The Hindeloopen Museum has been renovated and redesigned. ‘The museum is like a gateway to the past, present and future of the city’

The renovated Hindeloopen Museum wants to be the gateway to the city for visitors and a starting point for residents to experience and transmit cultural heritage. “I want to connect the museum and the city more,” says director Bernard Hilgers.

Two weeks before Queen Máxima opens the museum, the construction and equipment of the new exhibition spaces at the Hindeloopen Museum are still in full swing. This is where the carpentry is done, there is a museum employee working on the presentation of the new suit and then, in addition to the Friesch Dagblad The journalist has also just visited a delegation to prepare for the royal visit. As director of a relatively small museum, Bernard Hilgers has to be at least a little involved in everything and is being dragged left and right.

However, in his office, between business and business, he takes the time to tell the new story of the Hindeloopen Museum, located in the old town hall built in 1682-83. In recent months, floors and walls have been insulated and a heat pump has been installed. A wooden platform (or “hindeloper”, according to Hilgers) was built as an entrance, so the entrance was moved to the city side.

“In that modern wing is the cash register and the museum store. There we can also further expand the tourist function of the museum. “We want to be the gateway to the city, from which visitors can orient themselves on what there is to see and do here.” The outside area was repaved, a new hedge planted and trees removed. The historic outlines of the old building are marked with large rocks.

Initially, there were plans for larger new buildings that should attract 30,000 visitors a year, but they met with resistance from residents. “As a director, I would have liked to have had much more space to present the collection, but in the end it adapts better to the scale of the city if it is smaller,” says Hilgers (64), director since 2022. The Rotterdam native was associated previously with the National Bagger Museum in Sliedrecht, the National Museum Paleis Het Loo in Apeldoorn and the Ede Historical Museum.

The history of Hindeloopen

During the renovation, in addition to the building, the presentation of the collection was also completely changed. In the new museum, much more than before, “we think in terms of the story we want to tell,” explains Hilgers. “To put it clearly: in the previous presentation of the collection, the objects were the protagonists. You looked at old things. Now the story is the protagonist. Then we select the objects with which we would connect that common thread. history , can illustrate the most beautiful.” Three central questions are fundamental: to what does Hindeloopen owe his prosperity, what has he achieved and what does that mean for the future?

In short, the answer to the first question is trade in the Baltic Sea. For this reason, a special “Baltic Sea Room” has been created, “in the atmosphere of a maritime museum.” Here you can see how Hindeloopen ships imported grain and, above all, wood from Scandinavia and the Baltic countries on a large scale. In this way they contributed to the supply of food and the construction of homes, businesses and mills in the Republic. “The Hindeloopen trade was an essential element for the prosperity and growth of the Netherlands in the Golden Age.”

That term has now become loaded because of the history of slavery associated with it, but it played no role in the Baltic Sea trade, Hilgers says. In fact, no Hindelooper was directly involved in the slave trade, as demonstrated by a recent investigation by the municipality of Súdwest-Fryslân. “It was also a golden era for Hindeloopen.”

Our thing

This was largely due to the fluyt, “a convex ship, almost like a balloon, that could not sail very fast because of its shape, but could carry a lot thanks to its large hold.” Hindeloopen managed to make it big in that niche: “Sound toll records show that in some decades about 60 percent of passing patrons in the Sound came from Hindeloopen.”

Fluyt is “our thing,” says Hilgers. Five fluyt boat models are now on display at the Baltic Sea Show. “Nowhere else can you see more things than here at the Hindeloopen Museum.”

We also found the painting in this room. Collecting wood in Norway a, by Cornelis Claesz van Wieringen (1575/1577-1633), Hilgers’ favorite object in the entire museum. “There you can see at a glance what has made Hindeloopen rich. In it you can see all aspects of the timber trade. It’s like a comic strip where you can pause for fifteen minutes to tell the whole story.” It is a new object in the exhibition, a loan.

The Hindelooper costumes and paintings give the answer to the second question: what prosperity has it brought to Hindeloopen. “The regional costume rooms in many museums have been closed because the fabrics are fading and becoming vulnerable. Furthermore, the suit was only visible to a very limited extent in the Hindeloopen Museum. Now we are going to demonstrate that more and permanently. This is possible because we change the clothing every year, so that it remains in good condition and we can always present different specific aspects of the regional costume.” It will be a combination of our own collection and loans.

People are central

The new montage shows, among other things, a painter at work. “This fits with our new approach of thinking more from people, from identity, than from objects,” says Hilgers. “In this way we appeal to the empathy of visitors. You are invited to identify with that painter and ask yourself: what would my life have been like if I had lived in Hindeloopen at that time?” And by showing not only the final products, such as painted furniture, but also part of the manufacturing process, you get a better idea of ​​the everyday context in which those objects were made and used, Hilgers says.

What Hindelooper heritage may mean for the future is explored in the new ‘Language and Future’ room, where the regional Hindelooper language plays a key role. “That language is part of the city’s intangible cultural heritage. As a museum we want to actively contribute to the maintenance of the Hylpers,” says Hilgers, and he is very optimistic about it. “Our population may be small, but in percentage terms a significant portion still speaks Hylpers. It is something essential that people carry with them and want to pass on. It is heritage and future.” The room includes a huge reading board, approximately four by two metres, on which several words from the Hindelooper are explained.

Connecting city and museum

Hilgers considers it important that the museum is not only available to tourists, but also to Hindeloopers themselves. “The museum is closed in winter and during those months we will organize more for our own residents. “You can think of conferences or an annual language day, as well as the associational life here, which also works in these areas.”

A bolder plan is to organize an annual sledding competition on artificial ice, “so we can continue that tradition, regardless of the winter weather.” How to organize this from a financial and energy point of view remains a challenge, Hilgers acknowledges.

He hopes to connect the museum and the city more closely in the coming years. “The museum is part of Hindeloopen and Hindeloopen is part of the museum.” It’s not that the city is an open-air museum, because there are, of course, many people living and working there, “but there are so many historically beautiful places and buildings that more could be done with them.”

Hilgers’ goal is that in five years at least five Hindeloopen sites can be visited with the same museum ticket. “The exhibition is permanent in our own building, but temporary and changing exhibitions can be mounted in other places in the city.” As an example, she mentions the bandstand on Vondelingenplein in Nieuwstad. “In addition to an information panel, you can also do something with a sound recording.”

So, enough ideas and perspectives for the future. But now the furniture in the hall must first be finished and then there are still a hundred things to fix before the red “obstacle carpet” can be rolled out for Queen Máxima on Tuesday, June 18. Starting Wednesday, the museum will once again be open to visitors every day.

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