The House of European History opens on Sunday 400m² of new exhibition spaces allowing children and families to discover Europe’s history. The new spaces give parents tools to address issues about today’s society with their children in a safe and playful environment. The Family Discovery Spaces will provide 6-10 year olds with fun and engaging exhibits about different aspects of European history. Princess Europa and her brother Cadmus from Europe’s founding myth are the two characters leading children on a time-traveling experience.
Along the way children will smell, feel and live history, participate in role-play games, learn about historic characters and try out their costumes.
“Becoming a time traveler and visiting the past is much more interesting for a 6 – 10 years old than being told going to a history museum,” says museum director Constance Itzel.
Museum educator Laurence Bragard tells The Brussels Times that the trails in the new spaces are intended to be followed by children in the company of their parents or other adults and that interactive workshops are also organized for school classes.
Time is an abstract concept for children. “We are introducing it step by step by focusing on events and things that their parents and grandparents experienced,” explains Bragard. “In fact, we are going back to the 19th century when children toiled in coal mines.”
Europe owes its name to the ancient myth of the Phoenician princess Europa, who was abducted by the Greek God Zeus in the disguise of a bull and brought to Crete. In the Family Discovery Spaces the princess is joined by her brother Cadmus.
“We hope that this story about siblings will fascinate children,” says Bragard. “According to the myth, Cadmus is sent by his father on a rescue mission to find Europa. Although he fails in his mission he brings his knowledge of the Phoenician alphabet to the Greek world, leading to the development of the Greek alphabet.
Might not children be frightened when discovering the wars and dark sides of Europe’s history? “We are aware of this and have developed tools and a safe environment to deal with it,” she replies.
“They will be able to try a gas mask from WWI and look at a suitcase belonging to a person who was deported to the Nazi death camps in WWII. But parents will have the resources to talk with their children about their feelings.”
At this point parents, who have seen the other exhibitions in the museum, will have to explain to their children that EU was created as a peace project to prevent future wars in Europe.
The House of European History was inaugurated in May 2017 and is located in Leopold Park in the European quarter of Brussels. The official opening of the Family Discovery Spaces will take place at 14 – 17 pm on 11 March. The Spaces will be accessible to families all year long. Entry to the museum is free of charge.