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Oral history keeps Cold War stories and heritage alive

A nice project by the Cultural Heritage Agency on using oral history in Cold War heritage.


The National Cultural Heritage Agency wants to increase knowledge about this period in order to preserve this fragile heritage for the next generation. To this end, the RCE partnered with the Reinwardt Academy in Amsterdam, among others. Students did their graduation research on the Cold War and received help from experts. Britt van der Kolk and Bloeme van Bennekom were two of those students. Britt: “We were both studying Cultural Heritage and saw a call from the RCE whether we wanted to write a thesis on the Cold War. We were keen to participate in that.


Oral sources as substantiation & inspiration

“You’re reminiscing with someone and you don’t just go down a questionnaire. You mainly let them speak for themselves. As a result, it felt more like a conversation than a huge interview,” Bloeme says. It also gave both of them new insights, Britt says: “Books mainly say that the Cold War was a period of fear. In my interviews, on the contrary, a sober picture emerged. The people I spoke to were not afraid at all. That gave me a completely different perspective.” Oral history also changed Bloeme’s image: “Because communism was all about equality and equal rights, I had the idea that women were much more in charge. But most women I talked to told me that this was not the case at all and there was very little talk of feminism. In the 1980s, this did start to change.”


You can read more information and why this programme fits well with the Faro Treaty here.