An Englishman in New York, an Ecuadorian in Leeuwarden
As I write this from the Museum Vereniging Museumcongres in Leeuwarden, The Netherlands, I have decided it is time to put my headphones on. All the Dutch surrounding me is confusing me, making me believe at points that I speak it.
Coming here as a non-Dutch speaker, I was initially reluctant as to what I could learn and how I could contribute to the conference. I was however, pleasantly surprised and can now directly relate to a common Spanish idiom that says ‘You’ll never go to bed without knowing something more’.
Upon my arrival, I looked around, and I must admit I was a bit lost and felt very out of place - it doesn’t help that I am 5ft2in either. Nonetheless, as the first morning rolled out I realised that my inability to speak Dutch would in no way stop me from learning and sharing ideas.
The subject of the conference was ‘Collectie Boppie’- which loosely translates to ‘Raise/Long Live/Hooray for the Collection’. What does this mean in this day and age where at times we see museum collections as antiquated and obsolete things?
After all, prices in the art market have reached such extortionate levels that the museum is now unable to be an active collector and must resign to being simply a receiver, an heir, a keeper.
As a result, the conference pressed on the idea of the need for museums to use the resources they have both in house and beyond the walls of the museum. One of the main points of one of the discussion panels was to actively work with private collectors in various ways, not just in sponsorship and patronage opportunities. The speaker stressed the point that these modern collectors are the current holders of art and museums must welcome them into their spaces. Curators must work with these collectors to build better exhibitions and to engage the public with the works they are showing.
Upon hearing all this, I thought to myself ‘well doesn’t this sound exactly like what we are trying to do?!’ To my relief, we weren’t the only ones who thought this! Funnily enough, after the conference several people came up to our stand asking if we had sponsored that talk, which of course we hadn’t. It is moments like this when you reassure yourself that you aren’t the only crazy person in the world who thinks more must be done to connect private collectors and museums. More action must be taken to guarantee these two parties cooperate and succeed together.
A couple of days in The Netherlands taught me that people are more open than what we believe. Museums expressed their concerns in regards to budget cuts, and how sometimes they must set limits on the visions that curators have for exhibitions because the numbers simply won’t add up. However, we must not think of these situations as limits, but rather as challenges that with a little thought and open mindedness will enable museums to go beyond their vision.