Oil changed the world radically. It had an important role to play in post-war rebuilding, too. In 1962, a century after the arrival of the first barrels of oil, Rotterdam became the largest port in the world thanks to the black gold. The modest exhibition Oliedam looks at the many ways that oil has shaped Rotterdam since the first barrel from the United States arrived in 1862.
Oil and the expansion of the port go hand in hand. Shortly after the first wooden barrels arrived in the heart of Rotterdam the storage facility for the flammable new commodity was moved to what was, at the time, the sparsely populated area of Feyenoord. As the city developed, the oil storage facilities accordingly moved more and more towards the West: Charlois, Pernis, Botlek, Europoort and Maasvlakte.
The role of oil in our daily life goes much further than merely fuel for our cars. It has an impact on almost everything around us. Oil exploration, refining, transportation and use have a significant influence on our environment. Think of petrol pumps, storage tanks or the system of pipe lines that extends from Rotterdam to cover almost all of Europe. But industrial plants, the head offices of oil multinationals, the road network and the invisible financial markets are each linked to oil in all its guises. More to the point, the logos of oil companies can be seen all around us. In our streets, at home, even on our clothing.
End of an era
The oil wealth has its price. Traffic demands more and more asphalt. The power of the multinational oil companies raises questions. Stocks are limited and the environment is under pressure. The oil era appears to be at an end. What does this mean for Rotterdam and its port?
Oliedam is a joint project of Museum Rotterdam and TU Delft (Carola Hein and Seyed Mohamad Ali Sedighi), based on scientific research by Carola Hein.