IJsfontein Homepage

Client: Dutch Open Air Museum

The Dutch Open-air Museum and Rijksmuseum collaborated in a major project: an exhibition that explains 5000 years of Dutch History. IJsfontein was awarded the honorable task of designing and producing this exhibition. Luckily, they weren’t alone. Together with exhibition architect Kossmann.dejong, film producer Redrum and lead by XPEX, we worked for 2 years on the Canon of the Netherlands. 


50 Image Windows, 10 Time Periods

The Canon is divided over 50 image windows. These are the 50 things you need to know about the history of the Netherlands, starting from the dolmens, structures made of stone from 3000 B.C. In the exhibit these image windows are distributed over the 10 time periods from De Rooij, which are used in Dutch History education. The exhibit tells about the flourish of the Netherlands as well as the slavery and oppression.

The Ordinary Man

The designers were instructed to tell the story from the perspective of the ordinary man. What was it like to find food in times of war? What was it like for children to work in a factory? And how did you get food in the time of the dolmens? You find the answers to these questions through doing, feeling, watching and reading.

IJsfontein developed 25 games and interactive installations, 3 panorama films and one great big Canon wall. The exhibit is divided over 4 halls. IJsfontein developed the interaction for 3 of those halls. The first hall houses the introduction. Visitors walk through a hallway with monitors on both sides, on which films produced by Redrum are shown. Start in the present and walk back through time to the large domed hall.

Hall 2: The Dome

In ten enormous ‘film sets’, you see, hear and feel the highs and lows of the history of our country. The film sets are based on the 10 time periods. With decor’s, digital techniques, games, audio recordings, video, text and authentic historical items, each time period tells the story of a specific period in Dutch history with the help of one or more Canon image windows.

The games have been developed for doers as much as thinkers. Because everything needed to be built from scratch, the furniture and interaction elements have been integrated optimally. Games, for example, can be controlled with buttons and touch screens but also by lifting physical objects, pulling on ropes or running on a special pressure plates.

In each time period we strived to create a balance between décor, atmosphere, interaction and film. We used real historical objects in the installations to create a realistic look into that time period.

Let’s Play!

Some games are aimed more at creating awareness and challenge you to think about the time period you find yourself in. Other games allow you to put yourself in the shoes of people that lived back then. Here are a couple of examples:

Factory Game

This game is about the industrialization in the 19th century. Not only adults worked in the factories but children did too. What was it like? You’re standing in front of a factory chimney. In front of you is a heavy box full of pottery that needs to go into the oven. Your control the game with this box. Will you be able to finish your work on time?

What would you vote for?

We built a voting guide into two of time periods. This game was mainly meant to create awareness. Imagine you were living in the time between World War 1 and World War 2? For which party would you have voted, keeping the ideas of present day in mind?

Pack Hunting

This game takes you very far back in time. You’re a hunter in the Stone Age and you are participating in a pack hunt. You go on a hunt together with your fellow tribesmen. You are standing in a forest (on a special pressure plate). Run! The faster you go, the closer you get to the deer. Look out, don’t get too close. The deer will run the other way before you know it.

Make due with less

Step into the shoes of a family that lived during the Second World War. You need to do the food shopping for the entire family. But beware, you have a limited amount of money and just a few food stamps. Will you be able to do it?

Hoist the sails

Boats can certainly not be missing from a Canon about the Netherlands. There are a number of boating games. Take a ship onto the East Sea for example. Will you return to the famous Hanze cities with a profit, and without losing your cargo to storms or pirates? Or do you prefer to go on a voyage of discovery and be the first to map out the coast of Japan?

Song Festival

The song festival as symbol for Europe. This installation invites you to produce a commercial for Holland. Choose from different film clips and design styles. Don’t forget to add the music. Finished? Your commercial will appear on the big screen in the museum.

Atlas Maior

Browse digitally through the famous Atlas Maior, a monument included in the Canon of Dutch history. Zoom in endlessly and see all the little details of the atlas, right up to the drawings of fish swimming in the oceans.

This is just a small selection of the in total 22 games that we created for this hall. In other games you may learn for example the order in which you need to load a musket or how to write on a wax tablet. Will you be able to convert unbelievers into Christians?

Hall 3: The panorama film

Zoom out and fly over Dutch history. See how history changes the landscape, infrastructure and politics.

The film is projected on a semi-circular wall that is no less than 4 meters high and 15 meters wide. Because of this enormous size, the resolution had to be higher than 4k. That’s a bigger resolution than a modern camera could film in. Unfortunately many films did not meet these specifications and new footage needed to be filmed of almost everything. Other images needed to be virtually designed. A big job, but the result is stunning. In three visually beautiful films, thousands of years of history are encompassed in 12 minutes. Together with Redrum, IJsfontein scripted, directed and produced the film.

Hall 4: The Canon Wall

In the last hall, we present all 50 image windows in one glance. This interactive wall of 2 by 14 meters is built up of twenty 75 inch touch screens. In front of the wall are  games that you can play using your new found knowledge of the Canon. For those who like to move, there is a scavenger hunt to play. This game asks questions about the similarities between image windows and lets you walk along the wall to gather the answers. For those that would rather play a game together, there is a group game about utensils through the ages. With a little knowledge and in particular by playing as a team, you can go far in this game.

Take the museum home

Upon entry you will receive a card. This card allows you to start movies and gather information to review, view, and share with friends. This is also how you will receive your home-made song festival trailer and the group portrait that puts you in a picture as different people from different periods of time.


The exhibit can be visited from the end of September 2017 on. Visit the open-air museum website  for more information.


What can we do for you? Send an email to  Lotte or call us at +31 20 33 00 111