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Petition National Oral History Hub

Dear Members of the Committee on Education, Culture and Science,


On behalf of city and regional museums, regional and local archives, scientific institutes/universities and social initiatives, we hereby ask you to provide active political support to enable the development of a National Oral History Hub.


Necessity and usefulness

Oral history is of great importance for our contemporary historiography and our cultural heritage. It contributes to new perspectives on contemporary history and to identity development and meaning in a rapidly changing time. In the Netherlands, interest in oral history has been increasing for years, but a good supporting national infrastructure is lacking. Material is not stored properly. Existing sources are difficult to access and knowledge is built up fragmentarily and little shared. Museums, schools, scientists, heritage organizations and ordinary citizens urgently need a support center that connects and makes collections accessible, such as in the U.S., among others. Canada, England, Scotland and Singapore have existed for decades.


Great need

Oral history is about collecting life stories and people’s testimonies about certain historical events. The stories are collected through (open) interviews and through the use of other oral sources. Oral history tells the stories of groups that are rarely discussed in historiography and thus contributes to other and new perspectives on contemporary history. Oral history is also important for meaning and identity formation. Telling a personal story helps to see one’s own life in perspective and to be able to place this in a broader (historical) context. Finally, oral history is of great importance for education. In today’s age of social media, personal stories are an excellent way to teach young people about history and increase their historical awareness. By doing oral history themselves, they realize that the history of tomorrow is made today.


Orphaned heritage

In recent decades, many oral history studies have been carried out in the Netherlands. For example, to the Flood disaster, the history of the resistance in Friesland, the life stories of miners, the treatment of so-called distant mothers, the history of the textile industry in Brabant and the life stories of refugees. Scattered throughout the country, in various archives, depots and shoeboxes, there are more than 50,000 hours of audiovisual material. Much of this material has not been made accessible and can therefore not be reused for new research. There is a large amount of orphaned heritage and new material is added every day that is hardly standardized and therefore cannot be reused. In other countries, there have been well-equipped oral history centers for decades. These centres support scientists, heritage institutions and individuals in conducting oral history, visualize existing collections and ensure unity in the digital standards and privacy guarantees in the preservation of the material. There is no such thing in the Netherlands. The urgency to develop the Hub lies not only in the large fragmentation of the material and its imminent demise due to the aging of tapes, cassette tapes and certain digital carriers. It is also about the challenge of telling contemporary history to a mixed audience in a more multidisciplinary and multimedia way, together with engaged communities.


Previous history

In 2017, the BMP Foundation conducted a feasibility study into a National Oral History Centre. This research shows that the need for a support centre is great. This applies to scientists, private individuals, museums and archives. They argue for the development of a National Oral History Hub with a well-functioning portal, which can eventually be connected to an existing institute. [1]



In summary, the Oral History Hub (working title Speaking History) aims to promote oral history in the Netherlands by:

  1. Stimulate collaboration between archives, museums, universities and social initiatives, in areas such as digital standards, new oral history projects and presentation of oral history material.
  2. Develop a portal that makes existing and new collections of personal stories and testimonies of residents of different regions and of different groups in the Netherlands visible, accessible and searchable for professionals and individuals.
  3. To visualize examples of successful (museum) presentations of oral history material and, where necessary, to actively think about new forms of presentation.
  4. In collaboration with various partners, offer technical and substantive courses for professionals and volunteers.
  5. The oral history method and historical narratives make suitable for use in education at different levels.

Development plan for four years

The initiative for the Hub is supported by leading institutes, museums, universities and civil society organisations and important people in the field of oral history. The intention is that the Hub will be developed as a project in four years’ time and then it will be connected to a national institute to be determined. In those four years, a Steering Committee of partners and independent experts examines which institute is most suitable for this. We are also working on a mixed revenue model, among other things by offering courses in the field of interviewing and storing material for a fee. In addition, the partners make a financial contribution. As a result, the final Hub will only be partially dependent on subsidies.


Request for political support

The Hub is located at the intersection of various disciplines and policy fields. During discussions with the Department of Education, Culture and Science, we notice that there is also enthusiasm there, but that it is difficult to break through the existing divisions. We are therefore looking for the widest possible political support to enable the development of the Sprekende geschiedenis Hub in the short term. We hope that you, as committee members, will support this important initiative and actively contribute to its realisation.



Most of the signatories have been specifically invited. A number of them have forwarded the petition to colleagues.

Mieke Zaanen
Managing Director KNAW
Prof. Selma Leydesdorff
Emeritus Professor of Oral History and Culture UvA
Domenica Ghidei Biidu
Human rights laywer and
independent strategic advisor on Equity, Inclusiveness and Diversity
Arnoud Odding
Director Rijksmuseum Twenthe & De Museumfabriek
Bart Rutten
Artistic director Centraal Museum
Onno Baker
Director Zeeuws Maritiem muZeeum & Cultuurwerf
Dr Arjan van Hessen
Researcher Language and Speech Technology University of Twente /
Director User Involvement CLARIAH
Jantje Steenhuis
Director Rotterdam City Archives
Prof. Fridus Steijlen
Royal Institute of Language, Land and Ethnology (KITLV)
Marloes Hülsken
Senior lecturer – Teacher trainer – Researcher
HAN university of applied sciences (oral history in the classroom)
Dr Dienke Hondius (VU Amsterdam)
On behalf of the Oral history working group of the Huizinga Institute
Prof. Irene Zwiep
On behalf of the Faculty of Humanities UvA
Jantine Elk
Library Textielmuseum Tilburg
Dr. Anneke Sools
Assistant Professor University of Twente – Programme Director Storylab
Annegriet Wietsma
Documentary maker, Editor-in-chief, Oral history teacher
Prof. Gerben Westerhof
Professor of Narrative Psychology and Technology – University of Twente
Menno Heling
Platform If Then Is Now
Prof. Arnoud-Jan Bijsterveld
Professor of Culture in Brabant – Tilburg University
Dr. Moniek E.J. Hover
Lecturer/professor storytelling Breda University of Applied Sciences
Jeroen Neus
Verhalis Breda Foundation
Arjen Kok Rutger Doop
On behalf of the foundation dream and deed – Rotterdam
Paul Middle Line
Creative director at National Storytelling Academy
Marielle Hendriks
Director Heritage House Zuid-Holland
Dr. Maaike Warnaar
Assistant Professor International Studies and Middle East Studies
Leiden University Institute for Area Studies (LIAS)
Prof. Joep Leerssen
Modern European Literature – UvA
Hanneke Propitius
Director Humanity House
Dr. Robert Woltering
Research assistant Arabic Language and Culture – UvA
Willy Van Der Most
Head of Knowledge and Collections Batavialand / FlevolandsMemory
Marc Wingens (director)
Else Gootjes (employee projects)
Heritage Gelderland
Prof. dr. Frank Van Vree
director NIOD
Patrick Timmerman
Director-director Heritage Brabant
Steve Austen:
Director MBA Culture, Heritage & Citizenship
Dr. Peter Doorn
Director DANS (Data Archiving and Networked Services)
Vincent Ruby
On behalf of Stichting Overijsselacademie and
Historical Centre Overijssel
Paul Van de Laar
Director Museum Rotterdam
Judikje Kiers
Director Amsterdam Museum
Chantal Keijsper
Director of the Utrecht Archives &
The Flevoland Archives
Jeoffrey Woensel
Scientific assistant/historian Veterans Institute
Prof. Emile Schrijver
General director Jewish Cultural Quarter
Professor of History of Jewish Cultural Heritage
Siemco Louwerse
Director Watersnoodmuseum in Ouwerkerk
Corinne Rodenburg
Director Drents Archief
John Oomen
Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision
target group owner heritage professionals and researchers
Mooike de Moor
Reporter- Editor at RTV Rijnmond
Erik Van den Bergh
Brechtje Cologne
Journalist and editor-in-chief of Z! (homeless newspaper)
Jet Homoet
Independent Documentary Film Director, Cinematographer
Prof. dr. Janneke Van Mens-Verhulst
Former Professor of Theory and Practice of Women’s Health Care
Annet Skipper
On behalf of Rotterdam Vertelt
Cultuurscout Hoek van Holland / Cultuurscout Rozenburg /
Force the femme / Women on the rise
Annette Benedict
Initiator of Storytelling Sowing
Director Stichting Schoolverteller
Marjan Beijering
History lab, historian
Hermine Of Heroes
Storyteller Story Box
Melanie Plag
Storyteller Babboes
Board of the School Storyteller Foundation
Dr. Sanneke Stigter
Assistant Professor | Programme Leader Contemporary Art Conservation
University of Amsterdam
Peter Van Wijk
Programme Director Conservation and Restoration (UvA)
Mila Ernst
Teacher cultural heritage Reinwardt Academy /
Coordinator Modemuze
Dr Esther van Duijn, Painting restorer and researcher
E. Doornbusch, Coordinator acquisition procedure
Suzan Meijer, Head of Textile Restoration Studio/Head of Textile Conservation
Gwen Tauber, Restorer paintings
Marieken van den Bichelaer, Scientific assistant visual arts
Marjolein Koek MA, Junior Restorer Textile | Assistant Conservator of Textiles
Aafke Weller, Paper Restorer
Miranda Goddijn, Paper Restorer
Robert Parthesius (PhD)
Associate Professor Archaeology and Heritage Leiden University
Director Centre for International Heritage Activities
Lieuwe Zoodsma
Director Noord-Hollands Archief
Dr. Marijke van Faassen
Senior Researcher
Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands
Ruth Meyns
Director Het Verhalenhuis
Dr Andreas Weber, University of Twente
Assistant professor | Department of Science, Technology and Policy Studies (STePS)
Dr. Kaouthar Darmoni
Director Atria, knowledge centre for emancipation and women’s history
Spark Van Beurden
Researcher Social Sciences Education and Pedagogy, Utrecht University
Marciano Daans
Radio Brasa / Rotterdam Tells
Simone Silva
Director DIG IT UP
Rotterdam city culture gallery & heritage lab
Christian Van der Ven
Head of Public Services Brabants Historisch Informatie Centrum
Wendy Jansen
Program Manager Hovo Rotterdam
Erasmus Academy for Lifelong Learning
Tjeerd Vrij
Director Of The Hague Historical Museum
Dr. Gerard Nijsten
Director of the UvA/AUAS Library




[1] Report of the feasibility study for a Dutch Oral History Centre. Stichting BMP/Museum Twentse Welle (now Museumfabriek), Amsterdam, 2017