Many lesser-known facts about the developments in the Balkans region are highlighted at the current exhibition at the National Historical Museum of Greece, located in Athens. If you're a history fan, definitely don't miss it.
This innovative international exhibition – Imagining the Balkans: Identities and Memory in the Long 19th Century – is organized together with 11 other museums of Southeast Europe. It's currently on display at the Old Parliament Building of Athens through April 19, 2015.
This ambitious cooperation of National History Museums, coordinated under the aegis of UNESCO and with the active support of the International Council of Museums, explores the creation of modern national identities and of the nation-state concept.
It centers its attention to the 19th century, a period of transition from the vast multiethnic empires (Ottoman and Habsburg) towards societies inspired by national ideas and seeking democratic legitimacy.
"The celebrations of the coronation of King Carol I, Bucharest, 1881" - Color lithograph by Grassiany, 1881, National History Museum of Romania, Bucharest — Photo courtesy of National Historical Museum
Ideological, sociopolitical, economical and cultural changes in the Balkans are presented, without focusing upon events or dates. A shared historic destiny is described, through which the commonalities between peoples are highlighted instead of being, as is usual, concealed behind nationalistic antagonisms and claims.
The scientific basis of the exhibition rests upon inspired university studies, arguing that the image of the Balkans as a place of hatred, dispute and backwardness is mostly an ideological construct, which ignores the specific conditions of the region.
Contrary to this stereotype, the Balkans is able to display an evolution comparable to the rest of Europe, as well as important achievements in specific areas of human activity.
Within today’s difficult political environment in this region, the exhibition proves that history is not necessarily a subject of dissension among people. This optimistic approach is emphasized by the colorful design. The mere cooperation on an equal footing of so many museums and experts from all Balkan countries is by itself an originality and a practical demonstration of this principle.
UNESCO has included the exhibition as a manifestation of its intersectoral project platform “Culture: A Bridge to Development."
The exhibition catalog is available in Greek and English editions. Other local languages are available directly by participating museums.
The exhibition is structured in an original and interesting way, with videos, music, paintings and other materials pertaining to the subject, which illustrate various aspects of life in the Balkans.
Everyday situations, such as the coffee shop, economic exchange, family portraits of the rising middle class, can be seen together with material on learning, religion, mapping, heroes, public celebrations, sports and national memories.
Visitors gain valuable insight and knowledge – both historical and sociopolitical – about this region at this temporary exhibit.