Book Oral History on longlist of the first edition Prijs voor het Belangrijkste Boek

The book Oral History – The People and Their Stories by our steering committee member Selma Leydesdorff (historian and emeritus professor at the University of Amsterdam) is on the longlist of the most important (non-fiction) books of 2021! A beautiful and deserved nomination!


The longlist of the Prize for the Most Important Book, a new prize for the best Dutch-language non-fiction book, was announced on Tuesday. The jury chose fifteen titles from almost four hundred entries. The list is a collection of books that you have to read now to understand these times; they are relevant, influential and offer a new perspective.


The first jury of the Prize, financed by the Dutch Foundation for Literature and a number of private donors, includes besides Rasch also writer Saskia De Coster, political journalist Ivan De Vadder, historian Nadia Bouras and Karel Degraeve, deputy editor-in-chief of Knack, also media partner. The author of the winning book receives 15,000 euros.


You can read more about the nominations here.

Curious about Selma Leydesdorff’s book and the development of oral history? Take a look at this page

Bosnians and Iraqis on freedom and remembrance

In cooperation with the National Committee 4 and 5 May, the BMP Foundation conducted a study in 2020 on how Bosnians and Iraqis in the Netherlands experience freedom, unfreedom and commemoration. Forty Bosnians and Iraqis who fled to the Netherlands in the 1990s concluded that we must continue to work on freedom. A publication that is still relevant and urgent, also partly due to the war in Ukraine.


Great involvement in 4 May

Interviews with both Bosnians and Iraqis have shown that they find it extraordinary that all victims of the Second World War are remembered at the same time in the Netherlands.  The Bosnians in particular miss a national culture of commemoration and one day of remembrance to remember all the victims. Just like many Bosnians, the interviewed Iraqis feel involved in the 4th of May and at the same time they find it painful because it reminds them of all the suffering and victims in their own country. Many interviewees also indicated that Liberation Day (5 May) is difficult because you celebrate freedom, while you know that there are so many people living in unfreedom, both in Iraq and in other countries. 


The importance of personal story telling

The interviewees also say that their own stories can help make other people aware of the importance of freedom. The idea is also born to gradually broaden the commemoration and celebration and to look for stories that are more in line with the experiences of young people. Telling personal stories can help them understand what it means to be at war, but it can also be important for the people who tell it to come to terms with it. It also fits in nicely with this year’s theme ‘Freedom in Unity’. Another motive for telling these stories is that people should be aware that what happened in the Second World War could happen again.


Reason for research

The aim of the research was to gain insight, based on personal stories, into the meaning of the concepts of freedom and unfreedom for Bosnians and Iraqis, into their experiences with commemoration, and into their images of the future. The conclusions of the study are intended to contribute to thinking about the future of commemorating war victims and celebrating liberation and freedom in the Netherlands.



The full publication can be downloaded here or go directly to Issuu for a magazine version.

The Fifties

Oral history meets visual history

7,8 and 13 May 2022


By and from Amsterdam elderly people about the fifties in Amsterdam.

The Fifties is the final part of a trilogy. The first performance Brand in Mokum was made by Loes Hegger with Amsterdam elderly people in 2019. The second performance Alive en Kicking were performed via Zoom. 

With the third production, De Fifties, the actors return to the stage of the theatre, a community centre and care homes. Old-fashioned in real life, as theatre is meant to be. In a dance school, Amsterdammers tell stories about their parents, all young adults in 1950. The years of reconstruction in Amsterdam: mother was (mostly) a housewife, father a breadwinner. About the milkman, turning over every dime, darning socks and large families. The narrators venture into the foxtrot, cha cha cha and rock & roll, because on Saturday night you went out dancing! 


  • 7 & 8 May performance in Amsterdams Theaterhuis,
  • 13 May performance in De Eester, C. van Eesterenlaan 266, Amsterdam Oost


Impression second workshop Oral History and Heritage

On Friday 15 April, the Rijksdienst voor Cultureel Erfgoed (Cultural Heritage Agency) in cooperation with ‘Sprekende geschiedenis’ organised the second workshop on ‘Oral History and Heritage’ in Amersfoort. The workshop was about the technical aspects of oral history and about dreamlike public presentations.


The workshop began with a brief review of the first workshop, which focused on examples of oral history projects and the art of interviewing. The participants had also suggested ideas for new oral history projects. The ideas that had not been discussed on 18 March were now presented. Saskia Moerbeek of “Sprekende geschiedenis” asked everyone to think of a project idea for the second half of the workshop. They would need this after the break when they started dreaming about their ideal public presentation.


Overview and cooperation

But first, using a PowerPoint, Saskia went deeper into the more technical aspects of oral history. These included things like recording images and/or sound, transcribing, permission forms, metadata and storing and preserving interviews. Saskia emphasised that it’s logical that the heritage sector often pays more attention to presenting stories than to storing and preserving interviews. This is understandable, but also often a missed opportunity. As a result, a lot of interview material that could be interesting for future generations is lost.

The participants noted that it all takes a lot of work. Therefore, the advice was to be aware of the workflow of an interview and an interview collection beforehand and to make agreements about this with partners (archives, oral historians, museums, etc.). Let everyone do what they are good at and work together!

The use of appropriate software can also reduce the amount of work. Practical tips can be found under the heading “Getting started” on the Speaking History website.


Dreams lead to beautiful plans

After the break, Frank von Meijenfeldt showed some examples of public presentations and asked the participants to think of the ideal presentation for their own project idea. For this purpose, he provided two questions. The participants got to work in small groups. Sometimes it took some effort to let go of the reality of financial and organisational constraints, but in the end there was a lot of dreaming. It was very special to see how people helped each other with questions and suggestions for possible partners in realising the dream.


The two workshop sessions covered many aspects of the relationship between heritage and oral history.

Who knows, there might soon be an audio tour with augmented reality based on oral histories in which a monument or a landscape acquires meaning from various perspectives.

‘Ooit zal ik iemand zijn’ by Jan Bleyen

For ‘One day I will be somebody’, historian Jan Bleyen listened to the experiences of Manso, his former student of Dutch: how he left Sierra Leone as a boy, became a man and has been living in Belgium for ten years, without papers.


‘Every time someone helps you, it is difficult. You are dependent on other people, and I don’t want that.’


Listening to understand

By giving Manso the floor in peace and quiet, Jan Bleyen tries to understand him without judgement: how his friend gives meaning to his world by doing and not doing things.

‘Sometimes you can trust an animal more than a human being. I see that here in Belgium, and I saw that in Africa.’


ooit zal ik iemand zijn

Oral history research for the Smuggling Museum

Are you looking for a volunteer job in your neighbourhood or can you use some help finding new volunteers? is the place for volunteers and volunteer organizations in the heritage sector.


On the website there are several vacancies for volunteers, by province or type of work. For example, they are currently looking for volunteers for Oral History research for the Smuggling Museum.


Smuggling is of all times, just think of the First and Second World War. European unification has changed the character of smuggling though. Stories from the past and present are displayed in the Smuggling Museum. With your research and oral history interviews, you will contribute to collecting the stories of (ex-)smugglers and customs officers.

Because the museum is going through a process of privatization, they are looking for several volunteers to help them expand, professionalize and increase the number of visitors. Would you like to add new stories to the collection of Smuggling Museum Cranendonck? More information and the vacancy can be found here. is a collaboration between Erfgoed Gelderland, Erfgoed Brabant and Erfgoedhuis Zuid-Holland. With the website the heritage houses contribute to a future-proof heritage sector.

Freedom is a big concept

The situation in Ukraine has not left anyone unmoved. There are many questions, uncertainties, expressions of support and actions to help. The harrowing situation reminds us of the war in the former Yugoslavia. As part of the ‘Unprecedentedly Special’ project, a whole series of oral history interviews were held with refugees from the former Yugoslavia between 2014 and 2016, mainly people from Bosnia. In in-depth, filmed interviews, they tell their life stories. They tell about the bewilderment that people who were neighbours suddenly started killing each other. And about the road they took to build a new life in the Netherlands. Some of these interviews can be read and watched on the Ongekend Bijzonder website. 


It is inconceivable that these stories are still as urgent and topical as they were before. The war in Ukraine teaches us that war in Europe is not just a thing of the past and that freedom and peace cannot be taken for granted.


For the National Committee 4 and 5 May Foundation BMP conducted additional interviews with Bosnians who came to the Netherlands in the 1990s. These interviews are about Freedom. Unfreedom and commemoration. Based on these interviews and with Iraqis who came to the Netherlands in the same period, the report “Vrijheid is een groot begrip” was published. The interviewed Bosnians warn explicitly for the role of propaganda and wonder how it is possible that one person, or a small group of people, can influence the mindset of so many people.  


Unfortunately, their warning appears to have been justified. Our thoughts are with all those affected by the war in Ukraine and with the Russian citizens who are taking to the streets and demonstrating against the war. Because even in 2022, freedom appears to be a big and not self-evident concept.

Workshop series ‘Oral history and heritage’

How can you use oral history as a method to carefully record people’s life stories and testimonies about historical events? What is its added value for the heritage sector? These questions are the subject of the workshop series ‘Oral history and heritage’ on Friday 18 March and 15 April, organised by the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE) in collaboration with Sprekende Geschiedenis.


For whom

The invitation was sent to people who were last September. participated in the webinar ‘Oral history as a driver of the Faro practice’. At that time, some of the participants felt the need for more information about the role of oral history in heritage. So do you work within a heritage institution and do you want to know more about oral history? Or are you active within a volunteer organization and do you want to use oral history for a heritage or social project? Then this workshop series is meant for you.


To be able to participate, no special prior knowledge is required, but the intention to use oral history within your activities or if you want to find out if this would fit.


Location, dates and times

Friday 18 March and Friday 15 April

Start 13.30 hrs, end 16.30 hrs

St. Aegtenkapel, Het Zand 37, 3811 GB Amersfoort, The Netherlands.


More information and the application form can be found here.


Introductory Oral History Course – start 17 February

The Oral History Introduction Course introduces you to the basics of oral history. You will also be given literature and examples to work on. Between meetings, you’ll work on small assignments alone or in pairs.


The course will deal with subjects such as:

  1. What is oral history?
  2. What can oral history interviews be used for?
  3. Interview attitude and interview technique
  4. Pros and cons of questionnaires and topic lists
  5. Knowledge about the context and the influence of the interviewer
  6. Recording, saving and storing interviews
  7. Metadata and transcriptionsWat is oral history?

The online introduction course consists of 4 sessions of 2 hours and takes place on Thursdays: 17 February and 3, 17 and 31 March. From 3 pm to 5 pm.

Are you interested in this course?  The costs are € 130,-. Sign up using the form below.

The online introduction course is given approximately once every quarter. The dates for the next online course are not yet known.


Participants can indicate in advance if there are specific questions or subjects they would like to know more about.



Online Introductiecursus Oral History

Kick-off meeting Sprekende geschiedenis 28 januari 2022




On 28 January, the Kick-off meeting of the Oral History Hub “Sprekende geschiedenis” took place. 

This Kick-off meeting was organised to:


  • Marking the start of the hub
  • Announcing the programme of the hub
  • Hearing from the oral history community in the Netherlands about their expectations of the hub


During the meeting, a roundtable discussion took place with experts from various disciplines. They discussed the state of affairs regarding oral history, their future expectations and desirable developments in this area. 


The Kick-off was opened by the director of the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision Eppo van Nispen tot Sevenear. 


Kick-off meeting Knooppunt Oral History ‘Sprekende geschiedenis’.
28 januari | 14.00 – 16.00 uur

Nederlands Instituut voor Beeld en Geluid, Mediapark Hilversum. Theaterzaal 2

The programme can be read here


Participants in the round table discussion are:

  • Annemarie de Wildt, Curator Amsterdam Museum
  • Flora Vallenduuk, Archivist Atria
  • Vincent Robijn, Director of the Overijssel Collection and IJsselacademy
  • Annegriet Wietsma, Documentary and podcast maker
  • Roeland Ordelman, Product Manager Media Suite and LABS, Institute for Sound and Vision
  • Henry Timisela, Director, Moluccan Historical Museum
  • Arnoud-Jan Bijsterveld, Professor of Culture in Brabant, Tilburg University
  • Stef Scagliola, Expert in the field of oral history and technology