Contemporary heritage

I finally got to do my project on two different high schools in Zoetermeer.

A lot has happened since the last time I wrote about my project.

I had planned to prepare the lessons for a school in Zoetermeer together with the ‘CKV’ (culture and arts) teacher. And because we were supposed to work together, I had drawn the outlines, but I had not filled them in. This was not a good approach. The teacher gave her own twist to the project, and turned it into something else: she skipped the collecting of contemporary heritage objects for the zeros+ (2000-2016) period room, which was the whole point of the project.

Mood board

After my introduction, which was about value and heritage, the kids first had to make a ‘time capsule’, which was an envelope with a message to their future self. After that, the assignment was to make a mood board for a contemporary teenage room. This resulted in more or less personal ‘style guides’ with pictures from magazines. So, now we know what kind of furniture the youngsters would like to buy if they had the chance; which is, of course, also interesting but not quite what I had in mind.

Poster aka mood board.jpg
Poster or mood board for a 2016 girls room.

New plans

Luckily enough another school wanted to work with me on the project. In the meantime, the museum, which was busy with its plans for the future location, got word from the municipality that it had to modify its plans. Up until this day the museum is negotiating with the municipality. This means, for one thing, that we do no longer know if there will ever be a ‘contemporary period room’, although we do know that the museum will be collecting contemporay heritage from now on. 

We decided I continue with my project, but I ask the kids to collect contemporary heritage for the present museum instead of decorating a whole room in the new location. The objects the museum chooses to collect will be displayed in a seventies period room that is due to open on December 16th. From this day onward, the museum will show different kinds of exhibits: different objects en different styles. The public will be asked to participate by giving their opinion; the exhibit is a trial run for the future museum.

Old, ugly stuff

For the second school, the Picasso Lyceum in Zoetermeer, I prepared the lessons myself and talked them over with arts teacher Carien van der Hoeven. So far we have done one (long: almost three hours) lesson. I started with asking the students if they knew what heritage is. They told me it is about ‘old, ugly stuff’. This is the kind of answer I like: they were honest ánd they were challenging me.

Discussion about - is it heritage.jpg
Is it heritage? The kids are discussing several examples.


I have talked with the kids about value. What kinds of value heritage items can have: historical, esthetic, material, informative, etc. Then, I gave them a lot of contemporary examples of ‘heritage questions’, like bull fighting in Spain, which by some people is considered animal abuse and for that reason cannot be heritage; emoticons in the museum; church bells making too much noise according to some, but age old heritage according to others; Jamie Olivier who ‘murdered’ Paella by adding chorizo to it; a ‘racist’ attraction in the national fairy tale theme park De Efteling. With every example, the kids had to discuss whether this was ‘heritage’ in their eyes, or not, and whose interests were at stake. With this approach, I hope they will discover that heritage is not about ‘old stuff’, but that it is, on the contrary, very much alive here and now, and that it can be about things that are interesting or even important for them as well.

Next Monday we will work on different ways to tell a story with or for an object: with words, with other objects, with pictures; by creating contrast or similarity or, by doing something to disturb the image?


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