“Civilization arises and unfolds in and as play.”

Johan Huizinga in Homo Ludens (1938)

In the Past-at-Play Lab we, researchers from the Faculty of Humanities and the Faculty of Archaeology, build on this insight from the well-known philosopher from Leiden. We study how ancient ‘human civilisation’ expressed themselves through play, as well as how we engage with the past as play in the present. In short, how did people play in the past and how do we play with the past now? This dual question converges in a simple but effective idea: in order to understand play, whether in the present or in the past, you must play.

What is the
Past-at-Play Lab?

Finding the answers to these questions will happen in The Past-at-Play Lab, a research lab and public ‘playspace’. Students and inhabitants from Leiden can come and play games from the past, as well as contemporary video- and boardgames that relate to the past.

During play, researchers will analyse its development and whether the activity of play changes people’s ideas on the past. Data will be collected through questionnaires and group discussions, but also through observing play. Researchers will do this using their own eyes, but also through computer and video recordings that document each step of play, allowing researchers to follow the development of the play session and analyse it closely using digital tools.

The Past-at-Play Lab is therefore not merely a new step in the study of the past and the study of play – it also offers the public and students the possibility to learn about research from Leiden into this field of study.

Play and Learn with us!

Starting January 2021 you can visit the Past-at-Play Lab in Lipsius. The Lab’s opening times and other special events will become available on this website soon. Come follow us on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram for the latest news!

Until that time, you can entertain yourself with the special Twitch live-streams from researchers of the Past-at-Play Lab.