Personal stories about the Japanese occupation in Museon.


This project is a design collaboration with Meta Menkveld Ontwerp.





This accessible and poignant exhibition provides an impressive picture of the occupation of the Dutch East Indies, by connecting objects and drawings with fragments from diaries, letters and memoirs. We tent to recreate the personal stories with the factual collection there is at Museon.

Two million people with a family history in the former Dutch East Indies lives in the Netherlands. What happend with those families during and after World War II? The exhibition ‘Getekend’. ‘Personal stories about the Japanese occupation’ bring their experiences closer by connecting memories and stories to drawings and objects. What is striking is the resilience of people. You can feel the urge to survive, you are amazed by the artic expression in difficult circumstances. The drawings are not only testimonies of brutal experiences and extreme situations, but were also a way to express yourself despite the Japanese oppression.


The exhibition title is a duality of the Dutch word ‘getekend’. You can translate it als drawed/drawing, als a big part of the collection is the drawings as representation of the situation of those days. But the other less literal translation is ‘being troubled/scared/marked by a situation’, which of course referce to the incredible time they went through inside and outside of the Japanese internment camps in the former Dutch East Indies.



Background of the exhibition


In 2020 it will be 75 years since World War II ended. During this war, the former colony of the Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia, was occupied by Japan. Unexpectedly we find ourselfs in a less free year as we would have expected, by suppression of a virus other then a war. Because we already find ourselves greatly noticed in our freedom by the threat of a virus, we do understand the impact of restricted freedom more then before. So we feel the urge to share the knowlage even more then before the outbreak.


The war of the Netherlands with Japan and the occupation of the Dutch East Indies are less known to the general public in the Netherlands. At the same time, the memory of the consequences of the war lives on among Dutch people with an Indonesian background. The exhibition ‘Getekend. Personal Stories of the Japanese Occupation’ provides an introduction to the subject and recognition for those who experienced it.





Exhibition design


To celebrate this year’s freedom and accessibility, accessibility for the blind and partially sighted was central. The exhibition therefore starts with an audio furniture where you can listen to personal stories and descriptions of drawings throughout the exhibition via a podcather. But in order to make the exhibition content manageable, you first need some background information. The exhibition therefore already starts in the portal of the UN goals of the Museon. There you will find an information video about WW2 in Asia, a long showcase with a timeline created by an artifact, a personal story and an enlarged drawing for context. But also a unit with a ‘kamferkist’, a sort of travelings cheast from back in the days. On the side of this entrance portal Museon shows a number of objects with a personal story in this timeline. For example a cup the size of a can of tomato paste. It was on board a ship that people tried to flee from the Japanese invasion in 1942. Their ship was torpedoed and the refugees floated around the sea for days in a lifeboat. With the cup, the castaways distributed the little drinking water they had. Out of gratitude, one of the survivors decorated this cup and kept it for a lifetime. Are you curious for more stories? Visit the publications on the digital exhibition, or visit the exhibition after the Corona-measures later this year.


The exhibition, which covers themes such as the invasion of Japan, internment, out-of-town campers, the Burma railway, the nuclear bomb on Nagasaki, Bersiap and repatriation, has been made accessible to a wide audience, including an introduction film, audioguide and touchable replicas of objects. The audio guide makes it possible to switch between the perspective of children, women and men. There are also various guided tours, especially for the blind and visually impaired.




Central to the exhibition is a selection of over fifty drawings, all made in captivity. Among the estimated 142,000 captured civilians and soldiers were numerous people with visual arts training, such as the artists Johan Gabriëlse and Frida Holleman or the advertising artist Jan Kickhefer. But next to these amazing drawings from the Museon collection there is an audio-tour with personal stories and several interactive furniture pieces giving you more information about the food (or better sad the lack of it), the way of (secret) communication and the placement of kamps all over the eilands.




For Museon this exhibition is the starting point of a year full of activities and exhibitions in the context of 75 Years of Freedom and 75 Years of the UN, in which the museum collaborates with the National Remembrance Foundation on 15 August 1945. ‘Getekend. Personal stories about the Japanese occupation’ came about thanks to contributions from the Ministry of VWS, the Municipality of The Hague and the RAAK Stimuleringsprijs. The exhibition is designed bij Meta Menkveld and Iris Erkelens, curated by Hub Kockelkorn and lead by Gert-Jan van Rijn. And internaly produced by Museon.