The Hunebedcentrum in Borger, Netherland, a countryside-museum about the oldest Dutch monuments, the so called ls"hunebedden', won the Museum award for the best archaeological museum in 2008. Of course we are proud and pleased with the recognition, but we have only an intuition why we won. Intuition is more or less a key-word for what we are doing, although it is combined with and at the same time narrowed by sound archaeological knowledge. Since 2005 we have built a new Hunebedcentrum for the sum of euro; 7,1 million. For that amount we realized a new museum, a knowledge centre and a terrain used for experimental archaeology. In 2008 nearly 100.000 visitors came to take a glance at what we have achieved.
A very important extra topic for the museum is biggest dolmen of the Netherlands, on the near by territory. The authentic remains of prehistoric times combines a new museum with one of the oldest monuments of our country. Authenticity is important for the modern visitor. Although we try to keep in contact with the development of modern media, like internet and computer programs as Face book and LinkedIn, we noticed that a virtual visit to our museum does not replace a visit to the real thing. Modern media are important to establish and maintain contact with our potential visitors, to make them eager to visit us in reality.
Our permanent exhibition and our activities are produced around a very fruitful
metaphor: the archaeologist is in principle a detective. As the modern detective, the archaeologist researches traces on the crime scene, which give him an idea of what happened at the moment of the crime. Of course it cannot be denied, that the research of a crime scene 5000 years ago has its own difficulties and dynamics. The archaeologist, when doing research, meets society, meets the individual and meets himself. All three color his results. For an Archaeological Museum the metaphor opens ways to the public.
Empathy is combined with scientific research and the presentation of the materialistic remains of the prehistoric past. Jean Paul Sartre, the great French writer and philosopher, stated that we, humans, are able to understand each other, no matter how long ago people lived. We hope he is right. One of the main results of "empathic archaeology" is the production of prehistoric biographies. Through these biographies we open the way to identification of our public with their ancestors of flesh and blood. In the museumconcept we try to reach the public by stimulating all senses: seeing, smelling, hearing, tasting, feeling. It enables the visitor to stand, for a brief moment, in the footsteps of prehistoric man. By means of empathic archaeology we try to seek ways to combine different sciences with empathic feeling, a sense of intuition in reconstructing the past, as in fact the modern detective does when he tries to imagine what happened at the crime scene.
To think about a beautiful concept is one thing, to realize it is another. For very young children we created Oek. He is a six year old boy, child of dolmen-builders, experiencing his live in a village 5000 years ago. Oek enables children of our time to identify with the past. He is at the same time a universal child, one of them, and living in an unknown world, one of the others. The concept worked. We realized in six years four books, a tv-serie, a CD with Oek-songs, a movie and a musical. As a museum we could work on the books and give advise on the scientific correctness to the songwriters, scene writers, film and tv-makers, Oek became a identity-provider that overreached the target group of young children of 5-8 years old. With Oek we reached their parents and grandparents as well. In our opinion it goes to show that museums should think in interest groups in stead of socio-demographic defined target groups. Many people are interested in archaeology or ls"the past 'in a more general sense. We should try to tip on that interest and framework of reverence. It changes our way of looking at marketing and public relations. The Hunebed centrum is very happy with Oek, but we did not see his popularity coming, we just followed our intuition.
We live in a global era of our history. We all know the world has become a village. Modern media keep us informed about what happens on the other side of the world. At the same time, we are in need of local and regional ancers, we need to define, redefine or even make our regional or national identity. Perhaps the Hunebed centrum moves a string in this field. Perhaps that is the key to the success we had so far. Perhaps that is the reason we won the National Museum award in our country. We don't really know the secret. We just have an intuition about it.
And as we all know: successes of the past give no guarantee for the future. In the meantime we enjoy what we have achieved.
We hope that when people say ls"hunebed' they think of the Hunebedcentrum as a ls"must see ls"area'.
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