After visiting so many museums and attractions during my month travelling around the Netherlands, by the time I reached Utrecht I was ready (desperate) for something different. That is exactly what I found at the Volksbuurt museum on Waterstraat in District C (Wijk C) and it was so wonderful to find such an interactive and engaging experience behind the door of the museum. Guess what, it only costs €5!
On arrival, I was warmly welcomed by Bert who was able to take me through what to expect from the museum in English which was particularly necessary as there is a lot of information solely in Dutch. As I’m in Holland, I understand perfectly that English translations won’t always be available and I use my knowledge of German to try and decipher the meanings. When visiting a country where a different language is spoken surely we all approach people and places with an understanding attitude.
The first activity involves watching a short presentation of the history of the area and you gain some key knowledge to help your understanding as you travel through the museum. This presentation is available in Dutch and English.
Before starting my walk around, I was handed a map and leaflet in English as well as a purse with coins in. The leaflet explains what I will find in the alleyway and what decisions I will need to make about the money in my purse. The characters spoke in Dutch only, however this did not spoil my enjoyment of the engaging activity I was taking part in. So much better than simply moving along and reading information, I felt involved in the life of the family I represented and truly considered how I spent my money to be able to eat, have a roof over my head and to also help others.
Once up the stairs, I was able to experience the working class life in District C by pressing a button which emitted the smell of the items on show. What a wonderful interactive experience which made me think of smells we no longer have in the UK but will remain in my mind and heart from my childhood.
Around the museum, there are other engaging activities which allow you to listen, watch and also consider your own views of people belonging to different sections of society. Downstairs, I really enjoyed listening to different people’s memories of their time in the District and the part which encouraged you not to judge was especially interesting. This part could be listened to in the dialects from Utrecht, Amsterdam, Rotterdam or English which was delivered in Cockney.
If like me you enjoy interacting with people, experiences and memories then this is also the museum for you as you all not be disappointed. Bert said they are working more on their English translations, however the lack of translation doesn’t spoil your time there as when experiencing something, compassion and openness are required more than language.