Manon Hees

Manon Hees


Commissioning a shifting practise

A cultural historical museum that practices commissioning by working with contemporary designers to create a new object, that becomes accessioned and displayed can be viewed as a fairly new phenomenon. Commissioning itself is not to be considered new, as artists have been commissioned by contemporary and modern art museums for decades. The aim of this thesis is to attempt to provide more in depth knowledge on the phenomenon of the commissioning practice of a cultural historical museum. Examples of cultural historical institutions that engaged in this new practice are the Zeeuws Museum in the city of Middelburg, the Textile Museum in the city of Tilburg and the Zuiderzee Museum in the town of Enkhuizen. This last mentioned museum is the prime case study for this research. How did the Zuiderzee Museum arrive at the decision to practice commissioning? And what were some of the outside responses to the new practice? In the everyday practice of museums and in the field of museology, community participation is a 'hot topic'. Investigating the phenomenon of commissioning from a participatory perspective, one may wonder to what extend commissioning could serve a museum as a means to connect to place and community? Another aspect of commissioning that could be perceived as challenging is to discuss commissioning within the context of current museological debates relating to the future of collections and collecting. How is the new practice of commissioning woven in to the museums' collection policy? Commonly heard statements in the interviews conducted for this research was the importance of ‘knowledge exchange’ , ‘staying relevant’ and the continuation of ‘the collection’, with the assumption that all this could be achieved through commissioning. Some of the interviewed professionals see it as a given that the outcome of a commissioned project is accessioned into the museum’s collection. What does this mean and what are the implications of such an approach to the existing collection? Finally, there is the much debated issue of the role of the curator. Who is the curator nowadays? Could it be that a designer working with the collection in a museum is simply a different version of the traditional curating practice?

Keywords: Commissioning, relevance, collecting, curating and designers.

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