Exhibition “Thousands are Sailing”

By Frederik Truyen and Sofie Taes

On Friday October 12th the exhibition “Thousands are Sailing” was launched in the Museo della Grafica at the Palazzo Lanfranchi in Pisa. The exhibition is one of the main outputs of the project “Migration in the Arts and the Sciences”, funded by the EC under the Connecting Europe Facilities call “Europeana Generic services 2016”. The call funds projects that want to contribute to Europeana: the main portal to Europe’s cultural heritage.


The exhibition at Palazzo Lanfranchi – photo: Frederik Truyen – CC-BY

This particular project aims at bringing together and at disseminating a collection of digitised materials relating to the theme of migration on Europeana. Several partners contribute new content to this collection: Stichting Europeana (the project coordinator), Stichting Nederlands Instituut voor Beeld en Geluid, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Narodowy Instytut Audiowizualny, National Archives of Hungary,  Martynas Mažvydas,  the National Library of Lithuania and Narodna biblioteka Srbije – ustanova kulture od nacionalnog značaja.

The selection and curation is in the hands of KU Leuven, Cultural Studies. Curator Sofie Taes, research assistant at the research unit Literary Theory and Cultural Studies, produced a virtual exhibition and several galleries and blogs on Europeana for the migration theme. She is also the curator of the physical exhibition presented in Pisa.

The virtual exhibition “People on the Move” sheds light on how migration has changed the world in six chapters. The first, “Crossing frontiers”, tells the stories of famous migrated scientists, such as Marie Skłodowska Curie and Albert Einstein.  “The land of opportunity”, the second chapter, focuses on migrant workers.  “Mixing traditions” highlights the richness in traditions and culture that migration has brought about, while “Itinerant artists” follows the life of travelling artists. Of course, the “Rising stars” of popular culture deserve their separate chapter.  In “Faces of migration”, the exhibition zooms in on particular stories of individuals and  families whose lives have been heavily impacted by migration.


Frank Otto Skeppstedt and Family in the USA – Sörmlands Museum – CC-BY-SA

In the physical exhibition “Thousands are Sailing” – developed in collaboration with Photoconsortium, the aggregator for photography on Europeana – , the key theme of migration is exemplified in 20 portraits and mini-stories about people’s migration experiences, their motives, hopes and wishes, adventures and accomplishments. The photos are of exceptional quality and have a direct face-to-face appeal. Visitors feel transported in the often precarious but sometimes joyful world of people in their newfound home. At the launch of the exhibition Sofie Taes explained the motives behind the selection and the long journey of discovery to find a set of images that tell a common narrative through individual stories.


Curator Sofie Taes at the opening – photo: Frederik Truyen – CC-BY

With this exhibition, Cultural Studies Leuven continues its work of contributing curated collections and stories to Europeana, in particular to the Thematic Collection on Photography. This effort has recently entered the next stage with the new project “Kaleidoscope: the fifties in Europe”, launched in September 2018.

The opening of the exhibition, which will run until November 11th 2018, coincided with a successful Europeana migration collection day, where citizens were invited to bring an object to share their migration story. We collected a number of very compelling stories which will shortly be published on the Europeana portal!


Collecting objects and stories at the collection day – photo: Frederik Truyen – CC-BY

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