Brieven aan de Toekomst (Letters to the Future) is not a current project: it took place fourteen years ago (but I've got this stamp now!). It was a national campaign to encourage people to write a letter speaking about their life in a day: 15 May 1998. The initiative was taken by the three major institutions that deal with Dutch culture: the Nederlands Centrum voor Volkscultuur (Utrecht), the Nederlands Openluchtmuseum (Arnhem) and the Meertens Instituut (Amsterdam).
The purpose of this correspondence was the construction of a large national archive that describes daily lives of Dutch people. So scientists of the future can consult the archive to study how were eating, clothing, festivals, rituals, joys and sorrows, relationships with family, friends and colleagues, religion, sexuality... at the end of the millennium.
Over 52,000 letters arrived in response to this campaign. The collection is now at the Meertens Institute, stored in acid-free envelopes and boxes. The general public can consult a selection of letters.
The letters arrived in different forms: handwriting, typed, e-mail, tape-recorded, registered on floppy disks or shaped into beautiful drawings. Sometimes the senders included small objects like a eraser or a toothbrush, that could disappear in the next years. The letters were sent by all kind of people between 8 and 98 years old (but most came from the age group 45-75). There are also collective letters created by school groups, and about four hundred Dutch people who live outside the Netherlands participated in the project.
They spoke about everything: what was eaten, what clothes were wore, how warm it was, what they undertook with friends, what happened that day in the schoolyard... Also personal and emotional events are described, with festivities such weddings, birthdays in stark contrast with funerals, and incest experience and an unpleasant memory of loneliness.