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 - Jasmijn Groot -

Podcast creator Maartje Duin decided several years ago to delve into the past of her great-grandmother, Marietje countess van Lynden - Calkoen, the woman she affectionately calls ‘grandmama’. Because of the noble nature of her history, Duin had avoided it all costs for a long time. Summarized in her own words, she expected to find only ‘the last vestiges of a feudal age’ in Marietje's diaries, which she kept meticulously throughout her adult life,  such as notes on tea parties and table settings. But the relationship between Marietje and her servant Mina Marinusse always intrigued Duin. And the diaries might just be the key to better understand their relationship.

The Dutch podcast Mina en Mevrouw, about the research Duin conducted, as well as the findings that came out of it, is a VPRO/Prospektor production, broadcast every Saturday on OVT on NPO Radio 1.


The countess and her servant  

Accompanied by experts such as Els Kloek, Maaike Meijer and Suzanna Jansen, Duin takes us through the lives of this Mina and her maid through eight podcast episodes. We get a glimpse into their early lives up to their first meeting, when Mina came into Marietje's service at Ter Hooge Castle near Middelburg. We pass by both of their daily lives inside that house, the chaos of World War II, the great social changes of the 1950s and 1960s, and the increasingly closer bond between the countess and the servant as they became elderly women.   

Duin enters the investigation with clear expectations as to what she will find, mainly concerning the relationship between Marietje and Mina. She is convinced that their friendship has been mythologised and that a blind spot has arisen within her family to the differences between their positions. It can be dangerous to cling to such expectations. But Duin has good guidance, to whom she listens attentively and learns from. As a result, she finds wonderful nuances in the narratives of the two women.   

For example, about Marietje, who in her diaries seems obsessed by the run through of her staff. Duin finds out that she did not write about it because she had nothing better to do, but because it was part of her role as countess. After all, running a household in a castle was like running your own business. For the same reason, as an aging lady, she still depended on her faithful servant Mina. She had learned to be a countess, but not to cook the pheasants herself or to make a cup of tea. It is for these reasons alone that listening to Mina en Mevrouw feels like being a kid in a candy store.  



In an interview for Nooit meer slapen, Maartje Duin indicated that she finds audio an intimate medium, more intimate than writing. She herself has indeed a perfect voice to share that intimacy with the listener. In Mina en Mevrouw, you can feel from the beginning that you are intimately involved in the investigation into Duin's 'grandmama’ and her servant Mina. As it unfolds, therefore, you get sucked in deeper and deeper as a listener.

During the kitchen table conversations with Duin's family and the Marinusse family about their memories of their foremothers, you feel like a real attendee, and the emotions that are released hit you directly. In that intimacy that Duin manages to achieve, I think lies a great example for public history.   

Doing historical research, can come across as very dull, because there is the association with the old and the stuffy. But in reality, it's quite an intimate business. Just as Duin did for her podcast, historians regularly dive into archives, diaries and personal documents. What unfolds before the eyes of historians is actually a very intimate historical experience, which we don't often share. This is partly, because, doing so in writing -the historian's favorite medium - is quite difficult. But on the other hand, for historians, especially working within academia, there is still the rule of objectivity that must be pursued. And that is synonymous with: emtoions must be switched off.  

Listening to Duin's podcast has convinced me that the medium is an ideal one for conveying to a wider audience that intimate aspect of historical research, which is precisely what makes the profession so enjoyable for myself and my colleagues. Especially where the source material concerns ego documents or the tellings of relatives. The van Duin family diligently transcribed the diaries of 'grandmama’, from which passages were read out loud by van Duin's great-aunt. Her family also did not hesitate to give their straightforward opinions about what they found inside the diaries, which provided new perspectives for Duin’s research. And only too gladly did the Van Lyndens and Marinuses tell about their memories of Marietje and Mina. This oral history, certainly given by a generation, that was the last to know the two central women i the story well, and will not be among us for much longer, is a form of history best done in the podcast medium.   

Mina en Mevrouw proves that like no other. At any rate, the listening experience has given me new enthusiasm for my craft. 


Image: Yara Yimmink (2023) portrait of Maartje Duin.


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