Thought-provoking travel through time
What does a typical museum or exhibition look like? It usually has displays of elaborate, delicate posters and artefacts with written descriptions and basic history, right? Well, I’ve visited numerous museums and exhibitions before, and this sounds just about right! To be honest, I expected something similar when I learnt that we were visiting the La Cité Miroir. My suspicions, however, were quickly dispelled the moment we stepped inside and were greeted by a minimalist space. Museum director Jean-Michel Heuskin enlightened us with the meaning behind the name of the museum.
Mirror, mirror, on the wall
The idea was to encapsulate the project’s purpose in one word. Jean-Michel stated that the word ‘Miroir’ (mirror in English) was chosen because it commemorates the former use of the space as thermal baths and pools and because water reflects images, while at the same time creating an image of looking into an actual mirror, where you not only see yourself but also whatever is behind you. In Jean-Michel’s words, the word ‘Miroir’ gives you a view of “history during the present to build the future”. So, it became evident that our voyage back in time would be nowhere near ordinary, but instead: visionary, thought-provoking, and reflective.
Fight for your rights
We discovered that, unlike many other museums, its goal is to provide people with tools instead of answers to enable them to become active citizens as well as to get them to think about “how to build a future society with more equality, solidarity, certainty”. Its significance is not in reports of historical events, but in the kind of future that can be created by young people from the lessons learnt from past events. This is more important now than ever before because, as Jean-Michel pointed out, there seems to be a general sense of social regression, suggesting that the rights our ancestors so daringly fought for might be slipping through our fingers. He further argued that, in this day in age, “just keeping our rights is a victory”.
These thought-provoking concepts ushered us into our journey through the history of Belgium and Europe and the ‘Plus jamais ça!’ exhibition (which translates as ‘never again’) about the Nazi concentration camps of WWII. The animation, music and stories of the exhibition are powerful, exploring one of history’s darkest moments in a way that enabled us to engage deeply with the story. It ends in our current world, creating a powerful sense of urgency and continuity to resist all forms of oppression.