What happens in a museum when a pandemic spreads around the world? It is a question that until recently seemed to belong in the fantasy world. Now this is our daily reality. Birgit Dark, Director of the Nederlands Fotomuseum explains what will be happening with regard to the museum in the next weeks and months . . .
The most important of course are the health of you and employees and visitors. First there were already known measures such as no shaking hands, keeping a distance, often washing hands. And then the museum had to close to the public and almost all employees went home. As in many places, consultation via Skype, Zoom and Teams is now a daily routine.
We also took into account the ‘health’ of the photos: all vintage photos from the exhibition ‘Strong stories from the rich collection of the Nederlands Fotomuseum’, the unique Polaroids of Charlotte Dumas and the beautiful screen prints from ‘De Migrant. Bird on the run from Anaïz López has been taken off the hall. We do this to protect them from light; photography is extremely sensitive and in principle vintage should only be in the room for about three months. Now the works are in storage again, among 5.5 million other images, in optimal conditions. That is,cold and dry.
In the meantime, we wondered how we can share as much of our collection with the public as possible, despite the physical closure of the museum. After all, that is our mission: to watch over the photographic heritage of the Netherlands and make it accessible to the public. After all, especially now that so many are at home, there is a great need for art and culture.
We are going to share visual stories through all our digital channels. Curator Frits Gierstberg selects cartoons and provides them with context. Head of communications Catelien van der Hoeven described the story of a woman depicted in photographs from the 1980s by Maria Toby. The pictures that Toby made the Oude Noorden in the Rotterdam district, which are her only children’s photos. We also work on workshops and educational programs that we can offer online.
Naturally, we will also consider the financial consequences of the temporary closure of the museum. We work out scenarios for one, two, three months closed. Fortunately, because we played very well last year, we can absorb something. But public income is an important pillar of our museum. We cannot do without.
Like everyone else, we hope this situation will be over soon. In the meantime, we will continue digitally. And we continue to enrich people’s lives with visual stories that matter.