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OUR COUNTRY – Decolonisation, generations, stories

Currently, about two million people live in the Netherlands with special ties to the former Dutch East Indies. They or their ancestors came to the Netherlands after the proclamation of the Republic Indonesia. It was the largest wave of migration ever. Some of them thought their stay here would be temporary.


The voices of eight families form the core of the  semi-permanent show Our Country. The interviews are incorporated into the exhibition. These personal and diverse but for many recognizable stories give a picture of the complex postcolonial history, and how differently it was and is experienced. The family stories in Ons Land start in the present. From there they lead us back into the colonial past. The exhibition ends again in the now.


Ons Land was created by the Moluccan Historical Museum and the Indisch Remembrance Center in collaboration with Kossmanndejong and TiMe Amsterdam.


Also see the upcoming expert meeting at the Sophiahof in The Hague

Textile workers in Enschede


In the late 1970s, a textile museum was opened in the former Jannink textile factory on Haaksbergerstraat in Enschede. To gain insight into how people lived and (co)-resided in the working-class houses of Textielstad Enschede in the period from around 1900/1920 to the 1960s, a number of interviews with elderly textile workers were held in 1982 and 1983. The main theme was the three Ws: Living, Working and Welfare. Based on the descriptions, themed rooms were set up in the museum . The interviews were conducted by Carla Bruynel, museum educator at the time, and by Mieke Grobbink, who was an intern at the new museum. The interviews can be found on the Erfgoed Enschede website.


The interviews focus on the home and home furnishings, facilities such as water and light and cover issues like the large families, having fun together, poverty, alcohol consumption and violence.



Here I am at home


The film “Hier ben ik thuis” was made by Metropolis film in 2011, commissioned by the project group 50 jaar gastarbeiders Utrecht to accompany the exhibition of the same name. This film features three generations of Utrecht migrants.

The first guest workers who arrived in Utrecht in 1960 are now elderly or have already died. Their stories are precious.

In 2010, the project group ’50 years of guest workers in the city of Utrecht’ started recording them in an exhibition and on a website. In March 2020, the website was converted to a new system with a new layout so that it can be viewed and supplemented a lot in the years to come.


RTV Utrecht made five portraits of guest workers …


Born to

The conditions for giving birth have changed rapidly over the past century. The City Archives looks back at the evolution of pregnancies, births and the maternity period over time. The exhibition takes you back to the old Ypres maternity home in Lange Torhoutstraat where thousands of babies from Ypres and the surrounding area were born.

Using photos, objects and archive documents from the museum’s own archive collection and private collections, you can imagine yourself back in the Bieke, Bartje or Roosje department. Stories of mothers and midwives and a unique collection of medical instruments bring history to life.


Thus, the Ypres City Archives has supplemented its collection with a pack of new material in the form of life stories and testimonies. The archive team conducted interviews and, with sound files and videos, collected an aural and visual record for future generations. Above all, this method of working was heartwarming. The collaboration with so many enthusiastic people makes this exhibition a project of many. A comprehensive catalogue accompanies this expo. In it, individual themes such as ‘midwifery in Ypres’, ‘the history of the maternity home’ or ‘from delivery table to maternity bed’ are explored in depth and widely illustrated with archive documents, dozens of photos and personal documents.


Altogether, these are testimonies from some 25 people about giving birth in the Westhoek.

The interviews could be heard in edited form at the exhibition ‘In de Wieg Gelegd- bevallen door de eeuwen heen’, which ran in CC Het Perron in November/December 2021.

Colonists tell

Bewoners poseren bij hun koloniewoning aan de M.A. van Naamen van Eemneslaan in Wilhelminaoord, foto omstreeks 1920-1940 (Maatschappij van Weldadigheid)

How did the people of the free colonies live? That’s what the “colonial kings” tell themselves in sixteen video portraits. Now it is still possible. Humility has given way to colonial pride in Frederiksoord and Wilhelminaoord.


Life in the “free colonies” of the Maatschappij van Weldadigheid was not as “free” as the word suggests. Order and discipline, norms and values and a regentesque culture formed a tight corset. Scant wages and cap in hand to the director. A somewhat feudal atmosphere prevailed for a long time in the colonies of Frederiksoord and Wilhelminaoord, Willemsoord and Boschoord. Even into the 1970s.


De kruidenierswinkel van Jannie Specht



Anno Turkey


Betsy Torenbos (Annen, 1969) is a dancer, choreographer, director and theater maker. She made a name for herself with projects in which she integrates oral history into her performances. For Anno Turkije she interviewed six ‘old-comers’ from the Northern Netherlands on their native soil in Turkey. From these interviews she made a film that was shown at Anno Turkey on two screens. In it, the Turkish men talk about death, their earliest memories, their first love, violence, life in the Netherlands and Turkey.
During the screening, the women prepare Turkish food, while the men silently accompany the film footage with simple choreography.

Personal histories tell a different story than the history books.

Neighbourhood Makers

Verlenden Week UGEnt


Team: Fien Danniau, Tina De Gendt, Margo De Koster, Bruno De Wever

Students: Alessia De Meulemeester, Mick Menu

One in five Gentenaars has a foreign origin. 20th-century migration flows from successively France, Italy, Turkey, Algeria, Ghana and Bulgaria shaped the city into its current face. The city’s appearance also changed under the influence of post-war migration. Drag Street, a stone’s throw from the Industrial Museum, with its Turkish and other world restaurants, is the most famous example. Using oral history and (audio)visual sources from private collections, the city and VRT archives, we examine in and with the neighbourhood how the Sluizeke-Ham neighbourhood transformed into its current face since the 1950s. What role did restaurants and shops play as meeting places for old and new inhabitants of Ghent?


In October 2020, the Sluizeke-Ham neighbourhood will have an exhibition at STAM. Together with public historian Tina De Gendt, we are experimenting with how to present this participatory neighbourhood history. Can we reconstruct restaurants and their social history in 3D? How do you move the (ge)views of a neighbourhood? How do we put a neighbourhood with its old and new residents, literally and figuratively, on a museum map?

Lange Lies and Lange Jan

© archief Martin van der Weerden

Director Jeroen Willems interviewed Heerlen miners’ wives and some of those stories he adapted into a stage production with Paul Slangen. He wanted to bring out their experiences and emotions about their men working underground, what the closure of the mines and subsequent unemployment meant to them.


In 1938, an almost 138-metre-high chimney was built on the site of the Oranje-Nassaumijn. Inspired by the chimney’s enormous length, almost 138 metres high, it was soon named “Lange Jan”. In 1953, a second, even longer chimney (155 metres) was built and called the Lange Lies. Neither chimney in itself was of particular architectural value, but both have long dominated Heerlen’s skyline.


Photo: Ben van Duin



The Transition

Interviews with people of different generations with Dutch and Indo-European backgrounds who migrated from Indonesia to the Netherlands.


Riekje Hoffman interviewed different generations of Dutch people and people with Indo-European backgrounds for the exhibition The transition. The interviews are made up of three parts. The time before departure, the journey to the Netherlands, and the arrival and stay in the Netherlands. Based on these interviews, Riekje Hoffman made collages with family photos of 15 families who migrated from Indonesia to Amersfoort. These were exhibited in 2021 as part of the exhibition IMPACT-photos that matter in the Rietveld Pavilion in Amersfoort. Visual material of 5 of these interviews is available.

The interviews focus on events and experiences in the 1920s – 2021s.
They mainly discuss the Netherlands and Indonesia. Themes include Indonesian revolution, daily life.
Management: The collection is managed by Riekje Hoffman.
Access: The collection is of limited public access. If interested, contact can be made at


Notes on The Transition by Riekje Hoffman:


Talking eyes

Interviews with people with a relationship to the former Dutch East Indies
The interviews were conducted for the travelling photo exhibition Eyes that Speak. This is an initiative of Cathy Folmer and photographer Roy van Veen of the Zwolle-based Budi Santoso 1995 Foundation. The interviews discuss the influence of Dutch colonialism and the former Dutch East Indies on society and the connection the interviewees have with this colonial history. The exhibition travels throughout the Netherlands and has already been shown in Zwolle and Kampen. On 5 May 2023, Prime Minister Rutte will visit the exhibition as part of his visit to Overijssel.

The foundation expects to add 2 – 6 interviews to the collection every year.

The interviews focus on events and experiences in the years 1890 – 2023.
They mainly discuss Indonesia and the Netherlands. Themes include home, freedom, equality, racism, resilience and integration.

The collection is managed by Roy van Veen, Budi Santoso Foundation 1995.
Access: The collection is not (yet) accessible. The collection will become available during 2023.
If interested, contact can be made via the website: