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by • 6 Jun, 2011 • Expositions, TechnologyComments (6)4282

Using the Netherlands as a museum – launch of “x was hier”

Het x was hier bordje bij Schokland
The xwashier marker at Schokland.

Last week we silently launched our new project xwashier, or “x was here” in English. In many ways, it’s the pinnacle of our view on museums, media and technology. And, unlike most of our projects, xwashier is also available in English. Partly.

Xwashier gives physical and digital access to locations around the world that are relevant to Dutch history. It does so with physical markers at the actual locations where history happened, with an iPhone app and a website. For each location we work together with local partners, connect with local activities and team up with education to get a wide audience to enjoy the tangible history available in your neighbourhood.

The full website www.xwashier.nl now gives access to 45 locations. The English one, www.xwashere.nl for now only to Manhattan, but it gives an OK impression of the project. Each location is presented with a movie, presented by Hans Goedkoop. Also, on the Dutch website every location has a unique cartoon, specifically drawn for the occasion (the Manhattan one is embedded below). Of course, the website is connected to the INNL network of historical communities and collections.


The xwashier cartoon of Manhattan. Every location has such a cartoon.

The iPhone app gives access to all the information on the website. In addition, it allows people to check into locations by ‘scanning’ the physical marker. By doing so people can earn badges and win prizes.

I really like a lot of the things in the project, and I certainly hope it will give an insight in the (im)possibilities of the museum of the future. Here’s some of the things xwashier – in my opinion – tries to achieve, and which I hope to get feedback on:

  1. The project tries to connect the physical and digital world, without excluding the full experience of either one. Hopefully you don’t need the app to enjoy the physical space, and hopefully you can get a pretty good impression of the physical space through the website.
  2. The use of video and cartoons rather than (a lot of) text to tell about history is something I’m enthusiastic about. I can see how some people will find this “shallow”, but I certainly hope we can attract new audiences by using these media.
  3. The app has a very clear goal: to show you something historical nearby that has a good presentation (as opposed to giving a map full of stuff). I hope this easy approach, combined with the badges and prizes, will get people to use the app more than once.
  4. I’m really curious to see how the relation between our app, and other location-based media with which I tried to connect xwashier will develop. (I’ll write some more about this when I discuss the online media campaign around xwashier).

Xwashier was developed together with Fabrique and Vandejong. I believe they’ve made a slick app, definitely worth a download even if you’re a non-native Dutch, and a straightforward website. Thanks guys.

I believe I missed a thing or two I should definitely have mentioned. However, today the carefully crafted and utterly chaotic launch campaign got some traction, so I’m a bit all over the place. Will blog about that too, as said earlier. It involves using people’s egos, careful monitoring and some really surprising results. Stay tuned!


An example of a xwashier movie: Manhattan.

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  • Anonymous

    Hi Jasper–fascinating website, now to try the app.  Great construct as to the purpose and just sent this off to a client who’s contemplating a similar project. But a small quibble based on local knowledge:  to me, as a New Yorker,  it appears from the narrative that Fort Orange was in Manhattan,  when in reality, it was 150 plus miles up the Hudson in Albany. 

    I’m interested in how you chose your narrator–my first instinct for a project I’m working on was to use older local people and their memories but trying to decide whether ageism will discourage younger people from exploring a quick video.  What do you think?

  • Hi Linda! 

    Thanks. To be honest, I’m not the one to check the historical facts, but I’ll ask my colleagues who wrote the scripts.

    The narrator – Hans Goedkoop – is a famous Dutch presenter of historical documentaries and TV shows, who is well liked, so it was an obvious choice. I don’t know if there were other candidates, I just know he’s really well suited for the job.

    My personal belief is that if you make something understandable for kids, but present it as you would for grown-ups, everybody wins. When it comes to storytelling, I always think about the animations of Dreamworks: suited for all ages.

    I’m really curious to learn about the project that is similar to xwashier. Will you send a link when it’s there?

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