One way we do this learning is by remembering. Perhaps we learn to remember most explicitly in the realm of what is called history, and in school when we are thaught what is necessary to learn and worthy to remember. Museums are also a place where we might bring a visite to the past with the hope to find a connection to our present existence.
A while back, I was part of a group of students remembering one of the most famous stories in ‘Dutch history’. We visited the Anne Frank house, a museum I remembered from the countless visits during my youth (this was long before you had to wait hours in line to get in).
For the visit I joined students who were ‘new’ to the European mainland of the Netherlands. Most of them recently traveled from Aruba, Curacao, Bonaire to study at universities and applied colleges. The visit, complete with a formal reception, was arranged by WeConnect, a foundation that attends to Caribbean students by organizing educational projects and events throughout the territories in Kingdom of the Netherlands. They arrange this visit every year. Notably absent were students from the other three islands. Hurricane Irma had recently raged over the Atlantic and passed the islands Sint Maarten, Saba and Statia only weeks before. Nearly all of Sint Maarten was left destroyed.
The director of the institute introduced us to the detailed version of Anne Franks’ story, and concluded with a critical statement by Otto Frank, Anne’s father, who urges us all to question the relation and difference between learning a history lesson and the lesson that history teaches. Cryptic for many, it seemed. And so we left our bags and coats, put on the heaphones handed out to us and continued to the exhibition.
“The time will come when we will be people again and not just Jews!”
Margot and Anne immediately collected their valuables in their schoolbags when Margot received the call to report for duty in a German, so called ‘working camp’.
Myself and two of the students stood there, gazing at the walls on which this was printed. The students next to me wondered what to bring along when you are forced to leave home, so suddenly. What did these girls collect to bring with them on that fearful quest? We exchanged looks of not knowing, also wondering what we would bring with us in that schoolbag. What are the things most valuable to help us remember who we are?
The audiotour paused when we arrived in the backhouse. The floors squeeked in the former secret annexe. Silence swept the room as the students allayed themselves to whisper, switching between english and papiamento. “I’m trying to walk real soft”.
(this blog was posted earlier in the July 2018 newsletter of the Caribbean Studies Association.)