Panorama Schiedam*

*City stories in miniature.

From 14 May 2022

Did you know that Schiedam was founded by Aleida, a strong single woman? And that the city keys made for Emperor Napoleon are still here?

In Panorama Schiedam, the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam tells stories of the city, from hard workers, dreamers and adventurers to heroes, strategists and survivors. You can see the very first house, windmills and blocks of flats, and get to know the Kethel horse that’s over 2,000 years old. The exhibition is for everyone, young and old, and opened on Saturday 14 May 2022 with the festive reopening of the building after being closed for 18 months of renovations. Panorama Schiedam is the first semi-permanent history exhibition in the museum and in the city.

Panorama Schiedam offers a glimpse into the Schiedam of old,’ says museum director Anne de Haij. ‘You can see the stories of Schiedammers from all over the world who together made the city and the Netherlands what it is today.’ City history curator Merel van der Vaart adds, ‘We wanted to focus attention on stories about Schiedam that are sometimes underexposed, but which many people today will recognise themselves in. Step into an imaginative miniature world and see houses with atmospherically lit windows – hear people talking, laughing, and you can literally stand in the middle of it. You can even walk on water.’

Together with history experts from Schiedam, the museum chose 10 stories that are important for the city and often also for the broader history of the Netherlands. Water plays an important role: the trekvaart, an old public transport system, moves people to the city, sometimes from nearby, and sometimes on ships that have sailed the oceans. At high tide, the river Maas causes flooding in the pre-war De Gorzen area, where people shutter their windows and doors to protect their homes.

The exhibition is designed as a performance with Schiedammers in the lead as well as supporting roles. Marloes van der Hoek and Wikke van Houwelingen, artists who usually design theatre sets, collaborated on the design alongside light and sound designers, prop- and model makers. ‘For Schiedammers it will hopefully be a familiar landscape, but people from outside the city will also recognise themselves,’ says Van der Hoek, who compares the panorama with a wünderkammer with treasures large and small. Van Houwelingen adds, ‘You can see the vitality of people – every setback is transformed into action.’

Story of the Netherlands
The exhibition is about living in a vulnerable delta, social inequality, and the global economy. These themes are still topical today and tie in with the Canon of the Netherlands – the 50 key points from Dutch history taught in schools. Schiedam is both ’typically Dutch’ but sometimes also a pioneer: Schiedammers have helped write the story of the Netherlands.

Entering the exhibition, you first see ’the most beautiful view over the city’. As you walk through history your journey begins some 2,000 years ago when the country is part of the Roman Empire. Centuries pass by as you walk on and you get to know Teetge, born around 1600. She’s the innkeeper who helps young men get a contract with the Dutch East India Company in exchange for a part of their wages.

Learn about the plantations of Suriname and the role Schiedammers played in slavery in the Dutch colony. You can also meet Cornelis Stout who sets sail with his family to work in Suriname as a cooper (or barrel maker) but is hijacked by pirates and sold into slavery. After a rescue operation by Schiedammers, the Stout family are bought free and returned.

First female councillor
In the 19th and 20th centuries, Schiedam is dominated by the genever industry, with many Schiedammers working in distilleries, malt houses or in the glass factory. Elisabeth Koeten-Ooms takes part in protests and hunger marches, eventually becoming the first woman in the Netherlands to be elected to the town council in 1919. The last stories are about the neighbourhoods of De Gorzen, Nieuwland and Groenoord and what it’s like to live there in the last half of the 20th century. The panorama ends with visitors’ contributions: that’s where tomorrow’s history begins.

With thanks to
Gemeente Schiedam, VriendenLoterij, Province of Zuid-Holland, Prins Bernhard Cultuurfonds

Collaboration partners
Gemeentearchief Schiedam, Nationaal Jenevermuseum, Historische Vereniging Schiedam, Masamuda educational archaeological site

Images: Esma and Muharrem looking at the Kethel horse (70-270 CE). Collection: Provinciaal Archeologisch Depot Zuid-Holland. Photography: Aad Hoogendoorn
Esma and Muharrem looking at the set of keys made for Emperor Napoleon (1811). Collection: Stedelijk Museum Schiedam. Photography: Aad Hoogendoorn