Museum Rotterdam


about Authentic Rotterdam Heritage

Authentic Rotterdam Heritage: the active collection of the city
Museum Rotterdam manages the collection of historical objects of the city of Rotterdam. The objects are stored in the depot and feature in engaging exhibitions that tell the story of the city. For over a century this has been our strategy, but the city is changing.

Contemporary Rotterdam
New Rotterdammers don’t always see themselves reflected in our historical collection. That’s why in 2000, we began working with local communities to start collecting and presenting objects that reflect life in today’s Rotterdam. Our programme includes projects with Vrouwen van de Velden, a women’s group in Rotterdam South, with Bulgarian migrant workers, and with people working as informal carers. To embed this new approach in the museum, we needed to find a new strategy.

New Approach
A multi-year project with Bulgarian migrant workers in Rotterdam put us on the track of a useful method. The Bulgarian community maintains close ties with the home country. Because their tourist visa didn’t allow them to stay in the Netherlands for more than three consecutive months, from 2010 to 2014, a group of Bulgarians frequently drove to and from Rotterdam and Bulgaria in a Volkswagen van. And with this, the van – an anonymous mass-made product – came to embody a changing Europe and Rotterdam.

Because the vehicle’s owners still needed it, we didn’t want to keep the van as a museum object in our depot. So we decided to adopt the object, label it as collection and continue to follow and record the stories of the community that shares the van. This is how it became the first item in our active collection of the city: Real Rotterdam Heritage. A new approach museums can use to collect and connect.

Click here for the current list of participants contributing to the collection Authentic Rotterdam Heritage.

This new way of collecting is a sustainable and dynamic way of connecting the museum with urban communities. Once the van had joined our collection, more objects followed. Initially pragmatically: most of the new additions originated from a project in Rotterdam West that we were involved in at the time. Gradually, we developed and refined the concept and strategy. Our key aim is to do this with Rotterdammers, and use their insights to build an active collection of the city that reflects contemporary issues and experiences. A new and important instrument in this participative process is the Authentic Rotterdam Heritage Council.

The project is supported by two major funds: the BankGiro Loterij Fonds (the DOEN Foundation) and the Cultural Participation Fund. Thanks to these funds Museum Rotterdam is able to give this ‘social collection’ a platform. Our goal is to develop our method in conjunction with evaluating our current approach. For this, we work closely with knowledge institutes like the EMI (Expertisecentrum Maatschappelijke Innovatie) and de Veldacademie.

Nicole van Dijk, curator Program Leader Contemporary Heritage and Participation

“The BankGiro Loterij Fonds supports cultural initiatives that offer diverse audiences exciting and engaging ways to experience the sometimes unfamiliar world of art and culture. Museum Rotterdam’s initiative shows that you can find Rotterdam heritage when you meet local people. They share the stories that connect them to the city, with each other and with the museum.” BankGiro Loterij Fonds.”