Stedelijk, Rijksmuseum, StoreFront

Two major Dutch museums have opened their doors after having been closed for many years of renovation: The Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and the Rijksmuseum.
Both have been embraced by the public and have been praised by international media. The reactions on all levels have been overwhelmingly positive and are a relief to anybody working in the fields of art and culture in the Netherlands. As we have experienced three years of negative implications to any public money spent on art or cultural heritage.
Not only the high standard of the architecture and the shows have been responsible for this success, but a great deal of the credit I goes to the communication departments of both institutions. They have managed to position the museums as a open, democratic and liberal space for anybody interested.
Coming across some images of StoreFront for Art and Architecture in Manhattan, built in 1993 by Steven Holl1993 StoreFront Manhattan, the design strikes me as a 3D illustration of the communication strategy of these two institutions. Steven Holl designed an inside-out facade to the gallery, which addresses insular art and turns it out to the public street. Hinged walls rotate on both axes, allowing the walls to become tables and benches. This allows different uses of the space, creates new ways to enter a space and opens up new points of views on the exhibition. It seems that 20 years after Holl’s StoreFront design, Institutions are starting to implement the concept!

Crime Scene Investigation: Mosasaurus

view from the second floor in to the exhibition CSI: Mosasaurus

view from the second floor into the exhibition CSI: Mosasaurus

The Museum of Natural History Maastricht has experienced it’s busiest december ever. Thanks to the exhibition CSI: Mosasaurus, which we were most fortunate to be able to design. In the monumental chapel of the former monastery of the ‘grey sisters’ we designed a truly temporary exhibition. We turned the chapel into a black box, added a second floor which allows the visitors to actually se a full size mosasaurus along the wall and presented all information – texts, images, objects, films and interactions – on light boxes, the (almost) only source of light in the room. The result is a true contrast to the rest of the museum. This makes it a truly temporary show: creating an unexpected environment, introducing lighting that lets visitors see the contours of object better that the surfaces, as well as taking little notice of the monumental qualities of the space. We hope that many newcomers to the museum may find their way to this cultural jewel in the center of Maastricht! Check out our website www.studio-kernland.com for more images and information or consult the site of the museum www.nhmmaastricht.nl.

Jahreskongress 2012 VMS & ICOM Schweiz Dauerthema Dauerausstellung Winterthur 30/31 August 2012

The kick-off of the two day museum congress in Switzerland was superbly performed by Bettina Habsburg-Lothringen, director of the museum academy Johanneum, Graz, Austria.
Speaking to a group of about 300 museum professionals, all opinionated and self assured about their own view on permanent exhibits she managed to have the audience search for pens within minutes. All of us eager to capture some of the information she bombarded at us. She offered definitions, structures and classifications for the global term ‘permanent exhibition’; outlined ongoing trends and trends of the past. In words she illustrated how the object is the center of every permanent exhibition, the prima donna’s of the collection that forms the identity of the museum and the understanding of the institution for the employees. Permanent exhibitions offer continuity. That makes them usable for teachers and tourists. Very often permanent exhibits represent the view of a social elite. They tend to be larger and more complex then temporary shows but more timid and simpler in design and concept. Houses that dropped their permanent exhibitions to attract more visitors with a program of changing shows, tend to stress their staff and budget in the long run.
Besides the objects permanent shows add on information through introducing graphics: texts, maps, illustrations, pictures and models. In the 80’s installations were added. The boom of the 90’s was the multimedia, a tool that slowly has been fading in permanent shows as the conservation date is of short span and upgrades prove to be costly.
She offered interesting thoughts on newer forms, as the open deposit – immensely popular in the germanic Europe – these have similarities with the enlightenment museum: Putting the object back on center stage.
Bettina Habsburg-Lothringen left, giving the floor to a series of inspiring talks and best practices presented interchangeably in German, French and Italian. The first day was to end with a panel discussion involving a highly charged group of international specialists:
Peter Assmann, Museumsbund Austria, Maria Vittoria Marini Clarelli, ICOM Italia, Ewa Maczeck, OCIM France and Volker Rodekamp, Museumsbund Germany.
The discussion was ridiculed by the fact that no common language was offered, no interaction among these speakers was possible. It ended to be a series of direct interviews performed in three languages by the host of the day Gianna Mina Giving her the most stage light and robbing us – the audience – of some presumably fantastic conclusions. Here the enclosed nature of the Swiss society was visible: in stead of submitting to English for the sake of the cause the respect for the local languages and principle of one’s right to speak in own tong, formalities, overruled the content.

Blueprint

From 2008 up until 2011 there was a lot of coverage in the Dutch media about the Museum of National History in development. I followed the discussions, disputed with my colleagues and sketched ideas. On a personal level I was very much involved in the initiative. But when the Dutch House of Representatives stopt the project I didn’t think to much about it. It was the year 2011: the year of tremendous cuts in the cultural sector on all levels, in all areas and all fields. We were all to much involved with sorting out the consequences for our own existence to really register this decision. It took a hot summer weekend for me to grap the publication Blueprint and rediscover this great endeavor. The book is about the story of the Dutch Museum of National History containing informative illustrations and visuals describing the plan. It is a great reading for people who want to scan through Dutch history. In a way it’s a three dimensional experience, imagining the installations planed and simultaneously reading about the underlining historic information. At the same time it’s a collection of truly dutch values which could prove useful for cross cultural understanding. This blueprint can be a base for a new concept – the Museum of European History!

Maastricht June 2011, one of the many demonstrations in 2011 against the Dutch cuts in cultural funding.