The student in Groningen 1614-2014

01 March 2014 to 31 August 2014

Since the founding of the University of Groningen in 1614, students have constituted an important part of the city population. The student is not only engaged in acquiring knowledge and expertise but also in developing social and life skills. The current exhibition focuses on this latter aspect. For a long time, students made up four to five per cent of the population, but spectacular growth has taken place in the last fifty years. Nowadays, one fifth of the residents of Groningen are students. 

  • Photo: Sacha de Boer
  • Jan Jr. Wassenbergh, The pipe smoker (the lazy student), z.j., oil/wood, 77,5 x 63 cm, collection Groninger Museum

The exhibition presents unique friendship books (alba amicorum) in which students wrote poetry, assignments and occasionally made drawings. Separate student organizations with their own societies have existed since 1815. The regularly planned ceremonies and processions organized by such associations brought entertainment and pleasure to the city.
The students came from the surrounding region and also from further afield. The university also formed a training ground for strict Protestants from Ostfriesland and Bentheim in Germany. Students from all over the world now attend Groningen University. They provide an important impulse to sports practice in the city. In the wars of 1665, 1672, 1831 and 1940-45, students also made a significant contribution to the war effort. The city was proud of its student populace at such moments.

The exhibition displays surviving objects from these four centuries of education. Much attention is devoted to the many masquerades, the historic processions held between 1836 and 1914, which made a deep impression on the city residents. Expressions of typical student culture, with its own costumes, songs and club colours and posters, form the core of the exhibition. Famous Groningen painters such as Eerelman, Bach, Dijkstra and Van der Zee lent their support. The Groningen student world also produced renowned performing artists such as Seth Gaaikema, Pé Daalemmer & Rooie Rinus, and the band IsOokSchitterend! Groningen students have also made their mark at the Olympic Games, where Epke Zonderland, for example, won a gold medal.

Students make their own contribution to local commercial activity, being employed as babysitters, drivers, waiters and assistants. Their behaviour does not always comply with the expectations of normal Groningen citizens, but their activities are essential for the local economy. Clubs, places of entertainment, bars, retail: students generate turnover and stimulate leisure activity.

The exhibition is being held in the framework of the fourth centenary of the University of Groningen and has been possible by the loan of objects from the University of Groningen Museum, the University of Groningen Library, the Groningen Archives, senates/ boards of former members of countless student associations, as well as from private collectors. 

The exhibition runs from 1 March to 31 August 2014.