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We Own Rotterdam Selection

The letters W O R were constructed by design agency Studio Spass by arranging 21 museum items in storage at Museum Rotterdam. These pieces refer to the history of Rotterdam, and to sections of the city’s underground agenda, We Own Rotterdam. Museum Rotterdam and We Own Rotterdam each have a unique role in unlocking Rotterdam’s treasures, so Studio Spass decided to connect them, and offer the project to the city.

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‘The dress seems very busy and that head looks like one of those chocolate rabbits.’

gown, a-symmetrical design, print of building in south of Rotterdam, collection Wonderland
In collaboration with Foundation Freehouse and Cosmopolis, Marga Weimans designed her haute couture collection Wonderland in 2009. The collection was created in the Afrikaanderwijk, which influenced distinctively architectural structures. The print on the dress, leggings and shoes is based on a photo montage of a flat opposite Weimans’ studio. The designer creates a world where people can escape the chaotic city. She shows the contrast between tragedy and sublime beauty. The rabbit head refers to the story of Alice in Wonderland.

Ferris Wheel

‘From that fairground in the Lloyd Quarter?’

painted wooden model of a Ferris wheel
To upstanding citizens the annual fair in IJsselmonde meant a threat to morality. To Arie Taselaar this issue was nonexistent. He devoted years to his own miniature fairground at home. From 1914 to 1940 he made one model after another. Proudly he displayed the cherished results in his shopfront. On August 31, 1945 the fair of Taselaar was last displayed in its full glory, running on electric motors and festively lit.

Crocodile Leather suitcase

‘Just fold the critter and Bob’s your uncle.’

crocodile leather case with brass fittings
This striking crocodile leather suitcase was probably made sometime between 1910 and 1930. Everything else is a mystery. It is not known how the suitcase ended up in the museum collection, who the owner was, or where it was made and for what exact purpose. Sometimes clues to the origins of objects suddenly surface among the extensive documentation of the museum. Until that time, the suitcase is primarily a very special example, not simply made of cardboard, but of genuine crocodile leather.

Torah Tower

‘Is it an instrument to announce that something is going to happen?’

Torah tower, three tiers shaped like the superstructure of the Westerkerk tower in Amsterdam
Before the Second World War, the Rotterdam Jewish community gathered in various synagogues. Nearly all Rotterdam Jewish cultural heritage is wiped out in the bombardment of the city. In 1989 Museum Rotterdam buys these two ornamental towers, made by a silversmith from Rotterdam. The towers serve as adornment of the Torah scroll, which, wrapped in a cloak and sometimes additionally decorated with a Torah shield, is stored in the ark, a special case.

Lodewijk Pincoffs

‘Pincoffs, founder of the harbors on Rotterdam’s South side?’

tobacco jar in the form of Lodewijk Pincoffs (1827-1911)
Between 1872 and 1877 a large integrated rail and port complex is constructed in Feyenoord. It requires significant investment by the Dutch government, the Rotterdam municipality and the Rotterdam Trade Association (RHV), an initiative of businessman Louis Pincoffs. In 1879 Pincoffs suddenly leaves for the United States. It becomes clear he has been using funds from the RHV to solve his own financial problems. In the States Pincoffs opens a tobacco shop. This new venture is the subject of a lot of ridicule, including this tobacco jar. It provided the owner with an opportunity to plunder Pincoffs in turn.


‘Nice, a prince who plays on stage.’

banner of dark red or purple velvet, “Rotterdamsche Tooneelvereeniging Prins Hendrik”
Every self-respecting club or association in late nineteenth and early twentieth century Rotterdam has a banner. Not to be outdone, the Rotterdam Theater Association orders a richly decorated example. Prince Hendrik is patron and the association even bears his name. His portrait in full regalia adorns the medallion in the center of the banner. The coat of arms of Rotterdam with its green and white stripes and four lions is placed above his effigy.


‘The new central station is named after this, but I don’t think it a very nice name.’

packaging of a snack called kapsalon (hairdresser’s salon), created for a project in Berlin
This is a package of a kapsalon. Not meant for an actual dish, but made for a project in Berlin. The aluminum container and its lid has been added to the collection of Museum Rotterdam. Another one without a lid serves as documentation. It includes: 1. brochure on the history of the dish, 2. a laminated recipe with pictures, 3. instructions for the preparation and a poster to display in the diner. At the presentation of the project, Berlin eatery Saray salon served this Rotterdam snack. The dish is known there as kardes.


‘Nice tee, where can you get it?’

t-shirt white cotton with blue lettering, “WE HELP YOU”
During the last weekend of June 1970 the three-day Holland Pop Festival is staged in the Kralingse Bos park. This first major open air music festival in the Netherlands is a city within the city, with around 120,000 visitors, a campground, shops, an art fair and a petting zoo. Stewards with these “We Help You” T-shirts make sure everything runs smoothly.

The architect

‘If that is a plan of Rotterdam, this man is clearly not from here.’

cement statue “the architect”
Han Richters creates several statues in 1940 and 1941 for emergency shops near the post office on the Coolsingel. They are placed on pedestals of about two meters high. The statues have been designed in clay and cast in cement. A stonemason, laborer and fisherman with son symbolize the founding and growth of Rotterdam. A fleeing woman with child represents the bombing of the city in May 1940. This statue of the architect shows the reconstruction of Rotterdam. The emergency shopping area is demolished in parts between 1957 and 1968.


‘It resembles my dad’s old woodworking hammer.’

symbolic hammer of the Architecture Exhibition at the National Energy Manifestation E55
In May 1955, ten years after the end of World War II, the National Energy Manifestation E55 opens. Dutch Provinces and industry present themselves in pavilions in the Park, Ahoy and the Energiehal. The common theme refers to the energy with which the Netherlands is tackling post-war reconstruction and has overcome the flood disaster of 1953. Innovation and modern technology take a prominent place, as does the mainly modernist architecture of reconstruction. Live television and radio is broadcast from the event grounds.


‘Seems a regular jacket for a regular Rotterdammer.’

jacket “Australian” and T - shirt with print “Rotterdam Terror Corps”
Rotterdam is a young city, both in appearance and in population. No wonder the only original Dutch subculture has its roots here in the ’90s. The average “Gabber” listened to hardcore house (for example by Rotterdam Terror Corps), wore Nike Air Max and preferably an Australian brand training jacket with a bomber jacket on top. But their most striking aspect was the hairstyle: for men bald or very closely cropped, for the women pulled back in a ponytail, sometimes with shaved back and sides.

Bond Drum

‘The precursor of a bread maker?’

drum for the drawing of lottery bonds
In 1868 the city of Rotterdam issues bonds to raise 7.2 million guilders to finance the development of Feyenoord. A new river crossing and ambitious plans to construct ports and infrastructure require a lot of investment. Redemption of the bonds takes place by drawing lots, which is where which this rather large “bingo” drum comes in. Who doesn’t want to wait, can trade his bonds on the stock exchange in Rotterdam.


‘It isn’t a work shoe, so I can’t really see a connection with Rotterdam.’

brown men’s shoe, very large size, of the “Giant of Rotterdam”
Rigardus Rijnhout (1923-1959) was 2.35 meters, and weighed about 230 kg. His shoe size was roughly 62. Due to his exceptional size, he was known as the Giant of Rotterdam. This imposing Rotterdammer could not simply get his clothes off the peg in a shop. Everything had to be made to measure and this was of course pricey. Yet Rigardus could regularly arrange free clothes and footwear. Because of his fame, he provided publicity and a larger than life example of the skill of the maker.


‘I see the connection with the Blijdorp Zoo.’

portrait of tiger Atyr
Pierre Henri Martin is considered the first modern animal trainer, specializing in predators. In 1820 he married Cornelia Wilhelmina van Aken, from a Rotterdam family of well-known menagerie owners (a travelling forerunner of the modern zoo ). As an animal trainer he gains worldwide recognition and at the age of 45 Martin can retire in Rotterdam. Here he becomes co-founder and first director of the Rotterdam Zoo, the current Blijdorp Zoo. The portrait shows his favorite Tiger Atyr.

Announcement Board

‘Too bad, we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to go to the movies.’

announcement board from Thalia cinema
Around 1910 in Rotterdam, Abraham Tuschinski opens his first movie theater and calls it Thalia. In that period most cinemas are located on the Coolsingel, Kruiskade and Binnenweg. A large number are destroyed in the bombing of May 1940. In 1955 a new Thalia opens with beautiful artist designed interiors. The cinema closes in the late nineties. Before it is converted into a lounge club Museum Rotterdam adds some items from the fifties and sixties to the collection.


‘Undoubtedly an example of the relationship between Rotterdam and a Slavic trading partner.’

large bearskin busby
The history of the Rotterdam militia dates back to the fourteenth century. Members of the longbow and crossbow guild are expected to defend the city. Over the centuries, the organization changes, but the protection of the city and its inhabitants will remain paramount. In 1907 the militia is disbanded. Many objects, including this impressive headgear, end up in the collection of Museum Rotterdam.

Copper Ko

‘Rotterdam has its own music scene, but I can’t possibly imagine what kind of style this is supposed to be.’

equipment of busker Copper Ko Copper Ko was the stage name of Johanes Willem Leiendekker ( 1909-1982 ). This busker was a striking ánd loud character in Rotterdam. His gear made him a one-man oompah band. Dressed in white with his brass hat with bells, an accordion, and drum and cymbals attached to his hands by cables, he accompanied himself singing sentimental folksongs. At the end of his career he became known nationally after appearances on television. The famous Nickel Nelis character by Wim Sonneveld is inspired by Copper Ko.

Opera glass

‘Beautiful binoculars, must have been owned by a rich man.’

opera glass, copper with inlaid mother of pearl
With binoculars you’re able to see far away things up close. With opera glasses you can do the same, but you might not just follow the action on stage as the name suggests. It could be more interesting to observe the rest of the audience. These opera glasses were probably used in the Groote Schouwburg (Great Theatre), a neoclassical building on the Aert van Nesstraat. After the bombing of 1940, its remains are demolished and a new Rotterdam Schouwburg is built. In 1988, this building was also replaced by the current Rotterdamse Schouwburg.

Spiral staircase

‘I think this comes from an old building, perhaps in the Scheepvaartkwartier.’

painted wooden model of a spiral staircase, masterpiece made to obtain title “master” in the carpenter’s guild
For ages, to master a craft meant joining a guild. As a citizen you can start as an apprentice. After some time you’ll look to assist a master as a journeyman to learn the trade down to the smallest detail. With a masterpiece, a test of your skill, you’ll finally obtain mastery. This model of a spiral staircase is a rare preserved “masterpiece” of the carpenter’s guild. The model has been dated to the eighteenth century. For now too expensive research of the growth rings in the wood might give a more precise indication of its age.

Erasmus and Piet Hein

‘Part of a building that was destroyed in the war?’

statue of Erasmus and Piet Hein shaking hands
The historical figures Desiderius Erasmus and Piet Hein shake hands. An act that never actually took place, since Erasmus was born over a hundred years before Piet Hein. These greats symbolize the towns of Rotterdam and Delfshaven. In 1886 Delfshaven was annexed to Rotterdam at its own request. The statue is supposedly a centerpiece at a dinner to celebrate the occasion.

Gin Jar

‘I call gin Jennifer’

gin bottle with black and white glazing by A. Hoboken & Co.
After distilling gin is transferred from the vessel to more manageable stoneware jars or bottles. This square jar is decorated with black and white geometric motifs and comes from the distillery of the Rotterdam firm Hoboken. This luxurious container was specially made by plateelbakkerij Ivora. The results are certainly impressive.

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“WE OWN ROTTERDAM Selection” is an initiative of StudioSpass in collaboration with We Own Rotterdam and Museum Rotterdam

Museum Rotterdam

Museum Rotterdam puts its knowledge of the history of Rotterdam in the service of today’s city by working with the Rotterdam people to preserve and present Rotterdam’s cultural heritage.

Studio Spass

Since 2008 Jaron Korvinus and Daan Mens run an office for visual communication in the heart of Rotterdam. We specialize in making campaigns and visual identities, both in print and in pixels.

We Own Rotterdam

We Own Rotterdam collects creative events, inspiring exhibitions, intimate hang outs, fresh music and underground parties. We love Rotterdam and provide a platform for spreading the love.