Opening Up! Hidden treasures, anonymous warehouses

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The deputy director of London’s Victoria & Albert Museum and Boijmans director Sjarel Ex will be joined by fellow international museum professionals to discuss international developments in the field of museum depots in an online symposium. How do we manage our treasure troves?

The online symposium ‘Opening Up! Collection Centre Strategies’, organised by the Foundation for the Conservation of Contemporary Art (Stichting Behoud Moderne Kunst, or SMBK) and Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, will be held on Friday, 28 May 2021. Six international speakers will be sharing their experiences with combining care for the collection and the public function of a museum depot. How have they devised and designed the building? To what extent can it be accessible to the public? How is the safety of the collections secured? How are the visitors received? The symposium concludes with a round-table discussion involving all the speakers, with ample consideration for questions and comments from the audience.


It is rare for museums to allow visitors access to their storage facilities. Museum depots have traditionally remained invisible and inaccessible to the public. These museum treasuries look like anonymous warehouses and are often located on the urban periphery or deep in the bowels of museum buildings, but in recent years there has been a shift. An iconic example is the new Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam, which will open in the autumn of 2021. This depot is not just fully accessible for the public, but it also commands a prominent place in the cityscape, immediately adjacent to the museum. The Netherlands is not alone in taking novel approaches to the storage of museum collections and making them accessible to the public. Representatives of prominent international institutions will be sharing their thoughts about these topics.

Programme and speakers

The programme casts light on the tensions which can arise between conserving art versus making museum depots accessible. For example, Jane Dini, senior curator at the Brooklyn Museum in New York, explains the layout of the Luce Visible Storage Study Center, which makes some of the Brooklyn Museum’s warehoused artefacts accessible to the public, while Tim Reeve, deputy director of the V&A in London, will talk about the new V&A East location, where ‘the nation’s attic’ will be made accessible.

The speakers are:

Sjarel Ex, Director, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam

Joachim Hubert, Consultant for Prevart GmbH, Konzepte für die Kulturgütererhaltung, Winterthur

Tim Reeve, Deputy Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Markus Leuthard, Head of the Collections Centre, Swiss National Museum, Affoltern am Albis

Jane Dini, Senior Curator at the Brooklyn Museum, New York

Isabel Friedli, Curator at Schaulager, Basel

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This online symposium will be conducted in English and takes place on Friday, 28 May from 15:00 to 18:00 CET. Participation in Opening Up! Collection Centre Strategies costs €25.00, or €12.50 for students. Tickets can be purchased via the link below. If applicable, please submit an image of your student ID to The symposium is free for journalists and the staff of museums affiliated with SBMK.

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Registered participants will receive a Zoom link for the webinar by e-mail shortly before the event.

About Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen

The world-renowned art collection of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen has over the span of 170 years expanded to more than 151,000 artefacts, which includes some 63,000 paintings, photos, films, pre-industrial design and design objects, contemporary art installations and sculptures, as well as 88,000 prints and drawings.

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