by • 5 Jul, 2011 • Thoughts about museumsComments (18)4016

Bumpy rides and dead-end streets

Rails End.....
Photo by Auntie G on

Those of you, who know a bit about the history of the museum I work for, know it has always been a topic of national debate. Ever since the project started, it has known times of fierce debate between opposing parties in the government. It has been a bumpy ride.

Has been, indeed, as over the past weeks the secretary of state responsible for culture decided to stop funding for a considerable number of arts and culture institutions. Almost every organisation that dared to be different, to educate future generations or discover the future of arts and culture suffers, greatly. There’s also a VAT increase on tickets and other cultural products, making arts and culture less accessible to the general audience.

My employer, the Museum of National History, is one of the institutions that will not get funding anymore. January 1st of 2012 the museum will cease to exist. It’s a pity, and a loss, but there’s nothing more we can do about it. The adventure is over.

The museum had been my home for over two years and I do believe we were still only at the beginning. Projects like xwashier, 100m2NL and our INNL network showed our thoughts about the future of museums, but in themselves were only steps towards the realisation of our vision. We could have done so much more.

We could have done so much more, especially because of the people I had the good fortune to work with. In my presentations I usually praise my directors for their ambition and vision, but the team also consists of the most audience-focused curators, stress-resistant project manages, thorough researchers etc. I’ve ever worked with. Plus, they were fun. All the great projects on this blog are the result of their work. I often merely wrote them down.

Which leads to the projects. We never had a building or collection, but we do have some cool projects, such as the National Vending Machine. The coming months we will look for a decent home for them. How we will do this, I will let you know later, but rest assured that we will do our utmost to keep our projects accessible to the audience.

Lastly, I believe the unique challenge of building a museum in the 21st century, with a strong focus on innovation, has taught us a lot about the future of cultural institutions. One of the things I liked most about my job was the opportunity I got to share our experiences and knowledge with others in the field. I would love to continue doing so in the coming months.

I believe all change is always for the better. And I believe that when things are being stirred, opportunities arise. In short: I’m an optimist. Yet it’s no fun to see two years full of hard work disappear by government decree. I will keep this blog up and have a long list of things I should still write about, so here at least the ride continues. At least, for a while. Thanks for reading this, following our adventure and see you soon,


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  • I want to Like this post, but I never like news of museums being closed, nor of funding cut for innovative work in cultural institutions.
    I admire your faith in the future and wish you the best of luck in finding further interesting work and wonderful colleagues.

  • Thanks Janet, the future always holds a promise:-)

    Anecdote: on our website we had a big discussion about the Like-button and “I’m fan” functionality it has (with regards to topics such as the Holocaust, racism, etc.). We decided to use “This has my interest”. Plus, there were issues with other relations such as “visitor of” (with regards to people visiting deportation camps, etc.). The tricky semantics of the semantic web…

  • Oh, Jasper. I’m sorry to hear this.  2011 is turning out to be a bleak year in the international museum community. 

    I’m glad you’re going to keep writing. January 2012 in a ways off yet.  I, for one, will continue to look to you for insightful thinking on the possible futures of museums, regardless of your institutional affiliation. Keep it up!

  • This certainly got me all heart-achey and I’m so sorry to hear of this. I know there are big things ahead for you though, Jasper. People from all over will be fighting over you. You should start here : ) – at the biggest and best children’s museum in the world:

  • Thanks Ed, 2012 is – indeed – ways off. I’ll be blogging as much as I can. See you around!

  • Hi Lori, thanks for your nice words. The future will be nice, for sure. There’s a lot of people in the Netherlands that will be looking for new challenges, I just hope everybody will be alright.

    I’ll have a look at the ‘biggest and best children’s museum in the world’ (as a friend says: what will you do when we discover children’s museums on Mars, or Saturn? Will they be better? Shouldn’t you say “the best, period?”)

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  • Nancy Proctor

    Wow, that is very depressing indeed and makes 3 bits of similarly bad news I received today. I am so sorry, Jasper, for you and all your wonderful colleagues, as well as all the other people who won’t get to enjoy your Museum – at least not next year! I hope we can take inspiration from your optimism and keep the faith that this is not the final chapter for your vision; I know you’ll be innovating and transforming culture wherever you land! 

  • Linda

    What an unhappy piece of news to wake up to this morning.  Jasper, I feel for you and your colleagues,  but I always believe that creative, thoughtful people always find a new place for their work–and I’m confident that the same will be true for all of you.   And I’m so glad you’ll keep sharing those thoughtful, creative approaches here on the blog.

  • Thanks Nancy! The saddest part is, as you also say, it’s like an epidemic. All around me wonderful institutions that really add value to the lives of many are being shut down or severely limited. I hope future generations can enjoy the same arts, heritage and freedom to discover culture as I can now. I think that’s a thing worth working for.

  • Thank you Linda! Sorry to give you a bad start of the day. I promise I will post something constructive soon;-) Take care!

  • Really sorry to hear this. I included the National Vending Machine as an example of participatory museums in some research I was doing and hope I get to visit it someday, wherever it ends up! Good luck for the future.

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