Historical Background of Street Names

This was a project commissioned by the Gemeente Utrecht (via Academie van de Stad) in which MA students were asked to research the historical background to street names in Utrecht that are associated with the Dutch colonial past. The project was divided into three phases: the first was an in-class assignment as part of the MA course, Colonial Memory and Postcolonial Heritage. Working in pairs, students consulted primary and secondary sources to put together a 500-word text and poster presentation for the municipality, which had provided us with an initial list of ten street names. The second phase involved further research and writing by students continuing with an internship in which they developed the shape of the route. They also got to know members of the Werkgroep Gepeperde Straten set up by the municipality to discuss what is often seen as difficult or controversial heritage. The final phase involved another set of interns who provided additional research and contextual information, attended meetings of the Werkgroep, and drafted an English-language route.


Through this project students developed skills in:

  • analysing primary sources;
  • connecting secondary literature in colonial history to archival research;
  • applying analytical frameworks from memory studies to analyse how the memory of the colonial past has changed over time and why;
  • writing history for a general audience – thinking about the importance of language and narrative;
  • (internships) collaborating with local historians and members of the local community – thinking about how to make use of local knowledge within professional standards;
  • understanding what colonial history means and has meant to people in the community.

Students ec’s for this assignment

Class: 5 ECT total (assignment was 40% of final grade)

Internships: 15 ECT

Teacher effort (hours)

100+ per blok (mostly volunteer basis).

Final product


  • background text (English and Dutch versions)
  • poster presentation to Gemeente Utrecht


  • website text
  • final research report
  • contribution to construction of walking tour
  • presentation to Gemeente Utrecht

Assessment criteria

The main product was graded on the following five points:

  • quality of presentation
  • thoroughness of research
  • level of analysis
  • clarity of argument and discussion
  • sensitivity to audience

Description of the example

The final products were presented to the Werkgroep Gepeperde Straten and the Gemeente Utrecht for additional feedback; texts were collated on the website, bitterzoeteroute.nl (English language pages to follow shortly). The route is marked in Lombok by means of specially commissioned pins set into the pavement that were designed by artist Raul Balai.

More information / Contact

Britta Schilling, b.schilling@uu.nl