Can heritage contribute to cultural awareness and expression?

Image: Rijksmuseum

Knowing your history is important for knowing your identity. Located in Amsterdam, the Rijksmuseum is the Netherlands’ largest museum of art and history. The capital also happens to be the most international city in the world. It is home to 800,000 inhabitants and over 178 different nationalities.

The collection of objects in the Rijksmuseum represents our national history from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. We are convinced that a commonly experienced and shared national history connects and contributes to a commonly felt identity. Therefore, we encourage even primary schoolchildren to experience our collections and the stories behind them.

How does the Rijksmuseum contribute to this sense of cultural awareness and expression? The museum programmes are geared to the school curriculum so that every teacher can use the visit as a lesson. The Rijksmuseum enriches a school experience with multidisciplinary programmes that involve all of the senses.

To reach all school children from everywhere in the Netherlands, the Rijksmuseum provides a free bus service for schools that book a guided programme. We consider this our way of contributing to their awareness and sense of citizenship.

For example, ‘You & the Golden Age’ is a programme aimed to engage students of primary schools with the country’s most important historical events of the 17th century. The students are prepared with their teacher by playing a computer game in which they match each other’s personalities to the 17th century characters so that each student ‘becomes’ a character in one of the three stories. At the museum the visit culminates in a 17th century theatre play where the students act out their story for their class mates. A fantastic experience to identify yourself with Dutch history!

Written by Annemies Broekgaarden, Head Public & Education Rijksmuseum, onderwijs@rijksmuseum.nl