HistorEsch: Citizen History Activities in the city of Esch-sur-Alzette

Thomas Cauvin (FR), Joella van Donkersgoed (NL)

HistorEsch is a collaborative and participator project about the history of Esch-sur-Alzette (Luxembourg). HistorEsch aimed to co-create and share knowledge about the past using transdisciplinary, open and citizen science methods to actively engage the public during each phase of the project and promote sustainable collaboration between academia, citizens, institutions, and other stakeholders.

The innovative character of HistorEsch is demonstrated in the production of a mural, an audiotour, an exhibition, and a digital community (the Fl’ESCH Back Facebook group). The interdisciplinary fresco project combined artistic practices with citizen science to co-create a mural at a social housing complex. The audiotour innovated the north-American project HearHere by exploring the possibilities to reach a multilingual society with local oral histories. The co-creation process for the exhibition allowed us to test the maximal extend of sharing authority. All project’s outputs are publicly freely accessible aiming to create a lower threshold to engage with - and learn about history.

Further scientific impact was achieved through the organization of a European interdisciplinary workshop that was held on March 2023, together with a diverse group of public history practitioners we drafted a charter on participatory public history practices in the streetscape (historesch.lu/charter).

A central part of the social impact of our collaborative projects was the qualitative engagement with the citizens and the new bridges of trust built between academia, cultural institutions, and local residents. Not only did the public learn about (hidden) histories of their city, but they have also become empowered to contribute to historical research.


The HistorEsch project is part of Public History as the new Citizen Science of the Past (PHACS), a project funded by the Fond National de la Recherche ATTRACT fellowship for Thomas Cauvin. The HistorEsch activities we created in close collaboration with Nuit de la Culture, Kulturfabrik, and Ariel Beaujot and Michel Hamilton who are the drivers behind HearHere. The project’s success is owed to the community members in Esch-sur-Alzette and our wonderful student-assistants.

Thomas Cauvin (FR) is Associate Professor of Public History at Centre for Contemporary and Digital History (C²DH) at the University of Luxembourg. Head of the 'Public History and Outreach' Research Area at the C²DH, he is the ATTRACT fellow (funded by the Fond National de la Recherche, 2020-2025) for the Public History as the new Citizen Science of the Past (PHACS) project. Cauvin has been the president of the International Federation for Public History (2018-2021) and is the author of Public History: a Textbook of Practice (2016/2022).

Joëlla van Donkersgoed (NL) leads the FNR PSP-Flagship project called Historesch Gesinn, which aims to build a social hub where the public can engage with historical research conducted at the Luxembourg Centre for Contemporary and Digital History (C²DH) and cultural institutions in Luxembourg. Prior to this project, she was part of Cauvin’s PHACS-project. She holds a PhD. degree in Cultural Heritage and Preservation Studies from the Art History department at Rutgers, the State University in New Jersey, USA (2020), as well as a Bachelors and Master’s degree with a specialization in public archaeology and archaeological heritage management from Leiden University, the Netherlands (2012/2014).

The HistorEsch project in Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg, democratizes city history by engaging citizens in co-creating narratives via murals, audio tours, and exhibitions. It involves the community throughout, bridging historical gaps and deepening heritage connections. With over 2,000 active citizens (5.9% of the population), its alignment with European Capital of Culture status signals broader policy impact. It fosters diversity and collaboration, involving citizens, institutions, associations, and researchers. The Citizen Historian Circle ensures varied perspectives, while European partnerships and workshops highlight its broader scope.