Living History

Step back in time to 1913!

Actors play the parts of inhabitants of a Haspengouw village, and give a real feel of what everyday life in rural Flanders was like back in 1913. The priest can be heard giving his fire-and-brimstone sermon, the village schoolmaster or schoolmistress gives lessons in the little schoolroom, and on the farm everybody has to work hard.

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There are always 4 to 8 actors active in the Haspengouw section of the museum between 10:00 and 16:45 or 17:45. In the church, you can check out the daily programme, and take a copy with you if you like, with more information about what’s on offer on the day concerned!

The village characters in the Haspengouw section of the museum are played by actors, modern people who get into the skin of a character. Actors play characters who are sometimes based on real historical figures, but in most cases a combination of different figures (in this case with fictitious names) associated with a certain historical background. These actors play out scenes within historical scenarios, and behave just like the character would have done at the time, interacting in and with the same type of situation, and always staying in character.

This method of portraying historical situations through role play or demonstrations, sometimes in interaction with an audience is called Living History.

We have created the scene from 1913, the year before the outbreak of WWI, the Great War, which would change history forever.

1913 thus: King Albert I had recently been crowned King of Belgium, Congo had been a Belgian colony for a number of years and the Catholic Party dominated political life, both in faraway Brussels and 'our village', but the rumblings of emerging socialism could be felt. Flemish demands for equal rights in a still very francophone Belgium were becoming louder. The tradition of drawing lots for military service had recently been repealed, and replaced by conscription.

In Haspengouw, fruit growing was becoming increasingly important, and the new Farmer’s Wives Union was rapidly acquiring new members. The sinking of the Titanic was still fresh in the memory, but there were also reasons for celebration. For example, the popularity of cycle racing was growing rapidly, and for the second year running, a Belgian won the Tour de France. Closer to home, a new tradition was born: the very first Tour of Flanders was held in 1913. However, international tensions were rising quickly...

All these issues are addressed by the Living History activities, and visitors can observe how ordinary people coped with those events.