Students advise new museum and documentation centre on Groningen earthquakes

Gestutte boerderij in het Groningse aardbevingsgebied. Foto: Handscarf, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Propped-up farmhouse in the Groningen earthquake zone. Photo: Handscarf, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Four students from the Cultural History and Heritage Master’s programme have provided advice to EPIQ, the new museum and documentation centre on the earthquakes in the Dutch province of Groningen. EPIQ had asked the students to identify the needs of Groningen’s youths regarding the centre.

Personal stories

“Among the young people, we noticed a lot of anger and frustration, but most of all fatigue and powerlessness,” student Max van Trommelen says. Together with Tanguy van Akkeren, Eimear Hanahoe, and Eva Hens, he conducted research for EPIQ. They concluded that respondents most valued the personal stories of Groningers.

UU-studenten werken aan onderzoek voor EPIQ: Max van Trommelen (links) en Tanguy van Akkeren (rechts)
Students Max van Trommelen and Tanguy van Akkeren.

“In addition, the cumbersome and impersonal bureaucracy related to the earthquakes should not be absent from the museum,” Max stresses. “As a result of our research, the museum should become very personal, a place where understanding is fostered for what Groningers have had to endure.”

Social partners

The Master’s programme in Cultural History and Heritage explicitly focuses on experiential education and collaborations with social partners, so-called Community Engaged Learning.

“We could directly apply the theoretical knowledge gained in our Master’s,” Max says. “The concept of ‘slow violence’, for example. This is a form of violence that is so systematic and structural that it is almost invisible. Often groups far away from political power are hit hardest by this.”

Community Engaged Learning

Community Engaged Learning (CEL) is not education for but with society. Students, teachers, and researchers work with community partners on issues arising from society’s questions and needs.

Read more about Community Engaged Learning

Research-led teaching

Associate Professor of Heritage Studies Gertjan Plets, lecturer of the Master’s in Cultural History and Heritage, has been researching the presentation and perception surrounding the oil and natural gas history of the Netherlands since 2019. “When I came into contact with the team developing the new museum in September 2022, I immediately thought: we should develop a course around this at the interface between ecological history and critical heritage studies.”

Within the Master’s, ‘research-led teaching’ is central. In the second block, students can connect with the lecturers’ research. “This is also a great opportunity for myself,” Plets says. “My students can participate in fieldwork and I can show them what ‘research in progress’ looks like. This allows me to share my passion even more and to encourage future heritage professionals to give museums a role in climate activism.”

Museum and documentation centre EPIQ

EPIQ will be an educational-museum centre that interactively provides information about gas extraction and earthquakes, and energy in the past, present and future. The project is part of  Toukomst, an initiative of Nationaal Programma Groningen, and was recently launched.