Controversial House of European History to open on 6 May

Written by Martin Banks on 20 April 2017 in News

The long-awaited House of European History will open its doors on 6 May in the Eastman Building in Brussels' Leopold Park, organisers have announced.

House of European History | Photo credit: Press Association

The controversial, multi-million euro museum focusing on recent European history is an ambitious project which the European Parliament first announced way back in 2007. 

It was due to open its doors to the public by September 2016 and has been mired in controversy for years, not least over the cost.

The Commission is thought to have contributed €800,000 to the cost while Parliament originally earmarked €31m to renovate and extend the Eastman building, a former dental institute, and over €21m for the permanent exhibition. An additional €3.75m was allocated to build up the collection. 

The museum is the brainchild of a former president of the Parliament, ex-German EPP group MEP Hans-Gert Pottering, who wanted to build a place in which "the concept of the European idea can continue to grow."

However, the House of European History has had its critics, particularly over its estimated €56m price tag which was deemed too high. Others said the project amounted to an act of historical revisionism.

The project envisioned by Pottering was to focus on "significant phenomena in the history of Europe" while presenting "different viewpoints on diverse interpretations of history." 

The museum, he said at the time, would focus on Europe's post-war history, in the same way that Parliament's other museum, the Parlamentarium, concentrates on European history since 1946.

British tabloids, though, have been scathing in their assessment of the House of European History, with some calling it a "vanity project" which amounted to an "offensive waste of money."

A museum spokesperson said it "will take visitors along a timeline of major historical events across the continent starting in the 19th century, through to the tragedies of the two world wars and a discussion of their relationship to the founding of the EU."

The permanent exhibition ends with a discussion of the EU's future. Visitors can choose among all 24 official EU languages, and entrance to the museum will be free. Tailored resources are available for schools and other groups, said the spokesperson.

The museum will also host temporary exhibitions, the first of which is called Interactions, which allows visitors to answer a few questions and see their connection to the rest of Europe.

The Eastman building - which was once a dental clinic for disadvantaged children - is an Art Deco gem. The building - which was meticulously restored - houses, among other things, beautiful wall paintings depicting the stories of French author Jean de La Fontaine, and lies in the 10 hectare Leopold park.

With the gleaming museum now finally due to open, it continues to attract criticism with Ukip leader Paul Nuttall, an MEP, saying, "This expensive wrong-headed 'Palace of Propaganda' will go down in history as the European Union's 'Pravda' in stone."

Speaking on Thursday, he added, "It will peddle the lie that Europe is one state with one people whereas in fact Europe is a diverse continent of peoples, languages and cultures.

"Europe can do much better than the EU's political union, a failing institution which has produced poverty for millions in the Med, less security through Schengen on the continent and the diminution of national democracy wherever it can reach its tentacles."


About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter for the Parliament Magazine

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