Historical evidence, new season at AVROTROS

It is in the middle of the 20th century that a space race takes place between the Russians and the Americans in the middle of the Cold War. On July 16, 1969, the Americans were the first to set foot on the moon. Nixon donates to heads of state a piece of tangible proof of their superiority: lunar rockers. Queen Juliana also receives this gift. But were the moon cliffs, which are in the Rijksmuseum Boerhaave in Leiden, actually taken by Neil Armstrong during the Apollo 11 mission? In a new season of Historical Evidence, a team of experts sets out to find the answer to this question. Other relics they research are Willem Barentsz’s flag (Rijksmuseum), Willemsorde of Van Speijk (Marine Museum), Judith van Dorth’s blindfold (Rijksmuseum) and Grutte Piers sword (Fries Museum). Were they silent witnesses to a crucial moment in history? And what story do these relics tell?

The team that revives history with these studies once again consists of Martine Gosselink, historian and director of Mauritshuis, Robert van Langh, head of Conservation & Science at the Rijksmuseum and Stephanie Archangel, curator of history at the Rijksmuseum.

Innovative research
The education combines scientific and materials technology research with historical archive and source research. Also in this second series, everything is pulled out to get as close as possible to the historical events; from simulation of large explosions to microscopic dust and color research. Robert van Langh: “We work again with many people and institutions. This makes the stories rich and provides new and refreshing insights. For example, I am going to the University of Manchester to research the exact composition of the moonstone and for the research into the Military Order of William by Jan Van Speijk, experts from the NFI and the Armed Forces imitate the explosion on his ship.

Historical significance
Examining the origins of objects is also a journey of discovery through history, a unique opportunity to retell the stories of the past. Martine Gosselink: “Whether the object was created afterwards or really was part of the story: the whole story around the object makes it a relic. Thanks to the sword from the Grutte Pier, for example, we now have the opportunity to dive into a lesser known but important period in Dutch history and interpret the meaning of the Grutte Pier in Friesland then and now. That alone is incredibly valuable

On-site archive survey
The team will not only stay in the Netherlands, but will also travel to Tromsø in Norway to investigate whether the flag fragments in the Polar Museum belong to the same flag as the flag fragments in the Rijksmuseum, and whether the flags on Willem Barentsz ‘ship waved. Stephanie Archangel: “Being allowed to do archival research in the icy cold, near Nova Zembla, adds another dimension to the story. By seeing and feeling the harsh conditions under which Barentz and his crew were to survive for 10 months; it gives a completely different meaning to all the facts and figures in the documents that I review in the archive

Scientific recognition
Can one of the three bookcases at the Rijksmuseum, Museum Prinsenhof Delft and Loevestein Castle be considered the real coffin in which the legal scholar Hugo de Groot managed to escape his eternal prison sentence in Loevestein Castle in 1621? This question was the focus of one of the episodes of Historisch Bewijs that was broadcast on AVROTROS last year. The innovative way of conducting research combining different techniques resulted in the NWO Team Science Award 2021 for the Center for Mathematics and Informatica, the University of Amsterdam, the Rijksmuseum and Leiden University. They worked together to determine the origin of Hugo de Groot’s three potential bookshelves using techniques that had never been used before.
Historical evidence from 26 August at 22.10 at AVROTROS at NPO 2

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