Geef een of meerdere zoektermen op.
Gebruik dubbele aanhalingstekens om in de exacte woordvolgorde te zoeken.

5 question for Lysette Jansen

In our ‘5 questions for’ column, we talk with interesting people and dive deeper into the field of oral history. Lysette Jansen is director of the recently renovated Volksbuurtmuseum in Utrecht.


1/ Can you (briefly) introduce yourself?

“As a born and bred Utrechtian, working at the Volksbuurtmuseum is a joy! Also because two worlds actually come together here. It is a heritage museum that tells the stories of ordinary people. With my background in both the culture and welfare sectors, this totally suits my interests”.

2/ Can you tell us something about the museum’s collection and its changing exhibitions?

“In 1974, residents from Wijk C founded the Wijk C Komitee, dedicated to preserving and restoring the neighbourhood. To support actions for this struggle and the preservation of the neighbourhood, the Wijk C Komitee collected photographs. In 1983, the community centre opened its doors and the archive of the Wijk C Komitee was housed there. The community centre continued collecting and occasionally longer-term photo exhibitions were made. In 1993, the Volksbuurtmuseum Wijk C Foundation was established and the photo collection became the property of the museum.

The museum’s collection thus started as a photo collection, and grew into a diverse museum collection consisting of objects, documents, photographs and audio fragments, mainly from the 1st and 2nd half of the 20th century. Together, they form a comprehensive and unique documentation of daily life in a working-class neighbourhood. This is one aspect that makes it so valuable, because all too often the value of preserving the ordinary, the everyday is still not realised.

The museum has changing temporary exhibitions about three times a year. These exhibitions regularly feature working-class neighbourhoods from Utrecht, but themes such as marriage, markets, healthcare are also highlighted from the perspective of working-class neighbourhood residents.”


3/ The Volksbuurt Museum archives contain a special oral history project about life in a working-class neighbourhood in the 1920s-50s. Can you tell a bit more about it?

“In the 1990s, the museum conducted 250 interviews with people who lived or worked in District C. The interviews, which were recorded on cassette tapes by volunteers at the time, have been carefully documented and digitised. In terms of content, these interviews mainly deal with the period before World War II. Because people were explicitly asked about the lives of their parents and grandparents, these stories of everyday life go back to even well into the 19th century.


In 2020, this interview project had a follow-up. One hundred working-class neighbourhood residents were interviewed, this time also from other working-class neighbourhoods in Utrecht, about the post-war period until around 1990. They tell about their childhood, their parents, school, going out, 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?


The interviews from the first interview project led to the book “The Past Told.” Published by the Volksbuurt Museum. A small selection of the second series of interviews can be listened to in a Podcasts series and a book entitled “Life in the People’s Neighbourhood has been published.”

The Volksbuurtmuseum collaborates with the Utrecht Archive. The photo collection is being digitised and made available to the public via the Utrecht Archive’s image bank. In time, the interview collection will also be made available via HUA’s image database”.


4/ How were the oral history interviews translated into a presentation at the museum?

“After the second interview project, a podcast series and book were released, both titled ‘Life in the working-class neighbourhood’. A selection of the interviews (from both the 1990s and 2020s) can be heard in the Story Room in the revamped museum.

The oral history collection forms the basis of the revamped museum, in which you follow a fictional family living in a working-class neighbourhood 100 years ago. You step, as it were, into the life of this family, where you discover big and small stories from ordinary life in a working-class Utrecht neighbourhood. The stories these fictional family members tell you about their lives come from the interview collection. The interviews are also used as sources of information for thematic exhibitions.”


5/ Finally, what exhibitions are currently running, and what are the future plans?

“At the moment, we have a temporary exhibition ‘Life stories about the power of opportunities’. An exhibition with personal stories of Utrecht families about the opportunities you get in life. From mid-May there will be a new temporary exhibition on ‘Holidays’ in which we look back at the start and development of holiday celebrations.

Now that we have the renovation behind us, there will be more space to focus on public programming. We are thinking of lectures and talks, small-scale encounters in which we can exchange stories.”




*This page is translated from Dutch with Deepl Translator.