Case: Speaking Heritage (Zuid-Holland, the Netherlands)

In 2022 the organisation Erfgoedhuis Zuid-Holland (Heritagecenter South-Holland) launched a new pilot program called Sprekend erfgoed (Speaking heritage). The program’s aim was to lower the threshold for museum visits for a specific target audience, new Dutch citizens and low literate people. These two groups, often in museums underrepresented, may experience more obstacles when visiting a museum than more experienced visitors.


Starting as a pilot Erfgoedhuis Zuid-Holland connected four museums in the south of the Netherlands with local language trainers. These language trainers provide lessons and classes to learn the Dutch language. New Dutch citizens and low literate people come together in these (mandatory) integration classes. To learn the new language but also, indirectly, to share new experiences and obstacles that come with learning a foreign language.


The four participating museums were Museum Vlaardingen, the Dutch National Museum of Antiquities, the National Dredging Museum and the National Museum of Education. Together the local language trainers and the museums created a special program for the target group to fit their needs while taking into account the difficulties or obstacles the participants might encounter. The language trainer knows the participants and knows their capabilities. The museum knows it’s collection and how to create engaging educational programs. The result were three to four lessons (each with a duration of one and a half to two hours long) per museum.

The main goal was to connect the participants with their local museums. Help them with the first steps toward museum visits.

Impact (usability for WINSOME)

The project offered an opportunity for the participating museums to learn from and with the target audience. The language trainers experienced the added value of museum visits in their language program as well as the many possibilities a local museum has to offer. Through the collaboration new connections and relations were formed.

The program offered the target group a chance to discover a cultural site near them. The museum visits became accessible for them due to how the program was setup. They were integrated in their regular language classes and were during their normal ‘school hours’. The participants visited the same museum three to four times, during which they were greeted by the same person working in the museum and their own language trainer. This made the participants more familiar with the museum and feel more at home. During the one and a half to two hours the participants could practice their Dutch in a more informal setting. Enough time was set aside to talk about the museums collection but also, and maybe more important, about their own experiences with the subject of the museums collection.

During the evaluation of the pilot program all partners were enthusiastic and many wanted to continue with the program. To facilitate this Erfgoedhuis Zuid-Holland applied for and received a subsidy for Sprekend erfgoed from the Cultural Participation Fund and Fonds 1818. The subsidy makes it possible to not only continue but also to expand the program from four participating museums to twenty.


A strong aspect of the Sprekend erfgoed project was the partnership between Erfgoedhuis Zuid-Holland, the language trainers and the participating museums. They all brought their different expertise’s and experiences to create a new program specific for a new audience. Thanks to the program consisting of three or four different visits to the museum it was possible to build a bond between the participants of the language course and the museum worker. Familiarity, trust and a real sense of being welcomed turned out to be the most important aspects of the visits. To see their own language trainer, someone they already knew and trusted, made it easier to form this connection.


Contact information

Erfgoedhuis Zuid-Holland: Iris Brandts ( ), Evelien Masselink ( ), Janneke van Es ( )


Juultje Slotema, National Museum of Education,


Header Photo by Monica Melton on Unsplash