I’m still working my way through all of Dad’s “stuff” , posting items of interest to the Picstory.net site.
One of the items was a sketchbook with photos, taking during his time at the Academy of Arts in Rotterdam. A bunch of students having a bit of fun (Dad is the one with the violin).
It looks like these photos were taken of the “activities” described in this letter (translation), suspending him from the Academy for two days. So what were they celebrating? The invasion in Normandy a few days earlier?
In any case, Dad did not finish that year at the Academy, he was picked up by the Germans, together with his future brother-in-law, Jord. They were sent to Germany by river boat but escaped on the way. He spent the rest of the war in hiding at Peer de Hoed‘s place. You can read a letter from his sister, Henny written during that time.
While rummaging through Dad’s papers for items to archive to picstory.net (yes, there is still much more to discover), I found some pages of “Het Kompas”, a newspaper from August 1945, originally 32 pages long. Unfortunately only the wrap-around pages survive.
It was the peacetime version of a second World War underground news sheet. It’s clear why Dad kept this copy, the front page is all about the famous forger of Vermeer’s paintings, Han van Meegeren, who had recently been arrested. Ref. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Han_van_Meegeren
Why was this of interest to Dad (Jo Coomans)? As the story goes, he found occasional work during the war by copying valuable paintings, so owners could store the original away. The painting below is one of these copies, supposedly returned to him after the war.
Also, immediately after the war, he worked for a short time with an entrepreneur who sold souvenir paintings to the liberating troops, the usual windmill/canal views. So the controversy about van Meegeren and his Vermeer-like paintings would have been of interest to a budding painter like Jo.
Anyway… the remaining pages of the newspaper are just as interesting, read on…
It’s about time that I posted an update on progress with the picstory website.
While it was a lot of work, there was a lot of satisfaction in archiving Willem Kooij’s sites to picstory.net. The website re-coding should result in Willem’s writing and photos being preserved well into the future.
Because it took some months to archive Willem’s work, I’ve gotten a bit behind with the main picstory archive. The main additions this year have been family photos and funeral notices. All in all, the archive now contains over 650 items, with many thousands waiting to be added…
I just acquired a new Epson V550 scanner, with attachments for slides and negatives and look forward to capturing some of the old negatives from the vault!
The picstory.net website was meant as a repository of family documents, photos, documents, etc… But I decided to slightly expand its purpose.
My cousin, Willem Kooij started blogging in 2005. He wrote daily stories right through a turbulent time, including the death of his wife Yvonne and up to his own passing in 2013.
After his death, a couple of friends looked after his affairs, including his websites. Recently, I approached them about some glitches with the site and ended up offering to archive Willem’s ( and Yvonne’s) sites on a permanent basis.
As might be expected, it was more involved than just copying files. I converted the WordPress files to static files and, while it was a slow process, it should be stable long term that way.
I built an overview page to access all of Willem and Yvonne’s sites here.
So, there we are… another year gone! While I would have liked getting more of the family site built, it now has just over 400 items, at least enough to see where it’s heading…
I really enjoyed scanning in some terrific Christmas / New Year cards from Han Hoogenkamp recently, he was one of Dad’s colleagues back in Holland at the Navy (see earlier item). They’re all hand-made (more on Han’s page) and a wonderful memory of the man, who I remember very well. He taught Dad to play the organ, was a valuable colleague at the Hydrographic Office and kept in touch for many years after we left for Australia.
After some distractions in the first half of the year and a terrific holiday in Europe, I’m back working on the picstory.net website. As I’ve given myself 10 years to build it, what’s six months off occasionally?
There are now pages for around two hundred family members (most of them pretty basic) and over 250 photos and other items of interest.
Some of the recent enhancements:
A new category – “Other Items” for things I couldn’t fit in elsewhere, like newspaper clippings and memorial booklets.
An illustration for the front page – yes, it’s Dad/Jo Coomans, the inspiration for this site ( “what to do what all that stuff he left behind?”). He’ll also show up as the icon for the site.
My first translated letters. I can’t see how I can translate more than a few representative ones, but I’ll try.
I’d love some feedback/critique of the site. Here are a few things which I don’t like and will look towards changing:
While the miniature photos on a personal page are Ok, even if a bit small, documents end up looking all the same. I think I will end up adding titles below the document miniatures.
For some people, the sheer number of items will end up ovewhelming (ie when I upload hundreds of Dad’s artworks). Not sure how to solve it yet, I might have to group the items.
Similarly, for some events there are lots of photos, threatening to ‘flood’ pages, for example I uploaded our wedding album. What I ended up doing is only link selective photos to Joy’s and my personal pages. You would need to go to the year (1971) to see the other photos.
Lots more things to consider, but that’s enough for now. I look forward to feedback / suggestions / critiques. Fire away in the comments or email me at email@example.com
When Dad vacated the family home in mid 2014, we found a rich treasure of artwork, letters, documents, photographs and other “artifacts of life” in his “Rommelkamer”[junk room]. Not to mention the skull in the bedroom cupboard…
I ended up with a lot of the “treasure”, photographing his paintings and drawings and doing my best to preserve anything valuable or of historical interest.
That still left the question of what to do with it all? Was there a way of preserving it as a digital collection and exposing it to others?
It might also be interesting to document some of the history of our family in moving from one continent and society to another. Underlying the contents of Dad’s room was a story which would be interesting to develop…
So I’ve been experimenting (fiddling) with a way to tell the story for the past few months. In a subsequent post, there will be an opportunity to document some of the design decisions which were made along the way. For the moment, you can have a look at its beginnings at http://picstory.net
And feel free to comment, criticise and/or question the project.
You might ask, for example, why there are so few of the family’s ‘assets’ on that site just yet. That’s because it seemed logical to start with “a framework” formed by the family tree before adding the ‘assets’. There are some examples already how that might work, though.
I have given myself ten years to get this into a reasonable shape, so use your imagination when browsing and feel free to assist! Oh, and before I close this off, I’m focused mainly on people and events in the already distant past but will respect any feedback and /or requests for privacy.
In 1947, Jo was employed by the “Bureau Hydrografie” at the Badhuiskade in Scheveningen (for all intents and purposes a suburb of The Hague). His job was as a draftsman, creating and correcting Navy Hydrographic Charts.
While he was unhappy at the Bureau towards to end of his employment (one reason to migrate to Australia), it’s clear that he enjoyed the camaraderie of colleagues and made friendships which lasted many years beyond his departure. He corresponded with one of them, Han Hoogenkamp until that colleague’s death more than 20 years later.
I was lucky to visit “the Bureau” a few times as a teenager and well remember the long room (tekenkamer), which faced the park so they would enjoy natural light.
Nowadays, charts are produced by computer (and printed copies are increasingly rarely used). In those days charts were drawn by hand, carefully constructed from coordinates and soundings. It was a trade steeped in traditions going back hundreds of years. Early charts of Australia (New Holland) and Indonesia (Durch East Indies) were made by Dad’s predecessors in the 1600’s. It’s probably true that, working as a civilian for the Navy, some of its history and traditions proved stifling for a free spirit with artistic rather than bureaucratic ambitions.
Apart from drafting, his tasks were to supervise printing of the charts by a printer, Marchant-Paap-Stroker (MPS) in The Hague. He would spend days there in a Quality Control role during print runs. The photo on the left is from Dept of Defense webpage showing him supervising the printing of charts. By the way, that page is wrong on the location. There were never any printing presses at the “Bureau”, but they were printed under contract by MPS.