Most museums only show a tiny percentage of their collections to the public – usually in the region of six or seven percent. The vast majority languishes off-site and out of view. This new museum collection in Rotterdam has turned that on its head. There will be no exhibitions: instead all the artefacts – around 151,000 of them – will be available for viewing.
Visitors are able to access 99 percent of the new building and also the entire collection of neighbouring Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in a clever museum-meets-art storage twist.
Accessible and educational
Visitors not only get to view the entire collection, they can also go behind the scenes to see how a collection of this size is preserved and managed.
The objects are housed in fourteen storage compartments with five different climates. “I want to let the public see what it means to take care of a collection,” says Sandra Kisters, Head of Collections and Research. “What problems do we encounter? How do you store pieces? And how do you restore them?”
The collection includes items from all over the world from 1400 to the present day. It spans prints and drawings, paintings and photographs, films, contemporary art installations, sculptures and other objects.
“We are convinced that making the collection accessible shows how much we care and how well we take care of it,” said Sjarel Ex and Ina Klaassen, joint directors of the Depot. “This is something that the inhabitants of Rotterdam will be proud of; something that they want to see with their own eyes, because they partly own this enormous artistic treasure.”
Key to access lies in technology
The new Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen has been designed by architects MVRDV and built by BAM Bouw en Techniek. It employs sophisticated engineering to allow the lower levels of the building to withstand the heavy load from higher levels. The six-storey monolithic bowl-shaped structure is covered by 1,664 mirrored panels, reflecting the greenery of the surrounding park.
The atrium features crisscrossing staircases with suspended glass cases.
Visitors then progress through to exhibition rooms and curators’ studios – in a unique behind the scenes experience.
An architectural garden tops the building including 75 birch trees, giving stunning views over the parkland to the city. The rooftop also houses a restaurant, serving drinks, snacks and meals throughout and after opening time (entrance is free after 5pm).
The Depot opens on Saturday 6 th November 2021. It is located next to Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in the Museumpark in Rotterdam.
V&A project also looks to collection and research
London’s Victoria and Albert Museum is also focusing on how to use collections to the max. Plans for the V&A East project not only include a new five-storey museum, but a new collection and research centre, to be located in London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford. It will be home to 250,000 objects stored in a way to make them more accessible to the public.
Images: Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen