Historians at the Freie Universität Berlin have launched a virtual exhibition about intercultural contacts within military and war contexts under the following link:
In six thematic sections, the online exhibition "Making War, Mapping Europe" portrays cultural contacts among soldiers from France, England, and Germany who were stationed at the periphery of Europe and in the Middle East during the "long 19th century." The anniversaries of the Napoleonic Wars and of the First World War have awakened a broader interest in these events. Therefore, the exhibition is not solely designed for an academic audience, but rather was conceptualized for interested laypeople. Visitors here receive a visual impression of the presence of the Napolonic soldiers in Egypt, Italy, and Russia, as well as German military members’ encounters with the Ottoman Empire and the Balkan region during the First World War. Two further sections of the exhibition are dedicated to Bavarian soldiers in Greece and the British soldiers in Egypt in the 19th century.
These encounters are evidenced by the array of objects available for view in the exhibition: photographs, works of art, souvenirs, and various daily objects that have survived. Among these objects are a German steel helmet, specifically designed to enable muslim soldiers to touch their forehead to the ground during ritual prayer, and a braid of hair that a Napoleonic officer, who had landed in Russian war captiviy, had kept in memory of his Russian girlfriend. The hundreds of pictures and artifacts in the exhibition illustrate how military operations and expeditions ultimately functioned as catalysts for various forms of intercultural encounter. Their subject matter and greater implications cover a great spectrum ranging from questions of violence and gender, to knowledge transfer, and finally to the culture of memory surrounding these events.
The artifacts were collected with the support of many museums, archives, and private persons. Historians from the Freie Universität and its partner universities embedded them in the historical context. General thematic essays on various aspects of the cultural contact augment the exhibition and simultaneously present the initial findings of the research project.
The online exhibition arose within the framework of the HERA-funded international research project ‘Making War, Mapping Europe,’ which is led by Professor Dr. Oliver Janz at the Freie Universität Berlin, and which is supported by its members at the Trinity College Dublin and the British universities of Swansea and York.
Dr. Oliver Stein, Researcher, Department of History and Cultural Studies, Freie Universität Berlin, Tel.: +49 30 838-62923