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EXPO 01.05.2011  >  09.12.2011

press pack

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Introduction 01.05.2011 > 09.12.2011 / atomium A history of immigration in Belgium Like all developed countries, Belgium today is host to a large immigrant population, which has been arriving in successive waves since the country’s foundation almost two centuries ago. And, like all developed countries, Belgium has an ambivalent attitude to the phenomenon of migration, with the imaginary and the fantastical often prevailing over the true facts. The aim of this exhibition is to understand the collective fate of immigrant communities and the way in which they have shaped our nation. It is not a panegyric for immigration, any more than it is an idealised presentation of the slow and painful process of integration of the immigrant populations. Rather it is a question of showing as objectively as possible the complex two-way connections involved in the process of assimilation, the successes and limitations of this process, the many contributions made by immigrants to the host country and their own development through contact with their new environment, the tools employed by the host society to integrate the new arrivals, the development of these over time, their successes and their failures. The exhibition’s educational dimension is clear. For the host nation, it is a matter of presenting a less stereotypical vision of immigrants, both as a group – they form an integral and irreversible component of the country’s social fabric, which they have very much helped to shape – and perhaps more especially as individuals – behind the statistics are men, women and children who have an inalienable right to pursue everyone’s dream of a decent life. For the immigrant population, it is a matter of finding a place in the collective memory and history of the nation. In order to interest a young audience still further in the subject, particular attention will be paid to the educational aspect of the exhibition: adaptation of the tour accordingly, organisation of visits and training days for teachers, preparation of an educational pack for distribution to pupils, preparation of a DVD of the testimonies to be found in the exhibition for distribution to teachers, etc.


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Atomium Editorial Last spring, the Atomium staged the exhibition be.WELCOME in collaboration with the Museum of Europe and a cross-disciplinary scientific advisory board. In view of the tremendous success of the initiative both at the Atomium and at the Bois du Cazier in Charleroi (where it ran until January this year), we have decided together with the Museum of Europe to continue the project by staging a completely revamped version aimed specifically at schools, from May to December 2011. The aims of this educational initiative, using the latest in museum technology, are to try to understand this universal occurrence as it is experienced here in Belgium, to focus on the human experience and living testimony of our witnesses and to make accessible the questions raised by the phenomenon of migration. The second part of this exhibition cycle, be.WELCOME#2, is devoted to the reality of migration and will focus on the question of establishing roots in and becoming integrated into the host country, with in some cases the feeling of being “neither here, nor back there”. Our main guides on this tour will be the child witnesses from be.WELCOME#1, who – like their parents – are faced with the search for an identity. How does this tension between the elements which make up their identity affect their lives? How do they express it? And each of them will give their own personal response. Here too, there is no question of imposing a “preconceived idea” of the migration issue but of opening it to reflection. Through an interactive tour, characterised not by ingenuousness or pretence, but a high degree of sensitivity, be.WELCOME#2 will try to help us “understand better so that we can better understand one another”.

Henri Simons Atomium Director

Arnaud Bozzini Exhibitions Manager


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Exhibition Objectives An exhibition especially suitable for young people, which will give students and their teachers all the necessary tools to continue the debate in the classroom or at home. An exhibition which – without ignoring the history of the various aspects of migration in Belgium in the 19th and 20th centuries – aims essentially at providing snapshots of the reality of migration today. The exhibition could form the foundation of a future museum of immigration history.

The ideas behind the exhibition What is an immigrant? The attempts to answer this basic question alone demonstrate how complex and multifaceted immigration is. And how difficult it is to go beyond the most commonplace clichés (as an exhibition must do). We decided, therefore, to construct an exhibition in the form of snapshots, spotlighting the phenomenon of migration in the broadest sense. It is not a matter of exhaustive coverage or of leading the visitor along a logical path, where each step is necessary in order to understand the one which follows. The focus, therefore, is on the statements, with the more factual information presented in each area in a recurring format. The aim is to provoke surprise and questioning in the visitor, from looking even at just one display. At the end of the visit, he should be able to understand that it is a complex subject, but thanks to the exhibition, he has discovered new aspects, a different perspective from which to view it. Immigration is a complex issue in more than one sense: as well as the newcomer, there is also the host, who may also once have been an “immigrant”, less recently than the new arrival. Too often, if not always, exhibitions about immigration show and give voice to those viewed as “foreigners” (even if they are not such in the legal sense of the word), reinforcing, undoubtedly without meaning to, the impression of a “separate” group, with no link to the other inhabitants of the region where they have settled. Here, in contrast, the points of view of both the host and the newcomer are presented throughout the exhibition.


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Tour of the exhibition

The history of immigration in Belgium Street furniture spelling the word WELCOME has been installed on the esplanade opposite the Atomium. The letters in the word WELCOME are used to tell the story of immigration in Belgium. The story is recounted in the form of a display comprising photographs, images and facsimiles of documents.

The faces of immigration A series of giant portraits each occupies a window in the rotunda. These are the new witnesses whom the visitor will meet in the rest of the exhibition. They are clearly of very different nationalities and origins, including “Belgians from roots near and far”. Each portrait simply bears the name and the words “born in…..”.


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Packing to leave In the lobby at the foot of the lift, the visitor is confronted by a series of suitcases, boxes and plastic bags. These illustrate the bags the immigrants packed when they left home. A hole drilled in the items of luggage reveals a specific object, which may be something unusual or a reminder of the country left behind.

Who are they and why did they emigrate? The visitor stands before a large interactive map of the world. Touching a face on a small touch screen in front of him sets in motion a flow of information: photographs, films, etc. which appear on the map. Under various scenarios data about the witness’s country of origin appear. The visitor discovers, for example, that other people from that country have emigrated to different parts of the world and why. Our speaker explains why he came to Belgium or why his parents did, what their/his first impressions were on arriving in Belgium and what his life here is like. The key information is conveyed by the statements.


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Links with “home” This section comprises three terminals where the visitor can listen to recorded conversations – written and narrated by the Congolese author and storyteller Pie Tshibanda – of immigrants talking to family and friends who remain behind at “home”. These conversations are heard through traditional telephone receivers, like those found in phone booths.

Different interpretations The visitor’s attention is caught by two silhouettes, one in European dress, the other in an “exotic” costume, and above them an umbrella. Under the silhouettes, expressions are drawn: they do not mean the same here and elsewhere. For example the umbrella-parasol, finding a place in the sun – finding a place in the shade, etc.


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The struggle The aim of this interactive display is to understand the complexity of the administrative process involved in immigration and to feel the anxiety experienced by the immigrant. The exhibit comprises the type of windows found in officialdom. Using touch screens, the visitor has to answer the numerous questions posed by the official and identify the documents necessary to obtain a residence permit and identify where these documents are. All within an allotted time.

The voices of immigration The escalator becomes an immersion chamber for the senses: during the ascent (which takes a little over one minute), visitors hear witnesses speaking in their own language, the sounds of everyday life.


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Did you know... These are recurring elements in the shape of furniture which is in keeping with the theme. The information will be displayed in these items of furniture. This will be factual information (statistics, figures, surveys, graphs, maps, etc.).

City offerings The atmosphere in this area is created by photographs of restaurant frontages offering cuisines from throughout the world and found generally in our towns and cities: Chinese, Indian, Vietnamese, Turkish, Italian and even Greek restaurants. These are photographs of current frontages, not “before and after” shots. Under the photographs, the visitor finds another “did you know…” focusing this time on immigrants settling in towns and cities.


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Integration into the future Do “immigrants” integrate into our society? Undoubtedly there are almost as many answers as there are “immigrants”. Integration, too, has two aspects – the feelings of the immigrant, but also the way the “others” view him. We opted to examine this theme, the most important in the exhibition, through a series of reports made for the exhibition on places where integration occurs or is called into question: the school, the business, the sport’s club, the workplace, etc. Again, the points of view of the immigrant and also of the “Belgians” will be presented. These new reports are distributed across some twenty black and white silhouettes.


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What do you think? The integration of newcomers is a problem which all human societies face (and have faced). What do visitors think? Do they see areas where the focus should fall? The last section of the exhibition gives them the opportunity to express their opinion. Not by answering yes or no to simplistic questions, but sometimes by indirect routes. The questions are formulated such that everyone can answer, irrespective of the ethnic group to which he belongs or feels he belongs. For example, with respect to the role of the school, they are asked “Are you in favour of the introduction of class quotas for different ethnic groups?” Or “What percentage of pupils from a background different from you own do you consider desirable in your child’s class?” The votes are recorded and the overall result shown on a giant screen, enabling everyone to see where they stand in relation to public opinion.

Art works Throughout the exhibition, much use is made of both classical and modern works of art. The artist’s eye is another indispensible way of looking at reality.

Music from other countries A juke box allows the visitor to choose one of the favourite pieces of music of the exhibition’s new witnesses – children of the witnesses from be.WELCOME#1. WELCOME #2 I 11

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Partners The project be.WELCOME was the result of a partnership between: - the Atomium - the Museum of Europe - the National Museum of the History of Immigration (CNHI), Paris The project be.WELCOME#2 is an initiative of the Atomium and the Museum of Europe. Following its renovation in 2006 and the festivities celebrating the 50th anniversary of Expo 58, the Atomium has become one of the landmark tourist destinations in Brussels with over 2 million visitors. Although the exceptional architecture of this very Belgian building remains its main attraction, the programme of temporary scientific and educational exhibitions draws large audiences. As designer and curator of the be.WELCOME exhibition, the Museum of Europe is responsible for adapting it to create the be.WELCOME#2 exhibition, as well as for the assembly and dismantling of the exhibition and for the educational programme and communications to the school audience.

Children Workshops from October to December 2011: All information on our website:


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Museum of Europe Description The aim of the Museum of Europe is to enable Europeans to discover the roots of their shared civilisation. The Museum of Europe is a Belgian charitable association (ASBL) which over the years has established the following bodies: • a pan-European steering committee composed of intellectuals and scientists, • an international committee of museum directors, • a scientific committee composed of some ten historians, • a finance committee. In addition, the association has forged close links with other institutions by taking the initiative in creating a European Museums’ Network. The Museum of Europe is supported by the Belgian state and by some twenty private “founder members”. From time to time, European institutions provide support for specific projects. Without waiting for a building to be made available in Brussels, the Museum of Europe had: • developed the general outline for the scientific and cultural project (permanent exhibition, temporary and touring exhibitions, programme of activities); • held three international symposiums: Europe and the World, The Borders of Europe and Europe: Religion(s) and Modernity; • staged two so-called prefiguration exhibitions: ¬ The Belle Europe (October 2001-March 2002) ¬ God(s): a User’s Guide (October 2006-March 2007); • established the major exhibition launching the Museum’s permanent exhibition: It’s our History! (October 2007 – May 2008); • staged the exhibition America, It’s our History! (October 2010 – May 2011); • arranged tours of its exhibitions, including God(s): a User’s Guide (Madrid, Quebec, Ottawa, Paris, Warsaw) and It’s our History! (Nantes, Wroclaw).


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Credits and Partners Atomium Full of temporary exhibitions Square de l’Atomium 1020 Brussels 02/475 47 77

Press Contacts Inge Van Eycken (NL & EN) – 0479/95 05 94 Arnaud Bozzini (FR & EN) – 0476/53 20 31

Atomium Henri Simons Director Arnaud Bozzini Exhibtions director Axel Addington Graphic design Inge Van Eycken Press and communication Johan Vandenperre Technic director

Conception and production Tempora



EXP O 01.05.2011 > 09.12.2011


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Atomium vzw

Museum van Europa vzw

Atomiumsquare B – 1020 Brussel

Zwitserlandstraat, 29 1060 Brussel

Arnaud Bozzini

BenoĂŽt Remiche

T : +32 (0)476 53 20 31

T : +32 (0)2 549 60 68 F : +32 (0)2 549 60 77

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Profile for Atomium

be.WELCOME#2-Press pack  

be.WELCOME#2 - Belgium & Immigration Atomium - temporary exhibition

be.WELCOME#2-Press pack  

be.WELCOME#2 - Belgium & Immigration Atomium - temporary exhibition

Profile for atomium