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De Tiid Museum+ full of connecting stories

The monumental City Hall of Bolsward will be given a new purpose. In 2021, the cultural-historical centre De Tiid – The House of Stories will open its doors. In De Tiid, three smaller museums are merging into a “museum+”. ‘This includes both a permanent presentation and an art hall for changing exhibitions, in addition to a stage for theatre, film and debate and a restaurant. In short, it will be a meeting place for residents of the city and the region,’ says planner and director Eerde Hovinga.

The overarching idea behind the museum concept is Connection. Eerde Hovinga explains: ‘Identity is a thing in Friesland. Freedom plays an important part in this. Language, too, of course. “Us Frisians”: a feeling that’s very much alive here.’

The centre of Bolsward is picturesque, but without a doubt, the pride of this small Frisian town is the seventeenth-century town hall. Following the merger of several local municipalities, it lost its function. The merged municipality of Súdwest-Fryslân asked the Historisch Centrum Westerga foundation to think about a new use for this landmark building. The precondition was that the city hall would continue to fulfil a public function, contributing to the economy, quality of life and cultural life of the region. This is how the idea for De Tiid came about, which is the product of an alliance between three local museums: the Titus Brandsma Museum, the Gysbert Japicxhûs and the Oudheidkamer.

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‘This isn’t a cost cutting exercise,’ emphasises Eerde Hovinga, who in addition to being the organiser, was also the temporary director of De Tiid. ‘In the past, all three museums would receive about five thousand Euro each per year. The city council now subsidises the cultural historical centre for more than 200,000 Euro a year. So that really is an investment.’ All three museums were in decline, and together they had less than seven thousand visitors per year. De Tiid aims for 35,000 paying visitors. The design of De Tiid is financed through fundraising. ‘Dioraphte and other funders have donated generously, but corona has greatly limited our efforts to solicit sponsorship from the business community,’ says Hovinga. ‘For now, we are still on course to reach our target amount.’


The overarching idea of the museum concept is connection. Eerde Hovinga explains: ‘Identity is a thing in Friesland. Freedom plays an important part in this. Language, too, of course. “Us Frisians”: a feeling that’s very much alive here. The five rooms of the permanent exhibition will be dedicated to telling stories about the region. From the city of Sneek, for example, we will have the supposed helmet of Grote Pier. There is a myth that Grote Pier was a resistance hero, but history tells us otherwise in reality, one could maybe call him a pirate. Or possibly even the first ‘blokkeerfries’ [referring to a number of Friesland residents who stopped anti-blackface activists from reaching a pre-arranged demonstration in the Northern province, by setting up a roadblock on the motorway, ed.]. We pose these kinds of dilemmas to the visitor, thus making the connection with the present.’

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The collections of all three museums are presented in a contemporary and dynamic manner on the basis of twelve themes. However, the jewel of the cultural history centre stands on top of the Town Hall. ‘The stone tower is unique because it rests on an oak roof. According to architects, this is completely impossible and yet it has been there for centuries. We want to make the structure transparent and accessible to the public, with a guided tour and multimedia experiences.’ In any event, De Tiid will become more than just an exhibition space. ‘We will also make use of our immediate surroundings. For that we use the so-called Tales of Art application. As people walk through the old centre of Bolsward, they can use their smartphone to read a QR code at specific points, for example at an elevated location. There they will be told how Bolsward was built on three artificially raised mounds, or ‘terps’. That increases the size of the museum a hundredfold. This is how we manage the risk and spread the visitors.’