The collection of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is considered one of the sixty best art collections in the world. The collection has been growing for 165 years and currently consists of around 145,000 objects. Each year, dozens, sometimes even hundreds of new works are added. These are, of course, many more than can be exhibited in the museum. Around 8% is exhibited in the museum proper. That is just the tip of the iceberg. In addition, around 500 works of art travel round the world each year on loan to international exhibitions.
The works that are not shown in the museum’s rooms are stored in depositories in various places in and around the city. That gives problems: it is not efficient, the total depository space is too small and some depositories are in very poor condition and unsafe (there is, for example, a danger of water damage). That is why, since 2005, there have been discussions about a new building in which the collection can be stored in the proper way. Under perfect climatological conditions and properly secured against burglary, fire, water damage and other disasters.
In the museum world, there has for some time been a certain discontent about the classic, closed depositories. Inspired by the magnificent collection of Boijmans, the idea arose of making the collection truly accessible to the public, whereby people can see what takes place with and around that collection. Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen is the heart of the museum’s logistics.
The idea is: let the public share in the experience of how such a wonderful art trove is managed professionally in the centre of Rotterdam and is used for exhibitions at both home and abroad, exhibitions that attract millions of people. Let visitors take a peek into the world that usually remains hidden in the museum: the depot, the depository, the treasure vault and engine room of every museum.
The second idea was: go back to the roots of the museum by investing in the collaboration with private collectors. Rotterdam has a tradition of art collectors. In fact, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen is named after two of the many collectors who donated their collections to the city of Rotterdam. By offering private art collectors accommodation and collection services – a depository with associated presentation space – exhibitions can be combined and costs, expertise and networks can be shared. The ideas about public access to the collection and the collaboration with private collectors have resulted in a new typology that we call Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen.