Project 3

Sensitive history under negotiation: Pupils' historical imagination and attribution of significance while engaged in heritage projects

This project has been completed. The study resulted in the publications listed below. Savenije successfully defended her thesis on Thursday October 9th, 2014 at the Erasmus University Rotterdam.


Savenije, G.M., Van Boxtel, C. & Grever, M. (2014). Learning about sensitive history: 'Heritage' of slavery as a resourceTheory and Research in Social Education42(4) 516-547.

Savenije, G.M. (2014) Sensitive History under Negotiation: Pupils' Historical Imagination and Attribution of Significance while Engaged in Heritage Projects, Unpublished PhD Dissertation, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands. ISBN/EAN: 978-94-6108-722-5. 
Awarded ‘Best PhD thesis of the year 2014 - Graduate School Award for PhD Excellence’ by the Erasmus Graduate School of Social Sciences and the Humanities.

Savenije, G.M., Van Boxtel, C. & Grever, M. (2014). Sensitive ‘heritage’ of slavery in a multicultural classroom: Pupils’ ideas regarding significance. British Journal of Educational Studies, 62(2), 127-148.

Savenije, G.M. (2011). Discussion in chains: Pupils’ ideas about slavery heritage, in C. van Boxtel, S. Klein en E. Snoep (Eds.), Heritage education: challenges in dealing with the past (Amsterdam, Erfgoed Nederland) pp. 32-39.

Van Boxtel, C., De Bruijn, P., Grever, M., Klein, S. & Savenije, G.M. (2010). Dicht bij het verleden. Wat kunnen erfgoedlessen bijdragen aan het leren van geschiedenis?, Kleio 51 (7), 18-23. ISSN: 0165-6449. 

If you are interested to learn more about this project please contact Geerte Savenije.

Project information

Although little is known about the ways in which pupils learn history during museum visits, people have many expectations of it. This mixed methods multiple case study examined pupils’ learning about sensitive history, specifically the history of slavery and the Second World War, while engaged in heritage projects including a museum visit. The study focused on the ways in which pupils imagine a particular history and attribute significance to this history. The data were collected using questionnaires, individual interviews and observations of pupil group work and museum educators. 

The study revealed that the heritage projects enriched the pupils’ images of the past and made them more concrete. Also, many pupils were stimulated to empathise with the people from the past. However, they had little attention for the historical context of these people and they had difficulty to take other perspectives than their own present-day perspective. The heritage projects provided insight in the different ways in which significance is attributed to the past in current Dutch society. The projects enabled the pupils to explore their own ideas regarding significance and how these were related to their identity. However, the possibility to find the heritage unimportant remained undiscussed, although many pupils found this an interesting perspective and did not necessarily attached great importance to the preservation of the heritage. 

This empirical study contributes to theories regarding these aspects of history learning and creates an empirical basis for a discussion about the constraints and benefits of learning history in heritage projects. The insights of this study can inform pedagogies of history teachers and museum educators.

Supervisors: prof.dr. Carla van Boxtel and prof.dr. Maria Grever

Original NWO Application Project 3 (pdf)
PhD, Heritage and entrance narratives: constructing shared historical knowledge