The Red Star Line Museum (RSL) in Antwerp is dedicated to the history of the Red Star Line shipping company, that transported nearly 2 million European emigrants to North America. The museum is located in the old disinfection and inspection facilities for the company’s third class passengers. These are on the very quays in the old Antwerp harbour where people said goodbye to Europe and boarded, often in steerage, the vessel that took them to a new life.

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



RSL as an open and hospitable house

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 core narrative in a way that is appealing and recognizable for a broad contemporary audience, and especially to specific target audiences such as 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 cocreation play a central part in many aspects of the museum’s practice, including research, collection building (especially our collection of personal life stories) and the development of temporary exhibitions and related activities.


Red Star Line museum’s motivation to participate in the project Specially Unknown EU

Red Star Line Museum is a collection-managing institution. that wants to reflect on the definition of migration heritage. The museum’s vision is to collect ‘ensembles’ – objects with the stories as a connecting crucial factor.  The museum chooses to focus on specific projects that also includes participation and co-creation. Against the backdrop of the refugee crisis, RSL focuses on refugees as the first project. With the refugee oral history project Specially Unknown EU, RSL wants to record the experiences of post-war refugees. The project gives the museum a chance to expand its collection with contemporary migration heritage and refugee life stories.


The stories will be added to the museum’s collections and will form the basis of a number of small and large productions, exhibitions and activities that will be organised in collaboration with external partners between 2019 and 2021.


“We don’t have many objects, only some emotional valuable things that are kept in the family. But migration is also a mental process, a story” – Bram Beelaert –



Specially Unknown Team Antwerp


Bram Beelaert (Local project Coordinator / Curator – Red Star Line Museum)


Tel: +32 477554600


Céline Joris ( from May 2018)


Nadia Babazia (until May 2018)



Fieldworkers Team Antwerp


Introduction of the 12 fieldworkers

All fieldworkers finished the training on oral history, migration history in Belgium and Antwerp, interview techniques, camera techniques, archiving and transcribing the interviews, presenting stories in the museum and other forms of co-creation and presentation.

  • Wendy Abusabal Sanchez   – origin Peru, anthropologist/historian
  • Mhamed Bouhlib  – origin Morocco, social worker/teacher, lots of experience with young refugees
  • Diana Dimbueni  – origin Angola/Congo, a university student, freelance photographer
  • Sanaa El Fekri, origin Morocco, psychologist
  • Polina Gerelchuk, origin Russia, a university student, journalist
  • Samer Jadallah, origin Palestine, teacher
  • Ursula Jaramillo, origin Chili, social worker
  • Andrés Lübbert, origin Belgium/Chili, filmmaker
  • Wendy Kegels, origin Belgium/China, copywriter, storyteller
  • Nasteha Mohamed, origin Somalia, social worker
  • Samuel Pinillos, origin Belgium/Guatemala, cultural worker
  • Vida Ravazi, origin Iran, social worker

Variety in language skills: •Arabic (Mhamed, Samer, Sanaa) •Spanish (Andres, Sam, Wendy A, Ursula) •Lingala (Diana) •Somali (Nastena) •Russian (Polina) •Chinese (Wendy K) •Farsi (Vida).


A widespread focus in Antwerp

In March 2018 the team will start interviewing people with a refugee background. The focus of Specially Unknown EU project is to interview third-country nationals with a background from:

  • The Horn of Africa
  • South America
  • Arabic speaking communities (Iraq and Syria)
  • Asia (Afghanistan and China)

Partner organisations in the Steering Committee

RSL will collect stories with fieldworkers and share stories in co-creation in the museum and in the city with other partners of the steering committee from different expertise:

  • Academic (Centre for Urban History- University of Antwerp)
  • Art (Extra City and Filarmonie)
  • Heritage (City Archives, Faro and Kazerne Dossin)
  • Media (VRT)
  • Refugee interest groups – (Integration departments of Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen and Red Cross)

Upcoming events RSL museum:

  • September: During the 5th anniversary of Red Star Line Museum the first presentation will be presented. In this presentation, we want to share with the field workers and other newcomers our latest participation project: ‘thuishaven’ safe heaven
  • From 1 February 2017, the story of the Red Star Line Museum will be circulating in Antwerp to collect stories from migrants about their first 5 years in the city. Whether it concerns people with a refugee history, students who have stayed here or immigrants from other Belgian cities: everyone can share their story. How did people experience this period? Which places have a special meaning? Which places are connected with joy, homesickness, hope, lack, a home feeling? People can draw, write, sketch or express their story in a creative way on a map. The stories are included in the Red Star Line collection and in a new exhibition and publication in September 2018.
  • In 2019 presentations/exhibits in collaboration with partners in the museum and in the city. Participation of refugees and fieldworkers is crucial.
  • In 2021 RSL is planning an exhibition in collaboration with Kazerne Dossin on the theme of refugees ( 70th anniversary of the Geneva Convention on the protection of refugees)

Montevideostraat 3
2000 Antwerpen – BELGIUM
tel. 0032 3 298 27 70