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Lessons for the future

Bommel, M.A.J. van, fotograaf - Afbeelding van Willem Bley achter zijn fruitkar in de Koningstraat te Utrecht. - Utrechts Archief - 823256

The Volksbuurtmuseum feels it is important to record the stories of working-class Utrecht residents from the period after World War II to the 1970s as well. The interview project is broader than just Wijk C; residents of the ‘new’ neighbourhoods such as Kanaleneiland and Overvecht are also interviewed.
The original Utrechters, but certainly also the new Dutch will have their say, the guest workers, as they were called at the time.
What was it like to come here and how are they doing now? They tell about life in the working-class neighbourhood between 1945 and 1990. One hundred and one people were interviewed about their lives, their work and their neighbourhood. How do they look at it and what ideas do they want to pass on to (young) people for the future?

Het leven in de volksbuurt, 1945-1990

Adrianne Dercksen, Ingeborg Hornsveld

Nederlands Volksbuurtmuseum
Uitgeverij Betelgeuze
ISBN: 9789087081010


Het leven in een volksbuurt




The book and podcast series focus on the history of Utrecht’s working-class neighbourhoods and their residents. More than a hundred working-class neighbourhood residents were interviewed about their lives and how things used to be.


The book

The book tells the story of the lives of people from Utrecht’s working-class neighbourhoods from 1945 to around 1990. They tell about their childhood, their parents, school, dating, sexuality, work, the neighbourhood, the city, their own families. Stories about poverty and working hard to get ahead. About togetherness in family and neighbourhood, but also about drunkenness and domestic violence. How were migrants received and how did they find a place in society?
Each time, the question is how people look back on their lives. On the opportunities they got at school and at work. What obstacles did they encounter in life and how did they overcome them? How do they think about destiny and personal responsibility? What do they want to give young people of today based on their own life experiences?
The book ‘Life in the working-class neighbourhood’ was written by Adrianne Dercksen and Ingeborg Hornsveld and is on sale in the museum shop or through Betelgeuze publishers.


The podcast series

In this series, you will hear excerpts from the interviews. Popular neighbourhood residents share their memories, teach us lessons and tell stories about life in the popular neighbourhood. The podcast series was created by Jaap Hoeve and Bart Verbeek.

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 …


Forgotten heroes

Vergeten helden : tien portretten van vrouwen over migratie
Sema Yildiz

Heusden-Zolder: RIMO Limburg, 2012 

ISBN: 9789081899406

Much has been written about migration. Very often it was then about men who worked in coal mines, among other things, as part of labour migration. Rarely were women discussed.


The Steenveld neighbourhood association in Beringen therefore launched a heritage project focusing on the life stories of women from the neighbourhood. The result of numerous interviews and the collection of private documents and photos is a publication with the women’s stories. While their husbands were able to develop social contacts through their work in the coal mines, the women went through a very different journey. Their stories are little known.


Ten women from the Steenveld district in Beringen shed the veil of their souls in this book. Each of them tells strong life stories that offer a surprising insight into their world of experience. Travel stories with in one hand a suitcase full of memories and in the other one full of hope for a better future, stories about having to say goodbye, gnawing homesickness, fear of the unknown, and the unconditional love for the children that makes every sacrifice acceptable. Flemish women are also featured, as migration was a profound event for both migrants and natives.


The non-profit organisation Rimo Limburg conceived the plan to record life stories of older women to gauge their existential experience of migration. ‘I focused on the experience of women because they occupied a totally different position from the men,’ says Sema Yildiz. ‘While the men had many contacts through work in the mine, the women had fewer opportunities for integration.’

The women interviewed are all from the Steenveld district in Koersel. Sema Yildiz worked there as a community worker and has a trusting relationship with them. Steenveld was a small mining district four kilometres from the Beringen mine. In the 1970s, the neighbourhood was taken over by the Cantonal Construction Company. It expanded the neighbourhood with social housing, which was mainly occupied by residents of Turkish origin, some 75 per cent. In the old neighbourhood, mainly Belgians, East and South European migrants live there. But in recent years there has been an influx of Turks here too. The neighbourhood had 260 families in 2012 . Yildiz interviewed 10 women: three Turkish, one Spanish, one German, one French, two Belgian, one Italian, one Dominican and a local kindergarten teacher. ‘First-generation migrant women speak little Dutch. That is why the stories are printed in two languages each time: Dutch and a summary in their own language.

This is what our war was like

Zo was onze oorlog
Getuigenissen over de Tweede Wereldoorlog in Belgie
Pieter Serrien
ISBN: 9789022330937
Manteau, 2014



Almost 800 witnesses recount their personal experiences during World War II. This book is the result of a unique school project, which sent a thousand young people out to interview their grandparents’ generation about the war in their youth, seventy years ago. These penetrating and intimate stories of ordinary people in particularly unusual circumstances leave no one unmoved. Pieter Serrien masterfully weaves hundreds of stories into a haunting history of the Second World War, letting the witnesses themselves speak as much as possible.


Since 2010 Pieters youth project Zo was onze oorlog gives young students the opportunity to interview witnesses of WWII. Five years later almost 1500 students participated. This gigantic archive of more than 1000 witness stories was the inspiration for Pieters thirds book Zo was onze oorlog (That was our war, Manteau, 2014) about the daily life under occupation from 1939-1945.

Tears over Mortsel

Seventy-five years on, the bombing of Mortsel is remembered more extensively than ever. Not only locally, but throughout Belgium and even in international literature, 5 April 1943 is given its place. Central to this is historian Pieter Serrien’s book Tranen over Mortsel, which has been republished for the third time. The book not only tells the history of the war disaster, but also compiles dozens of moving testimonies, recorded in a unique youth project.


Pieter Serrien (°1985) is a Belgian historian, specialized in the social history of Pieter Serrienboth world wars. In 2007 he graduated at the University of Leuven with his thesis on living under the bombs in Belgium during WWII.

His debut Tranen over Mortsel (Tears over Mortsel, Manteau, 2008) tells the story of the American bombing of the small city south of Antwerp on April 5th 1943. Pieter led a youth research project where more than 200 seventeen-eighteen years old interviewed the last witnesses of the bombing. Their interviews were used for the book, which tells the story of the victims of the heaviest bombing in Belgium and the Netherlands during WWII. 936 of which more than 250 children died. It was a greater loss than in the bombings of Coventry, Rotterdam or Guernica.




Carders and cutters

Haarsnijder aan het werk in de fabriek. Epouse Jacobs. Foto: Stedelijk Museum Lokeren

As carders and carvers tell their stories…

Every town has a reason to be in the history books, and Lokeren deserves a chapter in the history of industry. During the first half of the 20th century, Lokeren was the centre of the hair-cutting industry, a preparatory industry that prepared rabbit and hare skins into felt hair for hat manufacturing all over the world. From the 1960s the industry began to taper off for many reasons, and today it is virtually extinct.
Because the hair-cutting industry was unique and important for Lokeren, it is obvious and necessary that a clear emphasis is put on it in the Municipal Museum. The upcoming renovation and redesign of the museum also provide an opportunity to turn the current, relatively small hair cutting department into a central theme within the permanent exhibition.
Written sources exist about the hair-cutting industry, but all the more telling are the tangible and intangible ‘relics’: the sites, the material, and especially the stories of the former employees. As experts, they are best placed to explain the industry in all its facets. The interviews with people who worked in or were closely involved with the hair cutting industry will be used as a source of information as well as a presentation element.
The interviews will be available to listen to within the permanent exhibition and on a separate information DVD. A documentary will also be made, featuring filmed interviews with some eight respondents and a site visit with one of the former employees. Furthermore, the interviews will be kept at the City Archives as source material for other studies, as the people in question often tell many more stories than that of the hair cutting business alone.
Both for the people with a past in the hair cutting business and for myself, this project is special. Besides their personal account, lots of technical explanations and names of other witnesses, a number of people donated a personal memento-their own knife or scissors, a sheet of their very last load-to the museum. They are happy that the museum looks after ‘their heritage’, and we are happy to care for it.



Leen Heyvaert,
deputy curator
Municipal Museum of Lokeren

The Indian Silence? Me Hula!

Riboet YouTube-channel:

YOUTUBE channel

Riboet storytelling is a collective founded in 2012 that uses personal stories to connect heritage institutions and the public. The collective collects stories in a variety of ways. For instance, Riboet collects and shares Oral History in a theatrical setting in front of a live audience in the stage programme Café Riboet, but stories are also recorded via the story swing, the Storymobile, the Storybetjak and the Story Cupboard.


Riboet collaborates in this with the Indisch Remembrance Centre, the Hague Historical Museum and the Tong Tong Fair, among others. Some videos are edited, others are not. The length of the interviews varies greatly, from short street interviews of a few minutes to interviews of half an hour. All interviews are recorded with a predetermined final product in mind. The aim of the interviews and productions is to discuss current and historical themes and contribute to the connection between people and society.


The interviews focus on events and experiences in the 1930s – present.
Mainly Indonesia, the Netherlands and New Guinea are discussed. Themes include World War II, Indonesian revolution, correspondence, migration, arrival in the Netherlands, ties with Indonesia and the former Dutch East Indies, memories, objects, culture.


Management: The collection is managed by Riboet Verhalenkunst. In the near future, the collection will be transferred to the Indisch Remembrance Centre (IHC).
Access: The collection is currently not accessible. After transfer to the Indian Remembrance Centre, the collection can be accessed and viewed.

Oral sources

Sigaren maken bij Duc George – 1930. Wim de Greefs vader op de voorgrond midden.

Everyday life in the village

The core idea of the Oral Sources project is to describe life in a village; the everyday things of ordinary Veldhoven people. It describes the village of Veldhoven that grew out of its seams. We strive for as wide a cross-section of the village as possible, including people who were not born here. They are now in the majority.


List of people to be interviewed
With that in mind, the project group created a list that now includes 35 narrators. Among them are a baker’s son, some entrepreneurs, a letter carrier, a family doctor, a milkman, a grocer and a midwife. They are all people who stand among many other people. Because they are often elderly, some urgency is required.


Conversation topics
The working group has collected all possible discussion topics in a systematic overview of themes, questions and keywords. In this way we can give a balanced picture of Veldhoven society today and of the period we remember. Themes are: work and income, culture (what did we think, what did we do, what did the environment expect from us), physical conditions (such as weather conditions and how we lived) and personal experiences.


Project group composition
The project group consists of Dr. Ton Sliphorst (project leader), Liesbeth Beerens, Harry de Bot, Loes Hoogstad, Ad Jansen, and Rudy Snel.

Rotterdam and the Dutch East Indies


The project “Rotterdam and the Dutch East Indies” is about how returnees from the former Dutch East Indies ended up in Rotterdam in the 1950s and 1960s. The project also marks the launch of Rotterdam heritage organisation Heritage Retrievers, a new cultural institution that will focus on personal family histories.


In collaboration with ‘Stichting Herdenking 15 augustus regio Rotterdam’, an afternoon took place on 15 August 2023 after the commemoration at the Dutch East Indies monument on the Boompjes, during which staff of Stadsarchief were present in the library and the Verolme hall of Maritiem Museum Rotterdam to look at family albums, possibly scan them, metadata them and, if possible, add them to the city collection. The intention is for it to culminate in an online exhibition and, if the finds warrant it, a museum-wide offline exhibition in 2024.

Guest speakers from the National Support Centre WWII – Present

For many years, the focus at Memorial Centre Camp Westerbork was on the period 1939 – 1934 and the transition to the camp as an internment camp. At the end of the 1990s, a change takes place. The starting point becomes the entire history of the site. Among other things, more attention is paid to the Indonesian period 1950 – 1951 and the Moluccan period 1951 – 1971. The support point Guest Speakers (financed by the Ministry of
VWS) will be housed at the Camp Westerbork Memorial Centre. Some guest speakers were interned or prisoners of war during World War II in Indonesia. Some of them have donated objects used in various camps to Remembrance Centre Kamp Westerbork. Following those donations, they were interviewed about the use of the objects and their life stories.


The interviews focus on events and experiences in the 1940s – 1950s.
They mainly discuss Indonesia, Sulawesi, the Netherlands and New Guinea. Themes include World War II, Indonesian revolution, life story, processing art, internment camp, repatriation camp, goose board, chamois leather.


Management: The collection is managed by Herinneringscentrum Kamp Westerbork.
Access: The collection is of limited public access. Permission to use the interviews for research and educational purposes must be applied for in advance from the Camp Westerbork Memorial Centre.

Transcripts can be sent. The interviews can only be listened to on location.

Preservation: The collection has been digitised and partly stored permanently at an e-depot.

Database/inventory: Under development, accessible to the public in 2025
Sound carrier: Digital audio files, from 2010 video files