In the field of history we are currently observing a ‘memory wave’. A key feature of the growing bulk of publications on memory is that they revolve around the relationship to the past in the past. This meta-historical approach implies the study of both scholarly and non-scholarly production, distribution and reception of historical representations.
This article discusses some influential notions: collective memories, emblems, icons and appropriation. Memory participants sometimes integrate and use the received meanings and values in their own culture, and might disturb the larger mnemonic community to which they also belong.
To clarify my argument I furthermore analyse ‘Volendams meisje’, a famous female Dutch icon. In the course of the nineteenth and twentieth century the original emblem for the Netherlands – the heroic Dutch Virgin of Liberty – was replaced by this young girl in traditional costume. Since the 1870s images of Dutch rural life were gradually used to construct a national identity, a Dutch myth of unity, based on cultural and ethnic criteria. After 1900 particularly several ‘peasant girls’ figured in advertisements to attract buyers.
Interestingly enough, Dutch suffragettes from the bourgeois classes playfully appropriated the traditional costume for their own purposes. Obviously this type of acting evoked nostalgic memories of the good old days. At the same time the reassuring image of ‘peasant girls’ emphasized the ‘whiteness’ and femininity of Dutch feminists.

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Tijdschrift voor Geschiedenis
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication (ESHCC)

Grever, M. (2004). Visualisering en collectieve herinneringen. Tijdschrift voor Geschiedenis, 117(2), 207–229. Retrieved from