Academy Job Shadow Days Report

Nahymja Nijhuis at the Meertens Institute

Sustainable career development advisor Nahymja Nijhuis at the Academy Bureau is shadowing communication advisor Simone Wolff at the Meertens Institute.

Nahymja Nijhuis visits Simone Wolff

I spot the binder for the Academy’s ‘communication styles’ workshop that I attended last week Monday on Simone’s desk. Simone attended the workshop yesterday. ‘Let’s see whether we can figure out each other’s communication style,’ I propose. Simone is all for it. Antal van den Bosch, the director of the Meertens Institute, stops by – the first of many people who will drop in over the course of the morning. ‘I’m so happy that the placenta map is back on the corridor wall!’ Placenta? What's this all about? Simone and Antal explain that farmers in different regions of the Netherlands had different ways of disposing of the placenta after their mares had foaled. In some regions, farmers nailed the placenta to the door; in others, they buried it. The Meertens Institute studies these kinds of folk traditions. It’s fascinating to me – after all, these are our roots.


I notice how involved Simone is in the institute’s work. People are constantly stopping by her office. Just in general, the atmosphere here is very open. I feel at home. And their building, along Oudezijds Achterburgwal, is really splendid. Beautifully renovated, with a lot of light streaming in.

We have a meeting with someone who works in the diary archives. I never knew such a thing existed. The Meertens Institute manages a collection of diaries kept by ‘ordinary’ people. The oldest dates back to 1860, but there are also many recent ones. All diaries are welcome and everyone is free to donate theirs to the collection. The staff and a team of forty volunteers take stock of the content and make it available for research. Right now, some ten researchers are already using this collection as source material. A book of diary entries by adolescents is due to be published shortly. Simone is very closely involved in the book launch, of course.

The institute also has several other publications in the pipeline. In November, during National Book Week, it will be publishing a book written by a robot and Ronald Giphart, a well-known Dutch author. The Meertens Institute has joined forces with the University of Antwerp in a study on language and artificial intelligence. It seems that robots can produce grammatically correct but rather clumsy writing. Ronald Giphart was asked to edit the robot’s work so that it reads well. The institute is also working on a website where visitors can enter words to form the basis for a robot-authored story.

I didn’t have many expectations beforehand. I deliberately avoided visiting their website because I wanted to be surprised. Simone and I really hit it off. As my host, she talked much more than I did, and that gave me a chance to analyse her communication style. Next week, when I play host, Simone can try to figure out mine.

Plakboek Nederlandse MeisjesClub (NMC), jaren '30