Groningen Standards

Flags or standards of various Groningen social organizations from the period 1870-1970

10 February 2006 to 11 June 2006

Banners of various Groninger social organisations dating from the period between 1870 and 1970. Dutch society was divided into 'pilars' (zuilen). Besides so-called General (Algemene) organisations, there were Christian, Dutch Reformed, Catholic, Socialist and Jewish organisations, dealing with different labour, recreational and ideological issues. Many of the organisations had banners and quite a few wound up in the Groninger Museum collection. A selection of these is on show.

Due to the fact that the material, shape and character of the applications are often the same, the standards tend to look very similar at first sight. This is reinforced by the fact that the city emblem is often displayed on the standards of the associations, regardless of the target group. Closer inspection, however, reveals different names and symbols. Christian associations often have a bible on their standard. Socialist standards are usually red, although not all red standards are socialist. A caduceus represents trade and industry and therefore can be found on the standard of both the Algemene Groninger Winkeliers Verenging (General Groningen Shopkeepers Association) and the Christelijke Middenstandsbond (Christian Bond of Tradespeople). The symbols on the standard of the Jewish Gymnastics Association do not make it directly evident. One standard belongs to the Groningen Department for Female Suffrage. It is almost incredible that women’s right to vote in the Netherlands is not even one hundred years old.

The standards are usually made of velvet and have embroidered letters and symbols. There is a clear difference between the poorer and the richer associations, with the latter having much gold braid. The designs of the poorest associations are painted on the fabric. Unfortunately, the makers of most of the standards are unknown, with the exception of two standards that were made by the C.M. van Diemen firm in Dordrecht.

Although the standards received much honour and attention for a long time, many of them eventually ended up in attics and cupboards before finding a second home in the Museum. Somme of them arrived via the antiques trade. The traces of such ordeals are often visible but, nevertheless, the combined exhibition gives a good impression of the rich diversity of social life in Groningen as it once was.