The landscape of the the IJsselmeerpolders, that took shape after the draining of the Zuider Zee since the 1930’s, is a completely manmade material and visual entity. At first sight it looks like a generic landscape, resulting from a master plan that once was designed and altered by planned or haphazard interventions of private enterprise and governmental agency. It seems strange to discover and consider heritage elements in such a young environment.
Within society the polders and its cities have the reputation of being cold, sterile environments without any culture, history or significant cultural heritage. Not many people are willing to pay a visit to the province, let alone live there. However, the landscape has a locus (it is a site), a spatial decorum (stage set) and, of course, a history. Heritage lingers everywhere.
So contrary to popular belief, the IJsselmeerpolders are an interesting geographical area of research, especially when one deals with questions concerning heritage and natural and cultural landscapes.
In this paper we will attempt to position ourselves amidst the (mainly Anglo-Saxon) heritage discourses, which make the impression of a clash between visions that seem irreconcilable, but, seen from a different perspective, are not contradictory at all, if we use a specific ´biographic´ method to combine the deep and the contemporary history of the polders. Once we created this theoretical frame of reference, we ask ourselves what the heritage of the polders exists of, how we can evaluate this heritage and select some striking examples where geoarchaeology, heritage knowledge, governance, branding, commerce, economy and experience society can meet. We finish our story by returning to the question how past and present can communicate and making the polder more attractive for inhabitants and visitors.
This research is part of the ongoing multidisciplinary Dutch ‘Biography of the New Land’ research program.