Universiteit Leiden

nl en

Lyonne van Gaalen: ‘444 is an opportunity to show what Humanities represents’

In September 2017, immediately after graduating in Cultural Anthropology and Media Studies, Lyonne van Gaalen (25) became a trainee at LDE (the strategic alliance between Leiden University, Delft University of Technology and Erasmus University Rotterdam). Now in her second and final year as a trainee, she is coordinating the activities for Leiden University’s 444th anniversary for the Faculty of Humanities.

Community building under the 444 umbrella

‘Last year I started my traineeship in the Strategic Communication and Marketing directorate, where I worked on corporate communication: I helped with organising various events, such as the diversity symposium. Another important aspect of my work was media monitoring: observing what is written in the media about the University and how we can learn from that as an organisation. After the first year I could have gone to work at Delft University of Technology or Erasmus University, but at the time when I had to make the decision I was already working on the preparations for our 444th anniversary. So it was an easy choice when the position of coordinator of the celebrations in Humanities became free.

The main emphasis of these celebrations is very much on showing the residents of Leiden and The Hague what it means to have a university in your city. Within our Faculty we also want to give the celebrations a ‘community’ twist. I find this incredibly interesting: all the different Humanities themes plus community building. How can we create a greater sense of unity and collective pride in what we do here? I see the 444 celebrations as the umbrella for bringing people within the Faculty more into contact with each other.’

We should be prouder

‘I’ve been able to put my anthropology experience into practice here right from the start. I try to see things from the perspective of the staff members as a way to understand what happens here, why they do the things they do, and why various structures operate as they do. The Faculty has a fairly complicated organisational structure, especially when you compare it with the faculty where I studied: Social and Behavioural Sciences. So I started by talking to as many people as possible, to find out what they see as important. At the same time, I also identified what we already have in-house and what issues are relevant within the Faculty.

This approach is now starting to show results. People know who I am; they’re enthusiastic and want to help in practical ways and with ideas. I involve staff and students in organising all our initiatives. For instance, there are now five project teams: a core team, a team that’s organising the Friends and Family Day on 25 May, a team that will curate the Humanities exhibition, a team that’s organising the Faculty’s 444 party in September, and a photography and video team that will expertly record all these events. Nearly all the team members are staff and students, all enthusiastic people who want to show what Humanities represents. They’re proud of what they do, whether that’s studying, teaching or research. I love working with such passionate and inspiring people; it really energises me.’

A video game as cultural heritage

‘During my studies, I became increasingly interested in media and the digital aspects of our society, so I also took the minor in Journalism and a master’s in New Media and Digital Culture. I’m still particularly fascinated by that combination of digital media and anthropology. While studying, I also worked at the National Museum of Ethnology, where I was ultimately able to do my master’s research. I looked at how digital objects can also be seen as authentic cultural heritage within ethnographic museums. For instance, a Japanese video game, such as Final Fantasy, is unlikely to be regarded as cultural heritage that belongs in a museum, whereas a physical Japanese board game is much more likely to be seen in this way. I conducted interviews with curators, exhibition organisers and other museum professionals about this. It was very interesting to debate with people who’ve worked in this discipline for many years and are still convinced that something is only museum-worthy heritage if you can actually hold it in your hand. And my love of games and digital culture means that I can talk about this for days on ‘During my studies, I became increasingly interested in media and the digital aspects of our society, so I also took the minor in Journalism and a master’s in New Media and Digital Culture. I’m still particularly fascinated by that combination of digital media and anthropology. While studying, I also worked at the National Museum of Ethnology, where I was ultimately able to do my master’s research. I looked at how digital objects can also be seen as authentic cultural heritage within ethnographic museums. For instance, a Japanese video game, such as Final Fantasy, is unlikely to be regarded as cultural heritage that belongs in a museum, whereas a physical Japanese board game is much more likely to be seen in this way. I conducted interviews with curators, exhibition organisers and other museum professionals about this. It was very interesting to debate with people who’ve worked in this discipline for many years and are still convinced that something is only museum-worthy heritage if you can actually hold it in your hand. And my love of games and digital culture means that I can talk about this for days on end, so I think it would be fantastic to do something with this again sometime, in the academic field.’

Gaming in a ‘hacker cave’

‘I’m a fanatical gamer and play all kinds of games. From The Witcher to Mario Kart. My favourite game is Rainbow Six Siege: a strategic shooter game where you defeat opponents by working as a team; I really like that. People sometimes have prejudices about gaming, and that’s fine, but I also see gaming as a very social activity. In the process of gaming, I’ve met friends that I speak with everyday online. Everyone speaks English. I often play together with my boyfriend in our ‘hacker cave’, as my sister calls it. We each have our own PC but we play the games as a team. For me, it’s pure relaxation; I can really empty my head when I’m gaming. My other hobbies include reading and watching box sets, and I recently also took up running. It’s going very well. I run a couple of times a week with my boyfriend: suffering together, that’s what I really call “quality time”.’

In the Humans of Humanities series, we will do a portrait of one of our researchers, staff members or students, every other week. Who are they, and what do they do? You can find more portraits and information on this page.

Femke Wouters
Send an e-mail to the online editors

This website uses cookies. More information