Participation at the Van Gogh Museum: A Balancing Act

Museum participation is a broad and fluid concept, involving participation, collaboration, and power-sharing. With almost two million visitors a year from around 100 countries, the Van Gogh Museum faces complex challenges in its efforts to engage visitors, forge relationships, share authority, and achieve a strong impact. It is a constant balancing act. In this article two cases of visitor participation will be discussed within the context of museum practice: one example of contribution, involving 30,000 responses from a diverse public to universal themes addressed by Vincent van Gogh and Edvard Munch, and one example of co-creation, involving a class of twenty-eight students from the Gerrit Rietveld art academy and relating to printmaking in the 1900s and today. We will share how we evaluated these participatory projects and how we measured their impact in order to find out whether visitor participation is working for the Van Gogh Museum. It will demonstrate the museum’s potential for inclusiveness. The conducted research was practice oriented and will function, we hope, as a valuable addition to the more theoretical research on this subject.

Where Are the Indische (and the Moluccans) in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and The Hague City Museums?

After World War II, thousands of Indische people, or people with Eurasian heritage (including Indonesian-Chinese and Moluccans who were linked to the Dutch colonial reign), were moved to the Netherlands from Indonesia (formerly known as the Dutch East Indies) as postcolonial immigrants. Nowadays, they and their descendants have been integrated into Dutch society and Indische culture has become part of everyday life in postcolonial Netherlands. In addition, museums in the twenty-first century started to change their paradigm. In the former colonial country of the Netherlands, city museums began to change their historiography and started representing immigrants and embracing multiculturalism. This study examines three city museums of the Netherlands’ largest cities: Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and The Hague. To what extent are the Indische people and culture, as well as the Moluccan people and culture, represented within these museums’ permanent exhibitions? The preliminary results of this research show that the Netherlands’ major city museums tend to focus more on the golden era of the seventeenth century (that of the VOC) while the present day Indische (and Moluccan) stories remain underrepresented.

How Digitized Art May Invite or Inhibit Online Visitor Participation (and Why It Matters for Art Museums)

The aim of this article is to examine diversity dimensions of participation and its role in visitors’ encounters with digitized artworks online. Though often employed in discourse on museum digitization, the notion of participation remains resistant to clear-cut definition, as it is diversified in both theoretical content and practical usage. Through phenomenological analysis of online museum visitors’ reflections on accessing digitized artworks on Norwegian web museum portal DigitaltMuseum and online 3D design community Thingiverse, the diverse participatory potential of photographic, 3D rendered and 3D printed surrogate objects and the platforms on which they appear, is explored. The analysis comprises co-examination of perspectives of participation and mediated materiality, and contributes to the development of a relational understanding of participation, where the encounter between museum object and visitor is vital. As the focus group study is conducted as a Socratic Dialogue—a form of in-depth, at-length philosophical conversation not yet widely employed in empirical research within the humanities—the study also contributes to exploring the use of this method in a qualitative research context.