Doing History, Creating Memory: Representing the Past in Documentary and Archive-Based Television Programmes within a Multi-Platform Landscape

B. Hagedoorn

Research output: ThesisDoctoral thesis 1 (Research UU / Graduation UU)


Television is a significant mediator of past and historical events in modern media systems. This dissertation studies practices of representing the past on Dutch television as a multi-platform phenomenon. Dynamic screen practices such as broadcasting, cross-media platforms, digital thematic channels and online television archives provide access to a wide range of audio-visual materials.By exploring how television's convergence with new media technologies has affected its role as a mediator of the past, this study reflects on how contemporary representations of history contribute to the construction of cultural memory. Specifically,the poetics of doing history in archive-based and documentary programming are analysed from 2000 onwards, when television professionals in the Netherlands seized the opportunity to experiment with storytelling practices made possible by the increased digitisation of archival collections and the presence of online and digital platforms. This study is founded on a textual analysis of audio-visual cases to reveal processes of meaning making, and a production studies approach to gain insight into creators' strategies of broadcasting and multi-platform storytelling in relation to historical events. Such an approach reveals distinct textual, cultural-historical and institutional aims, strategies and conventions for doing history on television, bringing power relations to the surface.
By means of an analysis of distinct cases, different aspects of doing history on television and television as a practice of cultural memory in the multi-platform era are explicated. The studied programmes and practices were broadcast and provided an online cross-media experience between early 2000 and the first half of 2015, and continue to live on online. These include the archive-based history programme andere tijden [changing times] (NPS/NTR/VPRO, 2000– ), whose treatment of history is based on actuality; the narrowcasting and cross-platform scheduling of previously broadcast history and nostalgia programming on Dutch digital thematic channels, specifically NPO Doc and NostalgieNet; the World War II documentary project de oorlog/13 in de oorlog [the war/13 at war] (NPS, 2009–2010) focusing specifically on Holocaust representation through broadcasting and multi-platform storytelling; and the cross-media documentary project in europa [in europe] (VPRO, 2007–2009) which uses multi-platform strategies to constitute engagement with twentieth century European history. These cases provide a considerable starting point for a reflection on the interplay between past and present via television. New digital technologies are the driving force behind increasingly connected experiences offered and used by television creators.Each case discusses different dynamics in the degree of cross- and transmediality, as well as the choices made by the creators as 'memory makers' to represent a certain type of history.
This dissertation consequently shows, first, how the selection and circulation of historical narratives and audio-visual archive materials in new contexts of television works in relation to processes of mediation, hybridity and curation, and second, how such practices help to search, preserve and perform individual and collective cultural memories. Televised histories connect users with the past and provide necessary contextual frameworks through cross-media and transmedia storytelling, demonstrating the continuing importance of stories and memories produced through televisual practices – challenging accepted versions of history.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Utrecht University
  • de Leeuw, Sonja, Primary supervisor
  • Müller, Eggo, Supervisor
Award date22 Jan 2016
Print ISBNs978-90-393-6503-8
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jan 2016


  • Dutch television
  • history
  • memory
  • audio-visual materials
  • representation
  • multi-platform storytelling
  • poetics


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