October 31, 2018

United States: Knowledge-exchange on 17th century Dutch material heritage

Visitors of New York State with their hosts from DutchCulture and Cultural Heritage Agency at the Black Heritage Tours in Amsterdam, october 2018

From 7-13 October, a delegation from New York, City and State, participated in a visitors’ programme on Dutch material culture and heritage.

“Can we touch this?” Michele Phillips asked at the offices of the Monuments & Archaeology Department of the city of Amsterdam. She and Travis Bowman work at the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Together with Naiomy Rodriguez from the Dyckman Farmhouse in Manhattan, New York City, and Jennifer Lemak-Buff from the New York State Museum, they were participants in the visitors’ programme of DutchCulture, in collaboration with the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands.

Jerzy Gawronksi, city archaeologist of Amsterdam, had met the visitors earlier that morning at the Rokin subway stop, where thousands of items found during the excavation of the North-South line are exhibited alongside the escalators. The American experts came to learn more about our shared heritage, and especially the Dutch material culture of the 17th century. As they explained, in the United States, finding a shard of a Dutch 17th century artefact is extraordinary; salvaging a complete object is extremely rare.

The well-filled programme took the visitors all over the Netherlands, including in-depth visits to Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, Prinsenhof Museum in Delft, the Honing Breethuis in Zaandijk, the National Archives of the Netherlands in The Hague and the Dutch Open Air Museum in Arnhem. The exchange between the Dutch and American experts helped them to get a better understanding of the hallmarks of Dutch design, how these designs changed over time, of what is now considered “Dutch” in the USA, why Dutch objects over there were produced differently than in the Netherlands and of the preservation and conservation issues specific to these materials.

A special afternoon was spent with Jennifer Tosch of Black Heritage Tours, talking and thinking about the different narratives that 17th century Dutch material culture could tell. Looking back at the time when the shared history between the Dutch and the Americans began, the participants from both countries found each other in their mutual enthusiasm, not only for the 17th century material objects but also for the cultural histories these artefacts enable us to touch.

This visitors’ programme was organised by the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands and DutchCulture in collaboration with several hosting institutions in the Netherlands.