How many and which are the languages and written cultures of contemporary Europe? How many cultural identities do they express? How many of the citizens of Europe realize that written languages and literatures are not an equivalent of the spoken voice, but an art form which transforms and translates language into something else? How many of us have the opportunity to see, as if on an archaeological site, the plurality of languages and voices that make up the texture of Europe? Cities, monuments, roads, sites in Europe are a cultural heritage which we may touch with our hands, but how could we preserve what has been and we can no longer touch and be able to show it, quite literally, at every street’s corner?
According to some sources the languages of Europe are 117. Some can be named very easily: Italian, French, German, Polish, Norwegian – but to get to 117 one should know that in Europe, among the languages that have millions or hundreds of thousands of speakers, there are also Ruthenian, Frisian, Galician, Aromanian, Ossetian, Greek Pontic and dozens of others. How many of those languages also became languages of poetry, stories, novels, literatures? How many happened to be written? When and how did the voices of the peoples of Europe gather around certain languages and form literary tradition to which we are able to give a name? Where does a language begin and end? When and how does speech become properly a language? Italy and Germany with 150 million speakers are home to hundreds of dialects, small Lithuania hosts 14 mutually incomprehensible dialects. Which traditions do these languages record and narrate? Of which cultural identities are they mirrors and containers? How many stories make up the history of Europe and how it is possible to represent and transmit this extraordinary plurality to the consciousness of its citizens along with the memory of all these voices?
The experimental exhibition that we would like to create is designed to make such description possible by designing a virtual map of Europe through which to represent the continent and allowing to focus on particular places (cities, geographical areas, quarters or buildings). We chose such places among the most significant linguistic and cultural crossroads, displaying the history or histories of European languages and literatures, as results of the continuous transits through space and time of people, their stories, and their languages –maternal and acquired – and literatures. We would like to effect through a digital platform and a web archive site, through the production of audio books and radio programmes; through a travelling installation and – who knows – one day a museum a tangible representation of Europe’s cultural archaeology through its languages and literatures.
The project aims at representing, narrating and disseminating to the general public this uniquely European identity, and thus to restore into the narrative of the history of Europe the memory of all the voices from which it is constituted.
EUROTALES – The Language Museum Project is an initiative of Maia Wellington Gahtan, Director of the Marist-LdM MA in Museum Studies, with the Istituto Lorenzo de’ Medici as a partner.
Visit the Eurotales website here.