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Smallest Frisian city Sloten well-served by volunteer historian

Hobbyist Spoelstra collects ‘everything’

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

SLOTEN – With its independent municipal entity gone, Sloten's history is safe with resident Hendrik Meine Spoelstra who as a self-appointed historian of the city, collects anything on his hometown. With 700 inhabitants and now part of the regional municipality of Gaasterlân-Sleat, it is the smallest of the original eleven Frisian cities.

A retired bridgeman, Spoelstra used some of his free time in winter to start his hobby, now occupying a large part of his home. He clips any newspaper article which mentioned Sloten, Sleat in the Frisian language, and adds it to his growing collection, which now also includes old and new photographs and postcards, as well as flyers from local businesses, and birth announcements.

Spoelstra's Sloten-mania - his family refers to it as a folly - has blossomed into a virtual documentation centre on the city and its inhabitants. One of them, collector Peter Bonnet (1896-1979), amassed a treasured collection in magic lantern slides. Although the local museum - in the former town hall - now owns the slides and equipment, Spoelstra is the curator of Bonnet's archives.

Adding to a collection such as Spoelstra's is an ongoing endeavour. Not only is the collector himself always on the lookout for new material, his fellow townsmen have taken to the idea as well and serve as extra eyes and hands for the project. From rare chronicles, such as a 1812 document from a former mayor, to new birth announcements, Spoelstra gladly adds it to the collection, documenting Sloten's still developing heritage.

Spoelstra's knowledge about Sloten even was used in a 2000 civil court case. He was heard as an expert witness in a dispute over free access and passage through a private property, which had been blocked by its new owners. With old photographs, the collector provided the evidence that free access indeed had existed ‘since time immemorial'.