“We have many objects with emotional valuable things that are kept in the family.
But migration is also a mental process, a story”

(Bram Beelaert, Curator Red Star Line Museum, Project coordinator Specially Unknown Antwerp)


Red Star Line Museum (RSLM) in Antwerp wants to stimulate reflection on “migration heritage”. The museum’s vision is to collect ‘ensembles’ – objects with the stories as a crucial “connecting” factor, and to work on projects which include participation and co-creation.


Against the backdrop of the refugee crisis, RSLM chooses refugees as one of its focuses. The project Specially Unknown gives RSLM the chance to record the experiences of post-war refugees and to expand its collection of migration heritage with the life stories of the contemporary refugees. These stories will be added to the existing museum’s collections, and will form the basis of a number of productions.


The Red Star Line Museum (RSLM) in Antwerp is a collection-managing institution dedicated to the history of the Red Star Line shipping company, which had transported nearly 2 million European emigrants to North America.
The museum is located in the old Antwerp harbour, in the disinfection and inspection facilities for the company’s third class passengers – on the exact premises where people said goodbye to Europe and boarded, often in steerage, the vessel that took them to a new life.

Today, Antwerp is home to approximately 170 nationalities, making it a city that continues to be shaped by migration. As a museum exploited by the city, it is the mission of the Red Star Line Museum to present the migrations narrative in a way that is appealing and recognizable for broad contemporary audiences, and especially to the newcomers to the city.

The museum’s specific location, on a historic site of migration, makes it a meaningful and often emotional place for people to meet and to reflect on and share life experiences about migration. Dialogue, audience participation and increasingly co-creation play a central part in many aspects of the museum’s practice, including research, collection building (especially a collection of personal life stories) and the development of temporary exhibitions and related activities.


Refugee communities that take part in Specially Unknown
Since March 2018 the fieldworkers team have been interviewing people with a refugee background, from The Horn of Africa, South America, Arabic speaking communities (Iraq, Palestine and Syria) and Asia (Afghanistan and China)



The team of fieldworkers in Antwerp, during the festive award of their certificates 



Specially Unknown team Antwerp


11 fieldworkers

Wendy Abusabal Sanchez, anthropologist/historian, origin Peru

Diana Dimbueni, university student, freelance photographer, origin Angola/Congo

Sanaa El Fekri, psychologist, origin Morocco

Polina Gerelchuk, university student / journalist, origin Russia

Samer Jadallah, teacher, origin Palestine

Ursula Jaramillo, social worker, origin Chili

Wendy Kegels, copywriter / storyteller, origin Belgium/China

Andrés Lübbert, filmmaker, origin Belgium/Chili

Nasteha Mohamed, social worker, origin Somalia

Samuel Pinillos, cultural worker, origin Belgium/Guatemala

Vida Ravazi, social worker, origin Iran



Steering Committee for the artistic production for Specially Unknown

RSL Museum will create and set-up a cultural production based on the collected life stories of refugees. The production will be made in a co-creation between the museum and the members of our Steering Committee, which vary in filed and expertise:

  • Academic field: Centre for Urban History at University of Antwerp
  • Art field: Art Hall Extra City and Filarmonie orchestra (Antwerp Philharmonic Orchestra)
  • Heritage: City Archives, Faro (Flemish Interface Centre for Cultural Heritage) and Kazerne Dossin (museum about the holocaust & human rights in Belgium)
  • Media: Flemish Radio and Television (VRT)
  • Refugee interest groups: Integration departments of Belgium Council for Refugees and Red Cross)


Project Coordinator: Bram Beelaert, Curator Red Star Line Museum

Coordinator fieldworkers: Céline Joris, Audience Development Officer Red Star Line Museum



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