Histories of cities live on through the web

Facebook groups, websites with memories and area blogs: citizens are becoming heritage keepers increasingly. Researcher Arno van der Hoeven is actually going to study this immense variety of online initiatives focusing on city heritage. For this, he received a KIEM-grant from the “Dutch Organization for Scientific Research” (Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek, or NOW).

On the world wide web, a vibrant culture of remembrance has sprung to life when it comes to cities. This varies from Facebook-groups with historical pictures to heritage blogs and local memory websites. Furthermore, heritage institutions, such as city museums, are encouraging audiences gradually to share stories related to the history of cities in question.


In the upcoming year, researcher Arno van der Hoeven (Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication) will study this immense variety of online initiatives focusing on city heritage.

The other day, this research project received a KIEM-grant of 15,000 euros from the NOW. The KIEM-program finances collaborations between researchers and organizations in the world of the creative industry. In Van der Hoeven’s project, the collaboration partners consist of Het Nieuwe Instituut and DEN (a knowledge institute focusing on digital culture).

Saving historical information

The project of Van der Hoeven revolves around the societal value of these online heritage initiatives. He is going to research ways to magnify engagement with local heritage.

The websites enrich the knowledge of city heritage and ensure that historical information will not go to waste. People sharing historical stories and old footage on the Internet entails that this material is preserved for generations to come. 

Subjects that are being discussed on the websites are for instance the histories of local businesses, music-related heritage of cities and memories of buildings that are not with us anymore today. On top of that, these websites allow stories of cities which have been destroyed in times of war to spread as well. The website called “Rotterdamse Platform Wederopbouw” for example exposes visitors to stories and images of how the city developed itself after World War II. Another case lies in The Aleppo Project, which aims at mapping places which vanished as a result of the Syrian civil war.

About Arno van der Hoeven

Arno van der Hoeven is a university teacher at the department of Media and Communication of Erasmus University Rotterdam. Van der Hoeven’s research interests lie in culture and heritage of cities. Besides his research and teaching tasks, Van der Hoeven also has the position of chairman at DIG IT UP. This non-profit foundation develops cultural programs focused on metropolitan tangible as well as intangible heritage in Rotterdam.

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