The story was written on November 11, 2022. The Gekomen to Stay project with portraits and stories of 900 Utrechters ended that day with the closing of a time capsule with stories and also wishes for the future. The organization also wrote a story for those who will open the time capsule in 100 years. Below is what they will read.
Best opener of this time capsule,
This capsule must not be opened until June 2nd in the year 2122, when Utrecht celebrates the thousandth anniversary of the city’s right. So if it’s not 2/6/2122 yet, would you please close this time capsule again? Thank you.
Is today June 2, 2122 or later? Then this letter is for you. We are curious: have you received or found a key to this chest? We would love to see your face as you read this. Did you find the chest by the code on the key? We’ll never find out. For we speak to you from the past. Welcome to the year 2022, the year we celebrate that Utrecht has had city rights for 900 years. We call this party ‘Utrecht 900’. It started on June 2, 2022 and today, November 11, 2022, the name day of our patron Saint Sint Maarten, we will finish the celebration. During the past five months, all kinds of activities, events and projects have been organized in connection with Utrecht 900. One of these – the very first project of the celebration – is the project ‘Come to stay’ by Stichting De duvel en z ‘n ouwe moer . It’s us.
Dear future city mate,
What you find in this chest is the result of an extraordinary adventure. From September 2021 to May 2022, we portrayed 900 Utrecht residents. 700 unique Utrecht residents have told us their story in 10 different locations in every corner of the city. We guided them where necessary in making their story and with a sort of traveling circus of 3 sound engineers, 3 photographers, a small crew and a group of volunteers we made, shot, designed, placed, printed, posted and distributed these portraits. Fifteen history students from Utrecht University, led by a lecturer and three guest lecturers, conducted research and created portraits of 200 historical Utrecht residents whose voices were provided by more than 40 voice actors, professionals and amateurs. A book has been published to which we have contributed, and we have created an exhibition at Het Utrechts Archief and five audio tours through the city. It was quite a job. 900 people is a lot. At the time of writing, this is approximately 1 in 350 inhabitants. Every resident of Utrecht probably knows someone who has been portrayed by us. It was a monster job. And it worked.
For us and our foundation, Utrecht 900 started in 2019 with a question: how do we make Utrecht 900 a celebration of and for all Utrecht residents? With a group of five cultural professionals with a heart for the city, we considered this question because we were convinced that a party like this only makes sense if all Utrecht residents can feel involved. Utrecht has a tradition of big parties, but the striking thing is that only a limited part of the inhabitants always feel involved. And it shouldn’t happen this time, as far as we’re concerned. For this time we celebrate the city. And that city is us, all citizens of Utrecht, in all our diversity and with all our different faces. Together we create the city. For 900 years. So this had to be a celebration by and for all Utrecht residents. And so we have devised three plans to contribute to this.
The final result—at least the physical part of it—of one of these plans is what you’ll find in this box. More can be found on the website www.komenomteblijven.nl. We will do our best to keep the website where all portraits can be seen and listened to alive for the next hundred years. But in fifty years or so you will only find that website if you search for it. And if you don’t know what you’re looking for, how do you find it? That’s why this time capsule exists. You don’t have to look for them. You just have to find them.
Utrecht, 11 November 2022
Back to the question: how to ensure that all Utrecht residents can feel involved in the celebration? Celebrating the ‘city’s birthday’ is only relevant for someone if she/he feels like a citizen of Utrecht, feels involved in the city, maybe even proud of Utrecht. And that doesn’t apply equally to everyone. Some people choose this city themselves, but many people have never actively chosen Utrecht. They ended up here, were placed, came into the world or they were thrown into Utrecht’s lap. Yet it is rarely a coincidence that someone is from Utrecht; there is always a reason. Whether you came to Utrecht for your work, your studies, safety or when you were born. And thus you stand in a long tradition of people who live here for the same reason. You belong to a group. And that creates a bond. It gives us a sense of belonging. It makes it personal. And so we wanted to ask as many Utrechters as possible the question: what actually brought you to Utrecht?
We claim that every resident of Utrecht can identify with one of the five reasons below. But of course you can also feel at home for more than one reason.
Work has always been an important reason for coming to Utrecht. Even in the early history of our city, many people came to Utrecht to practice their craft. And many people still live in Utrecht because of their work.
A very large group of Utrechters have come to the city to learn something. Utrecht is an important knowledge city with one of the oldest universities in the Netherlands. People have also settled in Utrecht over the centuries for the many other courses and schools.
Then there is the philosophy/belief/orientation factor. Traditionally, many people came to Utrecht because of their faith. Many religions now live side by side. In our time, Utrecht is known as a tolerant city where everyone is welcome, no matter what faith or lifestyle you follow, what color of the rainbow suits you.
We have named the fourth reason for quality of life. Utrecht is a beautiful, pleasant city for many people. But the central location also determines the quality of life. In addition, many people live in Utrecht for whom it was not possible to live at home. People who fled to Utrecht, e.g.
Finally, there are the people who came to Utrecht for love. They came to live here because of the people they love: lovers, family, friends.
When an Utrechter does not recognize himself in one of these grounds, this can only mean one thing: she/he/they were born here. We asked these people to look at their (great) parents or even further back in family history. For somewhere there was a reason, one in five, that their predecessors came to Utrecht. And it is therefore no coincidence for them that they are from Utrecht.
Now you know something about what and why. Finally, we want to tell you something about who, about the people behind this project. As we wrote, the plan comes from five cultural professionals from Utrecht. Two of them drew up the plans and accepted the challenge. It’s us. Our love for the city and our heart for culture and participation brought us together. And at the end of 2019, we joined together with our foundation board behind us. We sought and found funding, gathered a team around us and collaborated with all kinds of people and organizations in the city. The project was honestly too big for the two of us, we spent all the time we could find on the project. Because it was a bizarre amount of work, but also an amazing adventure that brought us a lot. We learned a lot. We have made ourselves known. We have built a ‘community’. And we feel like we have 900 new friends.
And now we close this project. With a leap into the future. To you, dear reader. We keep our project ‘Come to stay’ in this box, this time capsule, and give it to Het Utrecht’s Archief for safekeeping, who also receives the key to one lock.
Among our 900 people portrayed, we will raffle 100 keys of the second lock – one key for each year this chest is hidden – with the date the capsule can be found and the location code of where the capsule is located. Those keys are forgotten sooner or later, and they may disappear for a while in a drawer or in a jacket pocket, but those keys reappear, because nobody throws a key away, especially if it has a mysterious code on it, we think. Such a key appears again, yes, in a drawer in grandma’s old closet or in a coat pocket in the thrift store. By sending 100 keys out into the world, we hope to guarantee that at least someone will start looking on June 2, 2122. And apparently that happened.
It’s time. We close the capsule. The mayor is the very last to place his portrait in the capsule and close the casket. One hundred keys are distributed among those portrayed. And at least one of them will find its way to you, dear reader, into the future. We hope you celebrate today in honor of the city’s birthday. We hope that there will be room for a party in the future. For history and for a sense of community and togetherness. We hope that all our fears about the future have proven to be unfounded. Because we care about you. Many of us worry. Whether the planet is still habitable in your time. Will democracy survive. And whether we have fought hard enough for it in our time. With this time capsule, we are actually expressing the hope that things will work out. You have reason to celebrate that today.
We wish you a beautiful city day together with your fellow citizens. We reach you from the past through these portraits and stories. Hopefully you feel connected to it and you recognize yourself in our reasons for being Utrecht. And 100 years is actually not that long at all.
Caroline Arnold, artistic director
Merel Schrijvers, manager of De duvel and his old nut fund