How might we revive the washhouse
in an open-air museum?

observation  · interviews  ·  design concept  · branding  


As a group of multidisciplinary designers, we were commissioned a project in the Zuiderzeemuseum in the Netherlands. It’s an open-air museum dedicated to the preservation of the Dutch folk culture. Our task was to come up with a conceptual idea for reviving the Van der Kamp Washhouse.


We started out by visiting the museum several times, we experienced all the attractions by ourselves, observed other visitors and talked to them. We also met with museum employees, who told us about their work, revealed a lot of valuable information and showed us magazines full of artefacts not yet exhibited.

Afterwards we focused our research on the historical washhouse. We studied its history, equipment, functioning and development through the ages.

During one of our visits to the museum, we were very fortunate to be able to participate in the jubilee celebrations of the laundry. The whole Van der Kamp family came together on this occasion. We had a long conversation with them. They told us a lot of the lesser known facts about the laundry and shared many (not so) strictly guarded secrets on the soap formula and the traditional bleaching process. 


From our research we have drawn several conclusions:

  1. At present, the laundry space remains somewhat dead, contains many objects that, without their functionality, are not very interesting to museum visitors.

  2. The lack of proper information and explanations of the object and exhibits causes confusion.

  3. Visitors appreciate attractions the most when they can take an active part and historical knowledge is acquired through action.

  4. Visitors are moved when historical knowledge translates into the present experience and is directly linked to their everyday life.

  5. There are many facts about the objects in the museum that are still only known by their earlier owners, and they gladly share them with the museum.

  6. What we found the most lively and valuable aspect of the museum and very much worth supporting is the exchange of knowledge and experience between museum employees, visitors and the original owners of the objects, taking place in direct conversation or mediated through artefacts and different communication media, such as texts, videos etc.


Creating a space of lively interaction with history, based on the exchange between visitors, museum employees and the original owners of the objects, with a vivid link to the contemporary world.


In our ideation process we focused on findings from the research but also looked at the washing culture in the context of globalisation as well as the latest discussion in museology. 
We observed common elements at all levels of our investigation, in a series of circular processes. 

This observation was our main conceptual inspiration for reviving the Van der Kamp Washhouse.


Finally, we decided to bring laundry back to life and create a new type of service based on old traditions.

During a visit to the museum people will have the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the entire historical washing process through a revived mechanism visible in every detail.

Thanks to the rearranged interior of the laundry and videos with the Van der Kamp family, they will receive vivid explanations of all aspects of that process.

In the end, after visiting the museum, they will be able to use the traditional washing service (available via online application) and feel a breeze of history through fresh laundry, washed with old, environmentally friendly methods. 

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