In the context of the European Year of Cultural Heritage and the WW1 Armistice (1918-2018) centenary, the Mundaneum (Belgium) and the Peace Palace (Netherlands) are celebrating together “The Architects of Peace”.
Peace is not a natural state. Peace is about a long and laborious construction process. All around Europe, through the years, different heritage sites tell the story of men and women who’ve worked towards designing peace and hence, contributing to what makes Europe today. A place with no war for the last seven decades and awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 2012.
The Architects of Peace also laid the foundation stones for our organizations, the Mundaneum and the Peace Palace, both “laboratories for peace”. The first, the Peace Palace in The Hague, striving for peace through international law. The second, the Mundaneum in Mons, through culture and knowledge. Both are European Heritage Label sites: visitors can find in both sites elements of what makes the European DNA (culture, values, identity).
Peace Palace and Mundaneum
Before the Peace Palace was opened in 1913, The Hague was host to the First Peace Conference in 1899. The Peace Palace was built in 1913 with a donation given by the celebrated steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Today, it is home to a number of international judicial institutions, including the International Court of Justice or World Court, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the renowned Peace Palace Library, as well as the Hague Academy of International Law, which attracts law students from all over the world every summer. This Neo-Renaissance style building and the organizations it houses have given The Hague worldwide recognition as “the international city of Peace and Justice”.
The Mundaneum was created in Brussels, Belgium, at the beginning of the 20th century by Paul Otlet and Nobel Peace Prize winner Henri La Fontaine. It used to be an international documentation Centre aimed at gathering, indexing and sharing the universal knowledge. Its purpose was humanist: the founders of the Mundaneum wanted to contribute to world peace by bridging people through knowledge and culture. Today dubbed “the paper Google”, the Mundaneum offers original exhibits aiming to show the vast collections of its archive Centre. The themes of the exhibitions resonate with the great themes of the institution since its creation (knowledge, peace, citizenship, democracy…) and fall into a constant dialogue between history and perspective.
Our institutions were established by the work and ideals of individuals: Henri La Fontaine and Paul Otlet were advocates of peace through dialogue and sharing knowledge. The Peace Palace came into being by the perseverance of many individuals who strived to abolish war through international law. As Andrew Carnegie’s aim was 'to hasten the abolition of international war, the foulest blot upon our civilization'.
The Architects of Peace
At the turn of the 19th and the 20th century, in the belle epoque, more than one hundred peace associations were registered. Pacifism had become a sure fact in society and peace organizations flourished while authors reached the people with their powerful pens. Support came from influential and powerful people as Andrew Carnegie and Alfred Nobel. Those were the people who designed the blue prints and ground plans of several important organizations that exist today.
The Mundaneum in Mons (Bergen) in Belgium and the Peace Palace in The Hague would like to share the stories of these “Architects of Peace” and highlight how they have influenced our organizations today. The key figures of this specific time period had a strong network corresponding and coming together at different conferences and congresses in Europe and the United States where they would work out their plans for a better world. Henri La Fontaine, was not only one of the forefathers of the Mundaneum but was present during the official inauguration of the Peace Palace in 1913, the year he received his Nobel Peace Prize. And In the same year, Andrew Carnegie visited the International Museum in Brussels where he was introduced to the plans of Henri La Fontaine and Paul Otlet for a world centre for information, which later on became the Mundaneum. From now on, the Peace Palace and the Mundaneum are writing a new page of their common history and join their efforts together to promote Peace heritage at a European level!
A Joint Project
As it used to be the case for the war memorials between 2014 and 2018, the post 2018 period will be key for the Peace heritage sites. Our responsibility today is to celebrate the important milestones in European History towards the construction of peace. Not only to commemorate but further than this. In a societal challenging context, it’s our responsibility to spread Peace history in order to feed peace education, to promote European citizenship and the integration of communities. This is why we chose to launch “the Architects of Peace” in the framework of the European year of cultural heritage.
A cycle of activities will be proposed under the umbrella “The Architects of Peace”: From an exhibition at the Mundaneum in Mons to an online digital exhibitions series, from a crowdsourcing and spreading Peace heritage program to a social media #campaign. Audience development is key regarding the objectives of our project. Our initiative is supported by the Carnegie Foundation, the Foundation Henri La Fontaine, the Bar of Mons and the Foundation Mons 2025 (European capital of culture in 2015).
In the future ‘The Architects of Peace” may become a label or a call to encourage other institutions to share their stories of influential pacifists of another era and other nationalities on the basis of materials from their heritage collections with matching stories. A peace heritage crowdsourcing ‘The Architects of Peace” is a first step towards a more ambitious program of sharing the European history of peace to a broad audience.
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[JW1]Link to webpage of EU of the European Heritage Label