Thursday, 23 February 2012

Preserving the cultural heritage: a visit to the Zuiderzeemuseum

A sea that was no longer a sea. Water that became land.

It happened in 1932. With the inauguration of the barrier dam or Afsluitdijk that year, the Zuiderzee (Southern Sea, in Dutch) was finally cut off from the North Sea and as of that moment, it ceased to be a zee (sea, in Dutch) and became a meer (lake, in Dutch); the Ijsselmeer was born.

The Ijsselmeer, former Zuiderzee, seen from Enkhuizen.
Arriving at the outdoor part of the Zuiderzee Museum by boat.
When the Zuiderzee became the Ijsselmeer, many people were afraid that the culture and lifestyle of the region would be changed and lost forever. For this reason, immediately after the barrier dam was finished, plans were drawn for the creation of a living museum village that would preserve the cultural heritage of the Zuiderzee area.
After a lot of planning and hard work, the Zuiderzee museum became a reality in 1948.

In the beginning, only the indoor section of the museum was open to the public. The outdoor section -an ambitious project to recreate a typical Zuiderzze community with a fishing village, a city canal with its typical houses, shops and important buildings; a polder, and a harbour- took many years to complete and it finally opened in 1983.

First, water had to become land, and a peninsula was created in the Ijsselmeer by piling up sand on the seabed. Then the village had to be designed and built, and the people of the Zuiderzeemuseum had to search high and low to find the appropriate houses and buildings that would recreate not only the geographical and architectural, but also the social environment typical of the region.

The ferry boat that takes visitors from the jetty to the peninsula where the museum is located. In the background, the chimneys of the lime kilns (ovens) of the museum.
 Many of the houses and buildings that we see today in the museum were donated by  municipalities located around the former Zuiderzee.  Houses that were due to be demolished, were instead preserved and transported to their new location in the living museum village, taking into account not only their style and architecture, but also preserving the original function for which they had served the past.

The process of recreating the lifestyle and culture of the former Zuiderzee region took much more than just transporting old houses from cities like Kampen or Harderwijk for example, and reassembling them at the museum site.
Old plans of towns and villages around the Zuiderzee were used to recreate as accurately as possible, a typical community at the turn of the 20th century. Ditches and canals were digged, streets were paved, neighbourhoods were built and important historical buildings that could not be taken apart in their original location -like the school from Kollum or the boathouse, for example- were replicated. Every section of the new living village was carefully planned and even a polder was created between the town canal and the fishing village. 

Today the Zuiderzeemuseum consists of two sections: the buiten- (outdoor) and the binnenmuseum (indoor museum).
Very young "cheese-makers" were having trouble loading the cheese to be transported.
With my dad at the cooper's, trying some barrels on. I chose an oversized one and my dad a very small one - it was so snug that I was afraid he'd not be able to get out of it!

In the outdoor section of the Zuiderzeemuseum you can stroll down the streets of a typical town with its characteristic buildings, like the church, the school, the post office or the farmers' bank; there are craftsmen's warehouses such as the sail maker's, the blacksmith's and the barrel maker's.
A number of typical turn of the century shops were replicated too; there is a photography shop where you can have your photo taken in the typical attire; there are also a sweet shop, a barber's and a chemist's.
Visitors can go into the different buildings or houses and admire period furniture and see old machinery at work. Volunteers from the museum often do demonstrations of the different crafts that were traditional in the region, to give an idea of what life was like in a typical Zuiderzee community.

One of the relocated houses in the museum. Real families lived there for generations.

A typical dining-room set for lunch at the boat-maker's.
Fish curing was a traditional occupation in the Zuiderzee region.
In its indoor section, the museum houses several exhibitions that make the visitor acquainted with the rich history and cultural heritage of the Zuiderzee region through art, photography and design. The calendar of activities, events and exhibitions for children, for schools and for adults is displayed in the official website of the Zuiderzeemuseum. All the practical information that is needed to plan a visit at any time of the year, including times, prices, a map of the whole complex and a route description, can be found in their website, too.

The greenhouse of one of the relocated farm houses in the outdoor museum.
A vegetable garden of a typical Zuiderzee farm.
An ideal visit to the Zuiderzeemuseum should take at least half a day, so keep this in mind while planning your trip.
There is a fast-food restaurant -the Amsterdam House- and a pub, -café Hindelopen- where you can have a drink or have a quick lunch if you get hungry. 
Take into account that the outdoor section of the museum is not open during the winter period. This year (2012), it will be open from 31 March to 28 October.
The indoor part of the museum, on the other hand,  is open all the year round, from 10:00 to 17:00. You can buy the tickets online from their website if you want; the entrance ticket includes the ferry boat trip from the harbour in Enkhuizen to the outdoor museum.

A classroom in the style of the early 20th century.

The hallway of the school with the children's wooden shoes lined up outside the classroom.
No matter what your interests are or whether you are young or old, you are always bound to find something to do or that will attract your attention in this very special museum in the Netherlands.

There had to be a windmill in the outdoor museum, of course.


Ellie Foster said...

Hello Aledys
What a fascinating museum this is! From your description of it, I would think you would need at least whole day there to take everything in.
The photo of you and your Dad in the barrels made me smile.
Preserving this cultural heritage is so important as things have changed so much and so quickly.
I really enjoyed this post. Thank you.

Alison said...

How lovely that they actually have original, reclaimed buildings! I'm sure it adds to the real feel of it all.

Aledys Ver said...

Thanks, Ellie!
Yes, indeed you are right. If you really want to be able to appreciate what it is all about, you'd need to spend quite some time there, but there's much to see and do and you barely notice the time passing by.

Aledys Ver said...

Yes, they did a very good job. We even met a guy there (I think he was a volunteer) whose grandpa had been born and lived in one the little houses there. IT's worth visiting!

BLOGitse said...

That would be a perfect place for a day trip.
Similar to our Seurasaari.
I like your barrel dress - it suits you! :)
I had clogs when a kid. Today you can get modern versions of them.
Have a great weekend!

Anonymous said...

I'll remember you to trip on this site when i will go the next time. ^_^

Aledys Ver said...

Are Finnish clogs the same as the Dutch ones? I'd like to see those you have there.
Is Seurasaari a museum too? I'll look it up.
Thanks, have a nice weekend you too!

Aledys Ver said...

I recommend a visit to this place, indeed. There's an even bigger similar museum further down south but it's not related to the culture around a former sea...

VagaMundos said...

We are really fans of Open Air Museums. In the Netherlands we just know the one in Arnhem. And the Zuiderzeemuseum surely deserves a visit!

Aledys Ver said...

I haven't visited the Open Air Museum in Arnhem yet, I hope to do that this spring/summer.

Ana O'Reilly said...

I love and admire their efforts to preserve their culture, especially because this museum was opened after the hardship and destruction of World War II.

I love the photo of the clogs outside the classroom. How did the children know which pair was theirs?

Aledys Ver said...

Yes, it can't have been easy in those days. The outdoor part was finished in 1983, though.
I guess the kids just recognised their clogs from some marking or sth like that? Just in the same way the recognise their bikes, I guess :)

Presépio no Canal said...

My favourite museum in The NL. i was there once in a sunny day, very nice!
If my mom comes as I'm expecting, I intend to go there with her. I'm sure she will love it. And it's nearby.
Besinos!! :-)

Aledys Ver said...

Definitely, you should take her there. It's a big place but it's worth the effort. I am planning on visiting it again this year. There's so much to learn and see.

Anonymous said...

I thougt i left a comment yesterday

Aledys Ver said...

Well, no, didn't get any comment from an "Anonymous" :)