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Historical Archives of the European Union - European University Institute

Following the thread of history at the Historical Archives of the European Union

As part of the Archives’ educational activities, students from the Italo Calvino middle school and the Mayor of Ventotene met in Florence for a morning of activities and music to celebrate the anniversary of the Ventotene Manifesto.

29/11/2021 | News

"Thanks to them, thanks to their courageous commitment to create the conditions of lasting peace, our generations have not endured war. We should not take that for granted."

With these words, Gerardo Santomauro, the Mayor of Ventotene, encouraged the middle schoolers visiting the Historical Archives to remember the importance of the work drafted on the prison island in 1941 by Altiero Spinelli and Ernesto Rossi and clandestinely distributed by Ursula Hirschmann and Ada Rossi.

Santomauro was referring to the Manifesto di Ventotene, a publication recognised as one of the first expressions of a free and united Europe. The Historical Archives preserves one of the few remaining original copies of the work.

The HAEU educational programme

Together with the municipality of Ventotene, with which the Archives signed a letter of intent earlier this year, the Archives have made the Manifesto and its 80th anniversary the focal point of its educational activities for 2021/22. Instructors from the HAEU have already delivered their programme to schoolchildren in Lazio, and have now launched the activities locally.

Friday’s group of students are the first of many this academic year from Florence who will take part in the programme, as more than 45 classes have registered so far. The students will engage in two hours of instruction at school and three on the premises of the Archives. Instructors from the HAEU tailor the materials and activities according to the age of the participants, but the objective is the same: to help students understand the link between their personal histories, and the history of an integrated Europe.

For the students from the Italo Calvino middle school, the morning at the Archives was divided into three segments. Archivists first presented a session on the figures of Altiero Spinelli and Ursula Hirschmann. Next, students were brought to reflect on the ideas of borders and the condition of political confinement though a narrated session that incorporated body movement and music. Finally, the students visited the Archive deposits, where they viewed relevant material from the collections and had the opportunity to tell about the historical items they had brought from their own families to illustrate European belonging and identity.

Bringing the Manifesto to Ventotene

In 2021, the Historical Archives sent the Ventotene Manifesto for light restoration work and to be treated for long-term preservation. On the occasion, a facsimile was prepared for the Island of Ventotene.

Invited to Florence to receive the copy, Mayor Santomauro stated “It is a powerful moment. We come from Ventotene on a very special mission. To bring a copy of the Manifesto back home.”

Mayor Santomauro was accompanied by Anthony Santilli, archivist from the Centre for Research and Documentation on Political Confinement and Detention of the Islands of Ventotene and Santo Stefano.  

Santomauro is enthusiastic about the growing collaboration between the municipality and the EUI. In addition to the understanding between the Archives and Ventotene, on 12 November the mayor also signed a letter of intent with the EUI and with Silvia Costa, Italy’s Special Government Commissioner for the Recovery of the Former Santo Stefano/Ventotene Prison.

“It is my hope that this is the first milestone in a long journey with the European University Institute,” he said. 

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