The Dutch Resistance Museum
The Dutch Resistance Museum focuses on how the Dutch reacted to the WWII occupation, the choices they made and how the resistance developed over time. Their goal is to engender empathy and critical thinking.
Some facts and figures
The museum recently acquired a new building, which is attached to the already existing museum. This new part is dedicated to children: Junior. Since the opening two years ago, the amount of visitors has increased immensely. The amount of visitors they used to welcome in one year, now sometimes visit in one month. A lot of their visitors are school children both of Dutch, western and non-western origin. The education programme also focuses on integration between these groups.
The Junior exhibition recently won the Kids proof award. This award is based on children’s judgement. It is the first time a historical museum won the award.
Junior exhibition: real children, real stories and real objects of a real war
The Junior exhibition sets the scene for four children. They tell their story, so that you get drawn into the history of the oppression.
Key factors are: 1) These four children are not fictional. They are four individuals who have actually lived through the war, survived, and able to tell the tale. 2) All four are still alive now. 3) These for children are not ‘extreme cases’. They have experienced the war from a relatively ‘normal’ perspective of the groups of kids they represent. 4) The objects in the exhibition are real and belong to the personal collections of the four individuals. 5) They lived spread throughout the Netherlands.
One of them is a boy whose father is actively involved in the resistance. One of them is the daughter of the Dutch Nazi party (SS). One of them is a Jewish girl. The fourth individual is a boy who thinks war is rather exciting at first, but then has to live through it and experience how his older brothers get called away for military duty and how his best friend suddenly disappears.
Walking around in the exhibition
The visitor first is transported back in time, via an old fashioned elevator. Then he enters public square with a shop and a school, where he/she can visit the houses of the four characters. Each house focuses on one character. The characters introduce themselves via various media, speaking in first person singular. Through interactives, the visitor learns more about the characters and their context. The visitor can open cupboards and drawers to find real documents, pictures and paintings of the characters. Authentic objects such as letters, photographs and requisites tell the story of the lives of the four characters during the war: they struggles they went through and the choices they had to make. Eventually the visitor walks to another room where he/she learns what happened to the four people during and after the war; how they survived. In a final room visitors can watch interviews with the characters, as they are today: old like their grandparents or great grand parents. The interviews focus on various aspects of life: school, friends, family, love, but also on guilt and fear. They express what they feel children should learn from their experiences.
Definitely not a childish exhibition
The exhibition speaks through the eyes of children and is addressed to children, but it’s definitely not childish. It is not afraid to address controversial issues and shines light on the situation from various angles.
Q: Do you make a direct link to resistance that is taking place now, for example in Syria?
A: Only in the temporary exhibitions. Teachers often take on this subject and address themes like that, based on their visit to the museum.
Q: You cater for various cultural backgrounds; how do they react? Don’t you ever hear: “What do I have to do with Dutch history.”
A: We experience very little of that with young Dutch muslims; the young muslim kids identify themselves with the Dutch a lot more than teenagers. With teenagers it’s more difficult, but that is also part of being that age.