivist, National Archives of Hungary

Opening of the exhibition “Exiles, Migration Flows and Solidarity” at the Documentary Centre for the Historical Memory (Spain)

Yesterday, 25th of November, the second of the three transmedia exhibitions included in the European Digital Treasures project, “Exiles, Migration Flows and Solidarity”, was successfully opened at the Documentary Centre of the Historical Memory (Spain).


This exhibition analyzes how migrations and exchanges have contributed particularly to building cultural diversity in Europe through the documentary treasures kept in European archives. And it is the outcome of the European cooperation, a clear example of the combination of the capacities, heritage, diversity, value, and inspiration of all those who have made this project possible.

Games to play!

The narratives displayed here combine different technological tools that allow us to get to know our written past through multiple channels. Visitors can interact with: 9 original documents from 4 different archives, 21 facsimiles from 7 countries, 18 digital reproductions of documents from 6 countries, displayed in interactive booths, 1 quiz game for people who love challenges, 1 memory matching game to encourage observation, 1 infinite running game to reward speed by catching archival documents, 1 interactive RPG game to learn how to work on an archive, 4 augmented reality experiences to explore parallel worlds and videos presenting the project and its merchandising products!

Through the selection of 44 documents from the archives that participate in the project, European migrations are narrated from a historical perspective. In a Europe that is currently facing one of its most important migration crises, the relevance of this exhibition is key. The narrative has been structured through three thematic pillars: Work-related Migration; War- related Migration; Political Uprising, Turmoil and Persecution.

The stories combine different tools and technological solutions, with which the public will be able to access the written past through multiple channels that will allow them to experiment, play, learn and share, with that unique ability that documents have to tell personal stories (letters, images, boarding passes, visas, certificates, etc.) behind the European migration figures.

Opening ceremony.

The opening was chaired by Severiano Hernández Vicente, Head of the Spanish State Archives, by María Oliván, Head of the Transparency, Document Management & Access to Documents Unit of the European Commissio, by Manuel Melgar, Director of the Documentary Centre of the Historical Memory, and by María Encarnación Pérez Álvarez, Government Sub-delegate in Salamanca. It was also attended by representatives of the University of Salamanca, of different archives of the province of Salamanca, by the members of the ‘European Digital Treasures’ project and a representation of the Spanish State Archives.

The exhibition can be visited until March 13th, 2022 in Spain, with capacity restrictions and hygiene and safety measures established by health authorities to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Practical information: https://www.culturaydeporte.gob.es/cultura/areas/archivos/mc/archivos/cdmh/portada.html

Written by Spanish State Archives.

Opening of the exhibition “Exiles, migratory flows and solidarity” at the Archives House (Norway)

After more than two years of work in the preparation of the three transmedia exhibitions included in the European Digital Treasures project, on 12th of November, the exhibition Exiles, migratory flows, and solidarity was successfully opened at the Archives House (Norway).

This exhibition is the outcome of the European cooperation, a clear example of the combination of the capacities, heritage, diversity, value, and inspiration of all those who have made this project possible.

Augmented Reality.

The narratives displayed here combine different technological tools that allow us to get to know our written past through multiple channels. Visitors can interact with digital reproductions of documents from nine European countries, a quiz game for people who love challenges, a memory matching game to encourage observation, an infinite running game to reward speed by catching archival documents, an interactive RPG game to learn how to work on an archive, three augmented reality experiences to explore parallel worlds and two videos presenting the project! On display are also merchandising products created by professional designers, inspired by the documents presented in the Digital Treasures exhibitions.

Opening ceremony.
Opening ceremony with Inga Bolstad.

The opening ceremony was led by the National Archivist of Norway, Inga Bolstad. Afterwards, Ole Gausdal, who has been responsible for curating the exhibition, did a guided tour for the guests.

The opening was attended by the General director of the Book, Archives and Libraries of Portugal, Silvestre Lacerda and the Deputy Director of the Spanish State Archives, Severiano Hernández and members of the ‘European Digital Treasures’ project from the National Archives of Hungary, Malta, Spain, Portugal and from ICARUS. From Norway there were many invited guests from the National Archives of Norway and local and regional heritage institutions.

Guided tour with Ole Gausdal.

The exhibition can be visited until January 30th, 2022, in Norway. The same exhibition will open in Salamanca, Spain on 25th November 2021. Later, in 2022, it will open in Hungary, Portugal, Malta, and Austria.

Written by the National Archives of Norway

Some members of the team of the European Digital Treasures project.