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Exhibition explores the interaction between Europe and the rest of the world over the course of 2,500 years
Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt (L) and the President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso (R) arrive for the opening of the exhibition 'Europe Meets the World' at the National Museum in Copenhagen, Denmark, 12 January 2012. The exhibition that runs until 03 June, explores the interaction between Europe and the rest of the world over the course of 2,500 years of history. EPA/MARIE HALD.

COPENHAGEN.- The National Museum in Copenhagen opened its doors to a new temporary exhibition with the title “Europe meets the World”. This exhibition depicts the interaction – good and bad – between Europe and the rest of the world.

In the name of the Lord
"In nomine domini” (in the name of the Lord) is the inscription on the blade of a sword that is one of the items exhibited. The sword was probably made to be used in the Crusades and is a very good illustration of how, for many centuries, Europeans met the surrounding world – not only during the Crusades, but also in the times that followed.

The major voyages of discovery from Portugal and Spain in particular put the world at Europe’s feet. When they encountered new, foreign cultures in South America, for example, the Europeans’ unshakeable religious faith, mixed with their deep cynicism and lack of respect for the native Indians and their culture, enabled them to conquer and subject the rich kingdoms.

New knowledge and bustling trade
“Europe meets the World” is not just about history and war, conflict and suppression. The meeting with foreign cultures brought with it new knowledge and bustling trade. The exhibition begins with ancient Greece, which became Europe’s gateway to the civilisations of the Middle East. At the outset, the interaction was mainly from east to west: for example, the Greeks’ adoption of the Phoenician alphabet.

From ancient Greece, the exhibition moves on to the Roman Empire, which was the dominant power in Europe in the centuries after Christ’s birth. Although the various peoples and cultures of the Roman provinces had to swear allegiance to the Emperor, local customs and traditions were not suppressed, which helped to stimulate the entire continent’s cultural development. The first centuries after Christ's birth saw a major expansion of trade and a burgeoning globalisation process. People traded with each other throughout the Roman Empire. Moreover, ceramics and other Roman goods were carried to far more distant lands. From the Orient, caravans brought costly treasures such as spices and silks back to Europe. The exhibition leads the visitor towards contemporary Europe, the result of the continent's history and its encounters with the rest of the world.

The National Museum’s own exhibits – including Heinrich Himmler’s eye patch
Despite its international approach, the exhibition is based solely on the National Museum’s own artefacts. These include the aforementioned sword, which was found at Søborg Castle, the seat of Danish archbishops. The Crusader sword is a symbol of how Denmark is part of a continent that is changing constantly, ceaselessly influenced by the world around us.

The eye patch used by Heinrich Himmler to conceal his true identity after Germany’s defeat in the Second World War is one of the items exhibited. “Europe meets the World” reveals why this particular item is part of the National Museum’s collection.

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