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up to and including 02 April 2023
Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen

Unpacking Boijmans

In the depot we are carrying out research into the museum’s collection. This almost always takes place on a project basis with several of the museum’s staff members forming a team, sometimes in collaboration with external parties. For example, a restorer will inspect an artwork’s condition, a curator will contribute new art historical knowledge, and a registrar will ensure, among other things, that all information about the collection can be retrieved. These research projects are essential for the museum because they lead to new insights into the collection. How we look at art, heritage and the past is constantly changing, so research is never really complete. 

We are actively working on a research project called Unpacking Boijmans. This is set up to examine the relationship between colonialism and slavery within the museum’s collection. We invite you as a visitor to observe and help us reflect. What would you find interesting to know? Do you also have questions, suggestions or insights that you want to share with us?

This project builds upon research by the city of Rotterdam into its colonial past and involvement in the slave trade. The results of which were published in three volumes in 2020.

By formulating three changing themes, the traces of colonialism and slavery in relation to artworks and objects in the collection are explored. Each theme indicates a possible research direction. During a period of six months, the museum will determine, in collaboration with visitors and a group of advisors, which direction the research will take next.

 

Ongoing research 

In the Depot we are carrying out research into the museum’s collection. This almost always takes place on a project basis with several of the museum’s staff members forming a team (sometimes in collaboration with external parties). For example, a restorer will inspect an artwork’s condition, a curator will contribute new art historical knowledge, and a registrar will ensure, among other things, that all information about the collection can be retrieved. These research projects are essential for the museum because they lead to new insights into the collection. How we look at art, heritage and the past is constantly changing, so research is never really complete. Unpacking Boijmans builds upon the museum’s participation in Rotterdam’s research into the city’s colonial past and involvement in the slave trade. We are exploring traces of colonialism and slavery in relation to artworks and objects in the collection on the basis of three changing themes. During a period of six months, the museum will determine, in collaboration with visitors and a sounding board, which direction the research will take next.

Theme 1

6 October 2022 – 05 December 2022

Some collection pieces carry traces of colonial production, trade and consumption of sugar, tobacco, tea and coffee. In some cases, the historical production and consumption of these commodities predates the colonial system by which these commodities were produced on a massive industrial scale through the forced labour of enslaved people from Africa and Asia. This history will also be investigated here.

Theme 2

6 December 2022 – 6 February 2023

The museum’s collection contains artworks and objects whose depictions of people stem from colonial and racist representations. This negative image is also expressed in the absence and invisibility of people of colour or people of non-European origin. The museum’s collection also contains artworks and objects from the pre-colonial period that demonstrate that this negative image was not yet present.

Theme 3

7 February 2023 – 2 April 2023

From the moment that the previously named ‘Museum Boymans’ opened its doors to the public in 1849, the collection has been created and exhibited on the basis of a certain zeitgeist. This museum’s history is inextricably linked with colonial history. Art museums such as ‘Museum Boymans’ collected different types of artworks and objects to the Museum of Geography and Ethnography (1885), to which Rotterdam-based collectors also gave direction.