The importance of the dissemination of memory in the teaching of History

As one of the major parts of the European Digital Treasures project, the Archival Literacy Online Course has been developed to assist teachers in introducing students of grade 9 and higher to the world of archives.

One of the teachers who has been using this tool in her teaching is Teresa Gomes, History teacher at Mem Martins Secondary School in Portugal. In an online presentation of the Archival Literacy Online Course on May 6, 2021, she will give insights into the course together with other lecturers. To join this event, please register here.

Teresa Gomes is the author of the following text.

Project “Digital Treasures”

This text aims to be not only a reflection on the pedagogical component of the training performed, but also on the social and informational functions associated with the archives, for the role they play in keeping the memory of the different communities and individuals.

National Archive of Torre do Tombo, Portuguese Political Constitution of 1822, one of the archival documents explored with students in a classroom context.

The preservation of memory, throughout history, has been possible through the multiplicity of testimonies that allow the reconstitution of the timeline for the succession of events. The act of preserving the record of these actions constitutes the original basis of the archives which, by subjecting the documents to archival procedures, have allowed access to information through their reuse.

As mentioned in the document Aprendizagens Essenciais for the discipline of History A, must have a teaching that encourages in students a method that values the exhaustive analysis of diverse sources promotes the development of a critical perspective, enabling the deconstruction of information, identifying error and illusion (2018:2), which attributes to pedagogical tools such as those presented during “Digital Treasures” formation a particular highlight in the analysis of primary sources.

National Archive of Torre do Tombo, Portuguese Political Constitution of 1822, one of the archival documents explored with students in a classroom context.

An example of the partnership between the Archive and the School was promoted through two initiatives that counted with the collaboration of the Arquivo Municipal de Sintra (AMS) and the School Library of the Mem Martins Secondary School (BE ESMM): An exhibition of the existing AMS documents, with particular emphasis on written and iconographic documents about the localities Algueirão-Mem Martins and Rio de Mouro, given that the educational community is located in these places.

During the fortnight in which the exhibition was in the BE ESMM, a lecture was held with the head of the AMS on the dematerialisation of and accessibility to documents, using digital media. During the lecture, it was shown how to navigate through different types of documents related to local and regional history was performed.

Later, in the classroom, the students worked on the website of the Assembly of the Republic and National Archive of  Torre do Tombo/Digitarq to read and analyse documentation relating to the Liberal Revolution of 1820 and the Civil War between Liberals and Absolutists, as well as the involvement of the municipality of Sintra in both events.

For the knowledge of the historical context under study, the students are thus led to the reading and analysis of coeval written production as well as to the observation of records of images of the time or that in histography allow the identification of elements that promote the hermeneutic and heuristic analysis of the sources, namely in the subject of History A, in secondary education.

Law by which King John V prohibited the use of costumes and language of the Romani people

“Considering the behaviours of the Gypsies that “commit theft, deceit and many other offences and outrages”, the king orders that “no one in this kingdom… uses the costumes, the language or the contraptions of the Gypsies… that they don’t live together, or occupy more than two houses per street, or walk together on the roads”, but use the way of life of the people of the land.”

Tipos ciganos”. Document of the fonds Empresa Pública do Jornal O Século, Joshua Benoliel, lote 05, cx. 01, negativo 06

The 8th of April was officially declared as the International Roma Day in 1971, having been accepted by the majority of associations of Romani communities, with a view to promote the Romani culture.

The National Archive Torre do Tombo presents a law of 1708, of King John V, on the Romani people.

This law, like others issued in previous and posterior kingdoms, is a significant document for the knowledge of the history of the condition of the Romani minority in our country that, since its arrival to Portugal in the 15th century coming from Spain, was the object of discriminatory laws.

Besides the rejection of nomadism and other habits and traditions – like language, costumes and fortune-telling – these laws established penalties like working in the galleys and being exiled to Portuguese colonies, like Brazil.

It would take four centuries of living in the Portuguese territory for the Romani people to be granted the Portuguese citizenship, in 1822, by the Constitution of the Liberal Monarchy.

The Romani people, widely known for their negative visibility, are however still unknown for their history, culture and traditions.

The Roma were victims of the Holocaust (25 to 50 percent of the population) but were only tardily recognised as such: it was only in 2012 that the first monument in memory of the Romani victims of the Holocaust was inaugurated in Berlin, Germany.

Throughout Europe the hostility against the Romani people has been increasing, which today represent 12 to 10 million people in the European Union. In Portugal, they represent only 0.3 percent of the population, about 35 thousand people.

Zeljko Jovanovic, the director of the Open Society Roma Initiatives Office, states that “The situation of the Roma reflects the deep European values and liberal democracy crisis” (…) “Many politicians all over Europe have learned that they can manipulate society against the Roma to gain votes.”

The European Romani people are still particularly vulnerable to poverty and exclusion, being considered the poorest ethnic group, with worse living conditions, undereducated and the main target of racism and discrimination in modern societies.

In response to this problem the European Union implemented, from 2011, an EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies.

In 2013, for the first time, a strategy specifically directed at the Romani people in Portugal was approved: National Roma Integration Strategy.

The evaluation reported by the European Commission indicates that the goal is far from being achieved: the access to education has improved (the attendance of early childhood education has increased and early school-leaving was reduced), but there is little advance in health, the housing situation is still critical. In the employment area there was no relevant improvement, there is even more youth that neither study nor work and, in some countries, the hostility has increased.

Maria Trindade Serralheiro, Senior Technician / Information, Statistics and Quality Systems, General Directorate of Books, Archives and Libraries, Portugal

Ana Isabel Fernandes (trad.), Senior Technician / Communication Office, Torre do Tombo National Archive, General Directorate of Books, Archives and Libraries, Portugal

The merchandise products: Atlas of Fernão Vaz Dourado, 1571

ÉCHARPE, Portugal, Designers Diogo Bessa;
Mário Fonseca; Ana Catarina Silva

We present another designer product born within the framework of the European Digital Treasures project. Its creators are the designers Diogo Bessa, Mário Fonseca e Ana Catarina Silva, from the Polytechnic Institute of Cávado and Ave (IPCA). Their source of inspiration was one of the several folios of  the atlas of Fernão vaz Dourado, dated 1571, whose holder is  the Torre do Tombo National Archive (ANTT).

The full description of the Atlas is available on line, as well as the images of the different folios that compose it (https://digitarq.arquivos.pt/details?id=4162624).

Atlas of Fernão Vaz Dourado, 1571

About its author, Fernão Vaz Dourado (c. 1520-c.1580), we know he was a soldier and one of the three portuguese cartographers probably born and formed in Portuguese India. He mapped the known world of Europeans at the time, the coastline of the continents visited by sailors along their voyages. With the exception of polar zones, the only missing elements are the costs of some islands in Oceania (including Australia and some islands north of this continent) the North and North East coasts of Asia (north of Japan) and the entire North West region of North America, as well as the interior of the continents.

However, and according to what is known in our days about the cartographic workshops, such works could have been the product of a slow, complex, segmented and collective effort.

The new merchandise product is an écharpe, presented in an transparent envelope, which is 100% recycled material, containing contextual information about the document that gave rise to it and about the National Archive.

Lucília Runa, Senior Technician / E-administration and innovation, General Directorate of Books, Archives and Libaries, Portugal

The different stages of its creation and development process are presented in the following video: