Embracing diversity

VU University Amsterdam is known as a diverse university, and many students have a ‘non-western’ background. But the backgrounds of this diversity and the experiences of those involved have hardly been researched from a historical perspective. This oral history project focuses on experiences of Dutch-Moroccan and Dutch-Turkish first-generation students at the VU from the 1980s onwards.


The project will start in September 2022. First-generation students will be interviewed about the reasons why they started studying at the VU, their experiences with fellow students, staff, the diversity policy at the VU, and changing attitudes towards Islam at the university and in the Netherlands. The interviews will take place in January 2023 as part of the ‘Oral History and Biography’ course for history students. Students will conduct the interviews here under supervision. Moreover, the interviews will be permanently stored for reuse in cooperation with DANS and the University Archive/Stadsarchief Amsterdam.


The project will be led by Norah Karrouche, associate professor at the VU University of Amsterdam and specialised, among other things, in the (memory) culture of North African communities in Europe; and Ab Flipse, university historian at the VU University of Amsterdam. It is supported by third-year history student and student assistant Oumayma Akachaou Achaffay.


The project is made possible by Clue+: Research Institute for Culture, Cognition, History and Heritage and takes place in collaboration with several other VU centres, such as the Decolonisation LAB, the HDC Centre for Religious History, and the Stevin Centre for History of Science and Humanities.


More information about this project? Interested in participating in the project? Contact student assistant



The Cold War

Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed (RCE)

Reinwardt Academie, cultureel erfgoed


Graduation research using the oral history method
Britt van der Kolk en Bloeme van Bennekom

The Cold War is still relatively recent. It was a period of fear, uncertainty and nuclear threat. Everyone experienced this period differently. New political parties emerged and special bunkers were built to protect the population in times of attack. But what about the remains of this period? According to the Netherlands Cultural Heritage Agency (RCE), too little attention is still paid to heritage from the Cold War. Not just to the bunkers, but also to the stories. A special project highlights this period.




Women’s group Kelompok

Photo: National Black Women’s Day 1986, interview scene, © photographer unknown, archive Kelompok, collection IAV-Atria

The stories and experiences of the women in the Black, Migrant and Refugee Women’s Movement must be preserved. Many women from these groups are of advanced age and time is running out to keep this history from getting lost. It is Atria’s dream to record the life stories of the women from the Kelompok women’s group through Oral History, in addition to the archives already available. We can only continue to tell this history to future generations if we record these stories NOW.

Women’s group Kelompok
This group of Moluccan women played a major role in the emerging Black women’s movement. Among other things, Kelompok set up its own emancipation programmes. The archive of Kelompok came to Atria in 2016 with the wish to connect an ‘Oral History project’ to it. Over the past years, former members of Kelompok have further arranged the archive. Now it is time for an Oral History project. Only by making these histories visible and discussing them, we can counteract the exclusion and racism that continues to exist in the present.

Zelhem Stories


Zelhem stories for Museum Smedekinck


Together with Erfgoed Gelderland, Museum Smedekinck started the project: Zelhem Stories in 2019.

To supervise the Oral History trajectory, Museum Smedekinck called in Erfgoed Gelderland.

Museum Smedekinck offers interested parties a two-day Oral History course in which they are taught the intricacies of the Oral History interview. The course is given by Erfgoed Gelderland.

Operation Open Heart

Article in De Utrechtse Internet Courant (DUIC) – 9/7/2018


Sixty key players have their say on one of the largest and most complicated building projects in Utrecht. The book Twenty years of building the Utrecht railway station area by Ed van Eeden gives a striking insight into the development of the Utrecht railway station area. From Corio to the Jaarbeurs and from architects to civil servants, everyone is covered. This results in a number of controversial stories.

Ed van Eeden

Human memory can sometimes be fallible

In 2002, Utrecht held its first consultative referendum on the future of the Utrecht railway station area. Never before had the people of Utrecht been so directly involved in a subject as then. The City Council accepted the result and then began a tough process of planning and contracting. Meanwhile, time did not stand still. Nowadays, anyone who visits Utrecht can’t help but marvel at the total makeover of the city centre.

Operation Open Heart. Twenty Years of Building the Utrecht Station Area looks back at that time and reveals the dynamic decision-making process that lay behind the changes. Residents, architects, investors, politicians, civil servants and even a former resident of the former junk tunnel under Hoog Catharijne are interviewed. They all speak candidly and explain, from their own perspective, how the station area has fared.


Until 1956, the Civil Code stipulated that married women were ‘incapable of acting’ – a legal category that also applied to children and what they called ‘retarded persons’.


Madeleijn van den Nieuwenhuizen

Legal historian and Fulbright PhD candidate at the City University of New York

Legal incapacity meant, among other things, that as a woman you could not open a bank account, take out a mortgage or insurance, and that you could only conclude an employment contract with the formal consent of your husband. Technically, you also had to pay your salary to your husband, because he was the owner of the community of property in which you were married.


In case of divorce – very unusual – the children automatically went to the husband. In the 1950s, an average of 95% of the women married and thus became ‘legally incapable’. This generation, they are the over-80s of today.

Corry Tendeloo, PvdA-politician in 1956

The gentlemen are apparently all afraid


The aim of this project is to collect as many first-hand experiences as possible, which tell something about the experiences with and consequences of legal incapacity of Dutch women before 1956.


The interviews will be accurately registered in a dataset, and subsequently processed in a widely accessible publication that maps the history of legal incapacity, and its abolishment, as well as reflecting on the role of this history in the labour position of women in the present.


The dataset will also be donated to Atria, knowledge institute for emancipation and women’s history in Amsterdam, so that it can serve as source material for other, future research.

Tales from the Civil Orphanage

Amsterdam Museum
Laura van Hasselt
2009 t/m half September 2018

The Amsterdam Museum is housed in the special building on the Kalverstraat where the orphanage was located between 1578 and 1960. The museum is interested in the stories of Amsterdammers who themselves lived in the orphanage.


Verhalen uit het Burgerweeshuis

Story of Putten

Story of Putten brings the history of Putten, together with the local community, to the attention in an accessible and sustainable way.

You will find the Canon of Putten and other historical stories here. Personal memories. Bicycle and walking routes. Digital exhibitions. And much more.

Landscape management Flevoland

The vision of the settlers and first inhabitants on the landscape and nature of our special province has not been recorded before. Reason enough for Landschapsbeheer Flevoland to turn this into a special volunteer project.


One of the results of this Oral History project is the publication of a book with interview fragments. What did the reclaimed seabed look like? What was the first thing to grow? When and how did animals come to the new land? What is it like to farm on newly drained seabed and what did the young landscape look like? 


As a resident of The Hague, you are part of the city’s history. That is why the Historical Museum of The Hague tells the story of the city together with you. Not only our collection of paintings and objects are important in this respect, but everyday objects also play a part. Think for instance of a pin of your walking club in The Hague or an old cash book of your grandfather’s hat shop. It is important that the objects tell a story about The Hague.