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Coal pits

Productiehuis De Chinezen
Time period: 1900-1992
Number of interviews: 13
Accessibility: by appointment via
Period of interviews: 2022

In Coal Pits, a number of carefully selected ex-miners dig deep into their memories, where they have stored a wealth of colourful stories about the mine. In juicy and plastic fashion, they tell moving, funny and exciting anecdotes about the dangerous and unhealthy work ‘in the pit’, about daily life in the cités, about the struggle for social rights, the arrival of the ‘guest workers’ and about the rise and fall of heavy industry in Limburg.


The series mainly lets workers have their say: men (and women) who grew up in poverty, usually had not studied and hoped for a better future by working in the pit.

Their stories form the basis of the series and are complemented by historical film material from various archives and atmospheric images of the still-existing industrial architecture and the original miners’ committees of the time.

The series is timely. Not only because it is 30 years since the last Limburg coal mine, that of Heusden-Zolder, was closed. But also because the generation that can still tell the story of the mines from their own experience is disappearing. This is shown, among other things, by the unfortunate fact that four of the 13 key witnesses have died since the filming.


Most of the witnesses are in their 70s and 80s, some even well into their 90s. These are the names:

Agostino Mele – 83 years old
Franco Mirisola – 69 years old
Ismail Erdogdu – 72 years old
Jan Kocur (+) – 79 years
Jean De Schutter – 76 years
Jean Peeters – 69 years
Louis Snoeks (+) – 91 years
Mai Van Houdt – 82 years
Mil Coenen – 63 years
Rocco Berterame (+) – 95 years
Sandrettin Koçak – 80 years
Sophie Gruszowski – 76 years
Stephan Bratus (+) – 96 years

The episodes
Three episodes cover the many facets of underground life, a fourth deals with life above ground and the fifth outlines the story of the closure of the mines.

Episode 1 – Underground
In the first episode, the coal miners take us into the mysterious world underground. In smells and colours, they recount their work and habits among the stones and dust.

Episode 2 – On life and death
In the second episode, the coal pits highlight the dangers of working in the mines. They reminisce about exciting moments and tricky situations that fortunately usually ended well for them. Although that was not the case for everyone.

Episode 3 – The promised land
There was a shortage of hands in the mines. Workers were therefore recruited from other countries. This third episode tells about the experiences of the newcomers in our country and sketches the multicoloured camaraderie underground.

Episode 4 – The cité
In the fourth episode, the coal pits take us to the cité. After all, the mine was much more than the dark corridors underground. Family life above ground was also completely controlled and organised by the mine, in districts and neighbourhoods where the miners lived together.

Episode 5 – The closure
The final episode looks back at the closure of the mines in Limburg. The coal miners recall the actions and strikes they undertook and outline the feeling they still struggle with to this day.

Holiday colonies on the Belgian coast (1886-1980)

Time period: 1886-1980

Number of interviews: 80

Sound files: wav

Transcriptions: yes, Dutch

10-minute summaries: yes

Accessibility: mandatory registration and on request


Archival history: The interviews were conducted by students of New History (UGent), for the course Qualitative Methods – part-time oral history taught by Bruno De Wever for the project Vakantiekolonies aan de Belgische kust (1886-1980) of Amsab-ISG.


Although holiday colonies were a widespread phenomenon until the 1980s, there has been little research into them. The first holiday colonies arose from the School struggle. Besides this political goal, their main task was to improve the health of working-class children. After the First World War, all Belgian pillar organisations started to set up holiday colonies.


The holiday colonies differed not only in political background. Unlike the Catholic ones, for example, the socialist holiday colonies mixed girls and boys. At the end of the 1960s, the holiday colonies experienced their heyday. The emphasis was now not so much on health as on meaningful leisure activities. Together with the professionalisation of the colony staff, the clientele of the holiday homes shifted from weakened working-class children to middle-class children.


Research into this phenomenon is therefore very complex. Colonies were set up by the government, health insurance companies, employers, organisations and private individuals, and are therefore diverse in many aspects. Not every organiser has left behind sources. Classic sources are often lacking and if they are present, they do not immediately give us a picture of the stay in the colony.


The registration of oral testimonies is appropriate here, on the one hand to supplement the lack of sources and on the other hand to find out how colony residents experienced these holidays. Specifically for this research, there is another reason to use oral history as a method. In contrast to other source material about the colonies, iconographic material has been abundantly preserved. Mostly in the form of postcards. These show us how the colonists wanted to present their colony to the outside world. The films we have at our disposal are also propaganda for the colonies and their organisers. These images must therefore be supplemented with other sources and testimonies. Because of the diversity of the holiday colonies and the different aspects of the holiday, there are three main lines in our research: – Who went to the holiday colony? – How was the holiday colony experienced? – How did outsiders view the holiday colonies?





“We Zijn Goed Aangekomen! Vakantiekolonies Aan de Belgische Kust [1887-1980].” Bijdragen van Het Museum van de Vlaamse Sociale Strijd van de Provincie Oost-Vlaanderen, vol. 25, ASP Editions ; Amsab-ISG, 2010. Auteur:


Author: Martine Vermandere
Publisher: Aspeditions
ISBN: 9789054876946

In this book, author Martine Vermandere outlines the rich history of the phenomenon of holiday colonies, from the reception of working-class children by charities at the end of the 19th century to the professionalisation of the colonies by health insurance funds after the Second World War. By means of unique photo material and testimonies of beautiful and less beautiful memories, this book takes you through the history of the holiday colonies in all its aspects.

The Founders

Time period: 1960-2010


Audiovisual collection

Number of interviews: 

Accessible: reading room, registration and application required 

10-minute summaries: yes

Transcriptions: yes

Sound recording: mov 

Various generations of migrants bear witness to a rich past. De Grondleggers tells the story of three generations of Turks in East Flanders. The first of them arrived in Ghent and its surroundings as guest workers in the 1960s and 1970s, and many of them went to work in the road construction sector. The hard work was then often passed on from father to son. Today, a number of Turkish East-Flemish people have their own road works company; as employers, they now hire newcomers themselves. Because the road building sector has thus become part of the heritage of the Turkish community in East Flanders, New Focus vzw talked to three generations of Turkish road workers about their expectations, success stories and obstacles. New Focus vzw collected the stories in cooperation with Volkskunde Vlaanderen vzw, Amsab-ISG and the Federatie van Vooruitstrevende Verenigingen vzw.


New Focus vzw edited the stories into a report and a photo book.


The Founders | a film and photo book by Necmi Tüfekçi. A narrative heritage of 50 years of Turkish migration