ZUTPHEN – Search for a vacancy for the position ‘figurehead’. You just have to dare. Hendrik Haafkens did it, in 2016, and was hired: as manager, as the face of Zutphen’s cultural heritage policy. After six years, the figurehead is leaving the Heritage Centre. His next challenge: Enschede.
By Sander Grootendorst
“At this table was the job interview. With all kinds of bigwigs from the municipality. I found it very exciting,” says Haafkens (44) on one of his last working days at the Heritage Center on Spiegelstraat. “The position was just created.”
Municipal Zutphen knew what kind of meat it had in the cockpit with Haafkens, he had worked there for a while. “I started on the scaffolding for Monumentenzorg. After two years, it became a full-time job. I also did monument permits; There were applications for grants.” He then had a coordinating role as ‘director Wone over shops‘. He had owned his own business specializing in restoration. “Then it was often a lot of sweat when you sent an application to a municipality. But now I have noticed that you can contribute to a good permit process from the municipality in all possible ways. I spent a lot of time sitting at kitchen tables in people’s homes.”
From ‘director’ he became ‘figurehead’ with the core task of making heritage more accessible: from archival object to historic building. Such a title entails new areas of responsibility. “It took some getting used to, the councilors have also pushed me forward. Like: you’re the figurehead: bang on that trade.” Informing the public about how and why a particular project went well for him. “I’ve always enjoyed presenting and talking about heritage.”
New position, new opportunities, but… “We had to discover and set it up ourselves from the start. It has developed organically, Zutphen’s style. Often under time pressure, especially when making exhibitions. One project drove the other forward. We got more and more of it.”
‘We’: originally it was just Haafkens and communications officer Fiona de Heus. “But now you can talk about a large network.” A large number of people are involved in one way or another in Zutphen’s legacy. Take, for example, the opening of communal memorials. This means that personnel must be present in the Burgerzaal, Bourgonjetoren, Wijnhuistoren and at the Berkel ruin. Haafkens approached the Gilde Zutphen Foundation. Found an organizational talent in senior volunteer Clasien Burgers. Now there is a pool of 65 people who welcome and guide visitors to monuments. It’s scary. “This year we reach 30,000 visitors.”
St. John’s Church, opened in collaboration with the parish, is also on the list. Looking back, Haafkens calls climbing that steeple during the 2017 restoration one of the highlights. “Fifteen hundred students came to see – education is an important branch of heritage policy – and another fifteen hundred other visitors. TU Delft students were there to do research.”
The theme years also intervene. Last year was about the commemoration of the Spanish attack in 1572. At an early stage, the Heritage Center summoned Johan Visser, a student in Leiden, who during his historical research came to the surprising conclusion that the Spanish have no great bloodline at everything worked together. He came to the national press with his book about it; The cultural heritage center was responsible for the collection. In turn, Visser took part in the performance Ramp & Resilience, in the Walburgiskerk, where professionals and amateurs played and sang along. The network continued to grow… Haafkens: “When people feel that what you want is sincere, when you give others a share, then it greatly benefits the cooperation.”
In connection with the theme years, the Cultural Heritage Center is looking for “the personal story”. In 2023, it is Hanze that is the theme. IN to be Haafken’s personal story starts a new chapter: “I will be a cultural heritage adviser for Enschede municipality. A dynamic city, with a completely different history than Zutphen; whose inheritance must therefore also be made available in another way. I think I can use everything I’ve learned here in a useful way.”
For example, do they already have such a comprehensive ‘heritage portal’ in Enschede? That website was created during Haafken’s gallant period. “I’m not leaving because I didn’t like it, but from the inner need to explore another horizon. That was also the reason for coming to Zutphen then.” Before that he had worked for six years with the Rijksmuseum’s restoration architect.”
His fascination with monuments started at a young age. “In the church. As a child you don’t find what is being told there particularly interesting, you look around at the stained glass windows and those arches. I was also allowed to restore that church later when I had my own company. “
His next job has a practical advantage: “Enschede is much closer to home.” Haafkens lives with his wife and three children in the German village of Bawinkel. A two-hour journey – partly by train – to Zutphen. He shows a photo of a half-timbered house with a large shed on his smartphone. That looks lovely. “The estate has been owned by my in-laws since the sixteenth century.” At work or at home, it doesn’t matter, Hendrik Haafkens is surrounded by heritage.