Each of our museums is tasked not only with preserving our history, but also making it come alive for us and for our visitors. Each one has a different story to tell: about our rich past, about how we were so marked by war years. About our fisheries, our fruit orchards. And the local museums are a treasure trove of our families, friends and neighbours.
We make sure our museums are cool for kids. Like the old steam engine which pulls its nostalgic Goes-Borsele train on its own tracks from Goes, via Kwadendamme, to Hoedekenskerke. A real conductor clips your tickets, and a real stoker sweats away to feed the engine with coal. Now that is real work.
A visit to the flood disaster museum is an absolute must. That catastrophe is forever a part of us. Many people still do not sleep well on stormy nights, even with the Delta Works. In the exhibition, hear how a child was saved, floating in a reed basket. Look at the concrete caissons which closed the broken dikes. And learn how we cope today, and shall cope tomorrow, in the struggle with water. Our coat of arms says ‘Luctor et Emergo’. I struggle, and I shall survive. Among the especially child-friendly museums are the Zeeuws Maritiem muZEEum in Vlissingen, about our relationship with the sea.
The Zeeuws Museum in Middelburg is even more interactive, with tinkering space, and hands-on objects and experiments in the Magisch Museumlab. Go with a guide to see top items, like Roman ruins, the halls of paintings and the collection of costumes and fabulous tapestries.
The Maritiem Museum in Gravensteen in Zierikzee is another hotspot. Go back in time reading prisoners’ graffiti carved on old oak panels by robbers, bandits and smugglers. And you’ll see the ‘stones of shame’ which ‘errant’ women carried around town as part of their public humiliation.
Being the oldest town in Zeeland, Aardenburg has had time to develop some canny communication skills. The archaeology museum will lift you back in time to mingle among the soldiers and citizens of this Roman Empire outpost.
The Polderhuis in Westkapelle charts the history of Walcheren from the days of the Iron Age. Through the Romans and Vikings, to the Golden Age. And on to the Second World War, bombing and reconstruction. From the lookout tower, the proximity of the sea to the village is stunning: just one sturdy, one solitary, dike.
Another jewel in Zeeland is the range of local museums, like in Goes and Sint-Annaland. A very special one is the Warenhuis (yes, the warehouse) in Axel. It delves back into the past lives of locals between 1850 and 1950. Their looks, appearances, aspirations. No clues, but there’s a fun barcode game to play there.
The Terra Maris experience centre in Oostkapelle, a museum, is run by the Zeeuwse Landschap foundation. It’s based in the former orangery of Westhove castle. Kids just love all the adventures it has in store. Adults tend to appreciate the beauty of the premises and surrounding landscape, and the quality of explanations. And the name? You got it, Land from the Sea.