Nieuwe groeten uit… (“New greetings from…”) is a crowd-sourced, crowd-curated exposition in the city of Arnhem in the east of the Netherlands. Last Thursday my museum opened the last part of the yearlong project. In many ways it’s a special exposition and project, I think, and worth sharing.
Somewhat over a year ago FOAM photography museum Amsterdam, the ANP Historical Archive and the Museum of National History of the Netherlands came together to find a replacement for the traditional postcards. Most postcards show an old-fashioned image of Holland: cheese, cows and wooden shoes. The Netherlands has changed significantly over the last years, and Nieuwe Groeten Uit… was a search for new postcards.
The general public played a mayor part in every phase of the project: gathering the photographs for the postcards, selecting the best post-cards and even putting them on display.
The process from idea to exposition in 10 steps
- May 2009 we asked everybody in the Netherlands to send us photos that according to them gave an image of the Netherlands. They could upload their photos on a special website and put them in four categories. All photos were welcome, from those taken with mobile phones to professional shots.
- In little over a month a wide range of people uploaded 8.000 photos. There was a 3-photo limit for everybody. A professional jury sorted through the thousands of photos to select the best ones for every region and category.
- In the summer of 2009 a special inflatable exposition space travelled through the Netherlands, stopping at each of the 12 regional capitals. People were invited to vote for their favourite photo of their region, which they did.
- In every city, special events were organised around the tour. I visited the exposition in four cities and every time it was something special. Hundreds of people cast their votes and photographers from all over the country came to defend their photo as a winner for the postcards.
- The maker of the winning photo of each region could win a camera. All selected photos were printed as real postcards. This resulted in 48 unique postcards of contemporary Holland.
- When the tour ended, the Museum of National History began to prepare for the final exposition. Being the first exposition of the museum, people who sent in photos were often proud to be able to become a part of this first exposition of the new museum.
- Last Thursday we opened this exposition. Not in a building, but in the city of Arnhem. Photos are put on display in shops and many other places (see below). Hundreds of photos are spread out over Arnhem.
- In a small venue, a multimedia installation allows people to print their own postcard for the Netherlands using the thousands of photos as a starting point. The installation records which photos are selected and will tell us the most popular ones when the exposition is finished. People can do the same process from their homes on a special website.
- In addition to the exposition, two famous Dutch writers wrote a book with observations about the photos. Hans Aarsman and Anna Woltz selected the best photos for their book.
- When the exposition ends this summer, all photos and other input collected through the exposition will serve as a document on how the Dutch see the Netherlands in the early 21st century.
The city as exposition space
The number of ways in which photos are and were put on display during the project especially struck me. Just a selection of the options used:
The inflatable exposition space and a photo on display in a church.
Photos on display in a music book store and in a hairdressers.
A photo in a shop and on an advertisement pole.
And finally: photos on a billboard and as table cloth in a restaurant.
What I think was especially nice about the project
Nieuwe Groeten Uit… was the first exposition I cooperated in for the Museum of National History. Although my role in the process was limited, especially in the beginning I’ve spent quite some time working on the project. Some things I learned and think were nice about the project:
- Touring the country with our inflatable exposition space offered great opportunities for community events. The exposition space served as a hub for other activities on more than one occasion. When we were in Arnhem, for example, people organised workshops in photography, tours around the city and many other things.
- The enormous red inflatable exposition space sparked conversation. When the thing was in Enschede on many occasions I saw strangers talk with each other after being “shocked” by the sudden presence of the exposition.
- The cooperation with the partners in the project, FOAM and ANP, left me with some nice contacts in other organisations. On a personal and even professional level we are still in contact to help each other with other projects and ideas.
- The presentation of photos in shops at the final exposition is a thing I truly like. As most of the participating shops are small independent shops, it’s a way for them to reach a larger audience. Some of the shops I visited when going through Arnhem to see the exposition are rare places that I’m happy to have discovered.
Over the past year Nieuwe Groeten Uit… gained quite some attention from different types of people. The audience always played a significant part in the project. The positive press coverage and – more importantly – the positive responses of ordinary people, have made this a very useful project to me.
Nieuwe Groeten Uit… is made possible with a contribution of the BankGiro Loterij.