Ghent Festivities


Museum: Huis van Alijn  website
Years: 2018

Huis van Alijn

The House of Alijn collects, researches and shares memories about daily life. Strange and familiar, from the past and present. As a museum for everyone, together we give meaning to what touches and connects people. With this mission, the House of Alijn focuses on the cultural heritage of daily life, whereby the division between material and immaterial heritage is not unambiguous. Numerous objects, stories, images, testimonies, documents etc. make the immaterial cultural heritage tangible / audible / visible.

Traditions, rituals and habits of daily life as a basis for heritage work in the House of Alijn emphasizes the importance of intangible cultural heritage. We map, document and investigate this. Another safeguard measure is the deployment of ICH in the public work; rituals, traditions and customs give rise to numerous activities that also focus on knowledge sharing. Around the rituals, traditions and habits of the life cycle, threshold moments and the annual calendar is used strongly and this over all museum functions.

'What tradition, ritual or custom might someday disappear and why?', this question was asked to the public during the preparatory research of the new main exhibition in 2017. The results determined the substantive choices in the realization of the new main exhibition. With the expo-series "From the photo album" the audience is asked to participate by sharing photos from the personal family album at the expo and through the museum collection. The themes of this series have been selected on the basis of their permanent place in the classic family album. Although the rituals, traditions and habits from family life are about intimate events, patterns, stylistic figures and changes are mapped out through the creation of a collective photo album. This also applies to the family film collections and numerous documentary collections such as birth announcements, communion cards, New Year's letters, etc. These collections show how rituals, traditions and customs, ICH, change family-style from the 20th century onwards. The collected metadata chart evolutions and change.

Looking at photos and family film itself is also a ritual and a tradition, bursting with conventions. The "Homeless Movies" expo focused on these rituals. These rituals were also the subject of the European research we participated in: "Changing platforms or ritualised memory practices. The cultural dynamics of home movies." Rituals associated with family film were mapped in the Netherlands and Belgium.

Ghent Festivities

Description of the project / practice / program

Ten days of continuous celebration in the Ghent city center, these are the Ghent Festivities. The Ghent Festivities are a benchmark in the lives of many generations of revelers. This year for the 175th time. Over the years the Festivities have been regularly reinvented. This space for innovation and change is a constant, making the Ghent Festivities the successful festival it is today. They are among the most popular festivals in Europe.

The Festivities are a cocktail of numerous activities that are remarkably diverse. Absurd humor and chanson, theater and drama, passion and satire, stunts and silence, schlager and beats, it is all part of it. The public not only enjoys stage acts and street performers, it also speaks for itself. There is a dream about a better world and social criticism sounds loud and clear in debates and in the theater. Since 1843, this versatility has been on the program, but how this has been changed has changed. Sports, music and fireworks are inextricably linked to the Ghent Festivities program. The archers' guilds and horse races from the elite first parties have been replaced today by a popular fan day for the Ghent soccer team. Fireworks shifted from the inner city of Ghent to the edge of the city. There is not 'a sound' of the Ghent Festivities, but countless musical genres together form the sounds of the city. How the Festivities open changes over time; from the opening procession organized by numerous Ghent associations to the longest fanfare, the call of the bellsman or the key change of the mayor to the party mayor. Traditions full of change make the Ghent Festivities.

The House of Alijn has a special bond with the Ghent Festivities. Since the museum settled on the Kraanlei in 1962, the party garden is celebrated. This year the museum will participate in the Ghent Festivities for the 55th time. Pierke van Alijn has always been there. Also the Friends of the House of Alijn celebrate an anniversary: this year is their 20th anniversary. They have played an important role in the organization of the Ghent Festivities for so long. Since four years these volunteers even take care of the complete Ghent Festivities program at the House of Alijn.

Today the city celebrates completely different from the first edition in 1843. The exhibition GHENT FESTIVITIES highlights a grand and diverse festival. Or how the Festivities reflect the spirit of the times, with the city and the audience in the leading role.

The exhibition GHENT FESTIVITIES shows a rich collection of posters and programs, photos, film fragments and interviews with personal stories, from the past and present. They not only remind of important milestones, but also show the evolution and dynamics of the city, the Festivities and the public. Not only do we show the history, we also focus on current events: we invite organizers to publish their program at the expo and work together with an illustrator to register the 2018 edition of the Ghent Festivities.

How were practitioners of intangible cultural heritage involved?

The Ghent Festivities are not one festival with one organizer. Today there are 16 official organizers, 64 private initiatives with financial support from the city and numerous other private initiatives. The Ghent Festivities are possible thanks to the efforts of associations, city policy, catering, organizers, etc, professionals and amateurs, paid employees and volunteers. One edition of Ghent Festivities has numerous stakeholders, in a historical perspective this means a particularly large heritage community. And that includes also the public, stakeholders, collectors. Their stories, knowledge, material are the basis for the entire expo. In order to make it possible for the organization to realize sincere participation, thoughtful choices had to be made.

There have been intense dialogues with organizers, today and in the past, as well as the voice of residents and the public has been heard. These conversations have also been recorded, are included in a book and a selection can be seen at the expo. In collaboration with the organizers, archival material (documents, photos, moving images, sound, ...) is collected and current events are documented. Audiences, fans, critics, city staff, journalists and collectors were also interviewed and involved in the realization of the exhibition.

These collaborations in combination with historical research resulted in a selection of traditions that are highlighted at the exhibition: 12 recent and current traditions form '24h at the Festivities' with attention to the versatility of the parties. These 12 ICH traditions were elaborated in depth in cooperation with the heritage community involved. In addition, the expo also wants to give a glimpse into the rich history and especially to encourage people to experience the Festivities themselves.

In addition, special attention is paid to the museum's relationship with the Ghent Festivities. Today, the courtyard garden of the museum is the oldest active party squares. Museum staff in the past took the initiative to start the opening procession of the Festivities, in 1974 this tradition started until 2015. In addition, since decades 'Pierke van Alijn' holds a prominent place on the museum's festival program. This year, the Friends of Alijn celebrate their 20th birthday. This volunteer organization takes care of the organization of the Festivities in the museum. Volunteers realize an extensive program full of music and spectacle, but also ensure that drinks and snacks are served. The functioning of the Friends of Alijn, that count more than 800 members, is part of the exhibition. There is a glimpse into their history through photos among others, but the action of dishwashers and servers is literally part of the look behind the scenes of the exhibition.

CV of the author

Els Veraverbeke is Conservator of the House of Alijn. Together with her motivated team, she has nurtured a way of working characterized by daring to question the role of the public, by its original communications strategies and its multidisciplinary approach and quality content. As an historian specialized in (post)modern mentality and emotional history, Els Veraverbeke has succeeded at the House of Alijn in placing the culture and heritage of the everyday in the spotlight. Having curated many exhibitions and projects since 1999, she and her team have developed the museum as a forum built on public participation, societal engagement and contemporary relevance.



13 July 2018 from 09:31 to 09:31



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