The Canon of Dutch History, the list of 50 topics that summarises Dutch history, comes to life as a new presentation in the Holland Open Air Museum in Arnhem (NL). This 2,000 m2 permanent exhibition, developed in close partnership with the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, opened in September 2017 and covers Dutch history from megaliths to the modern day.
The main aim is to offer an immersive insight into the highs and lows of the Dutch past. It was not the aspiration to embody the entire history, but to provide a dynamic, contemporary introduction, high in content and easy to grasp for a wide public especially families and school children aged 8+. But how to engage a wide range of visitors in stories of the past, so that they feel connected to things that happened centuries ago, without being rigid or boring?
The strategy for implementation for the Canon of Dutch History is based on experience and engagement. Kossmann.dejong designed the exhibition as a fascinating visual narrative across four consecutive spaces. Visitors begin their journey in the tunnel-like introduction space 'Life in a day', that gradually takes them back in time. The second hall, a large dome room, contains the main part of the exhibition: 'The Story of the Netherlands'. The space is turned into spectacular multimedia ‘film sets’ of historic Dutch icons to create a totally immersive experience of the past. In this theatrical, layered composition of decors, objects and film fragments, visitors of all ages are challenged to actively uncover information using hands-on elements and interactive games. For example, through a boating game in a wooden Kogge ship visitors experience trading between Hanseatic cities. The integration of (romantic-) realistic elements add tactility and familiarity for a wide audience and film projections bring the sets to life.
After this sensory experience, visitors enter the third room 'The Land and the World'. Three large panoramic films show the geographical and geological evolution of The Netherlands over time. Infographics and historic maps place these changes in an international context and graphic patterns on floor and walls reflect these connections. In the final space, visitors swipe through all 50 Canon themes on the 18-m-long interactive Canon wall, where it becomes clear that history is more than a collection of topics: it is one continuing, rich story with infinite connections and this exhibition forms a starting point to discover this treasure.