Universiteit Leiden

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Conference Museums, Collections and Society

Wednesday 5 July 2023 - Thursday 6 July 2023
P.J. Veth
Nonnensteeg 1-3
2311 VJ Leiden

The Interdisciplinary Research Group Museums, Collections and Society (MCS) will organize a conference about four topics that are at the core of the group’s research activities. Together with national and international colleagues we will discuss issues and problems in our fields of expertise.

Save the dates: 5-6 July 2023. Attendance is free of charge.


Please register through this form.


9:30 - 9:40  Introduction: Dr. Laurie Kalb Cosmo (Leiden University)

Abstract: During the historically fraught interwar years of the 1930s, the Netherlands witnessed a strikingly robust emergence of at least five museums that embraced modern art. These museums – Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Van Abbemuseum, Kunstmuseum den Haag (formerly Haags Gemeentemuseum), and Kröller-Müller Museum -- represent a unique collective history, within the context of an international modernist movement, of institution building in a specific space and time. Their architecture, development of the exhibitionary “white cube,” and radical, international avant-garde collections represent a sharp break from their monumental predecessors. As such, they contribute to a distinctive institutional typology within the history of museums. This panel addresses broad theoretical questions that such a microhistory of Dutch modernist museums raise– having to do with museum typologies, the importance of architecture, new ways of experiencing art, and the notion of the modern itself, today and in the past. Keynote lectures, by internationally recognized museum and architectural historians and museum directors, will be followed by a moderated group discussion with contributors to a developing book about the founding histories of modern museums in the Netherlands and the diverse ways they interpret their modernist legacies and maintain high profiles in the western art world. 

Keynote speakers: 

9:40 – 10:00  Prof. Dominique Poulot, (Professor of Art History University of Paris 1 and creator of MA in Politics and History of Museums and Heritage), "What is modernity in French museums between the wars?"  

10:00 – 10:20  Prof. dr. Margriet Schavemaker, (Artistic Director, Amsterdam Museum), "A White House is not a Home? Critical Reflections on the Rise of the White Cube Model in the Netherlands" 

10:20 – 10:40  Dr. Maarten Liefooghe, (Associate Professor, Faculty of Engineering and Architecture, Ghent University), Making sense of (monographic) museum buildings: On types, models, and motifs

10:40 – 10:50  Questions/Discussion

10:50 – 11:05  Coffee break

11:20 – 11:30  Book Project "The Emergence of Museums of Modern Art in the Netherlands": Dr. Laurie Kalb Cosmo (Leiden University) and Dr. Mary Bouquet (Emeritus Utrecht University) 


11:30 – 11:40  Dr. Mary Bouquet (Emeritus Utrecht University) Between domestic and public functions: the "museumhuis" as a register of the emergence of the Kröller Müller Museum”

11:40 – 11:50  Dr. Edward Grasman (Emeritus Leiden University) "Exhibitions in the Kunstmuseum den Haag (former Gemeentemuseum) during the 1930s" 

11:50 – 12:00  Dr. Peter van der Coelen (Curator of prints and drawings, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen), Museum Boymans. How modern art entered its varied collections in a new building

12:00 – 12:10  Dr. Lieke Wijnia (Head, Curatorial and Library, Museum Catharijneconvent Utrecht), "Modernizing Catholicism from within: Exploring the intertwined histories of the Museum for New Religious Art and "De Gemeenschap""

12:10 – 12:30  Wrap-Up and Discussion

Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 UNESCO verified damage to over 240 cultural sites, and reports are mounting on the removal of artefacts from Ukrainian museums by Russian forces. In combination with the questioning by Russia of Ukrainian identity and history, it illustrates that destruction and plunder of cultural heritage in times of armed conflict is often much more than “collateral” damage. In fact, cultural heritage may be a means to pursue and fuel a war.  

This expert meeting on Protection of cultural heritage in Ukraine will address the following questions: What is known about the destruction of cultural heritage in Ukraine?; What role international law has in this regard, and how can offenders of cultural heritage crimes be held accountable? The second panel will focus on the question what the international community do to protect cultural heritage from armed conflict, in Ukraine and beyond?  The meeting is in person, with an online presentation from Ukraine.

14.00   Welcome and introduction [dr. Evelien Campfens]

Panel 1: Destruction of cultural heritage in Ukraine and the legal framework

14.10                 Dr. Dmytro Koval: "Destruction of cultural heritage in Ukraine" [online]
14.30                 Dr. Andrzej Jakubowski:  "The legal framework for protection"
14.50                 Kristin Hausler: "Accountability for crimes against cultural heritage"
15.10                 Questions and discussion

15.25                 Coffee break

Panel 2: Emergency aid, recovery and the illicit trade

15.40                 Dr. Elke Selter: "Responding to heritage affected by armed conflict, and the link with peacebuilding" 
16.00                 Nimalke Passanha and Romana Delaporte: "CER's Ukraine Action Plan"
16.20                 Richard Bronswijk: "Countering the illicit trafficking"

16.40                 Questions and discussion

List of speakers

Dr. Dmytro Koval, Associate professor at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, Legal Director at Truth Hounds. Dmytro holds a Ph.D. in international law. He was a research fellow at Stanford University, Central European University, Jagiellonian University, and the Graduate School for Social Research of the Polish Academy of Science. Dmytro served as a member of the Ministry of Justice Expert Committee on International Humanitarian Law Implementation. He worked on IHL and IHRL issues in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, China, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Ukraine. He also advised the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, UNESCO, the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Culture, the Prosecutor General’s Office, and Ukrainian MPs on different aspects of international law. 

Dr. Andrzej Jakubowski, affiliated with the UNESCO Chair in Cultural Property Law of the University of Opole, and with the Institute of Law Studies of the Polish Academy of Sciences, he served as Chair of the ILA Committee on Participation in Global Cultural Heritage Governance (2017-2022). He is also mediator at the UNESCO ICPRCP and arbitrator at the CAfA. He holds a PhD in Law (EUI) and Master in Art History (University of Warsaw). He has authored, inter alia, State Succession in Cultural Property (OUP, 2015). He is co-editor (with AF Vrdoljak and A Chechi) of the Oxford Commentary on the 1970 UNESCO and 1995 UNIDROIT Conventions (2023, forthcoming).

Kristin Hausler is the Dorset Senior Research Fellow and Director of the Centre for International Law at the British Institute of International and Comparative Law (London). She regularly advises governments, IOs and NGOs on cultural heritage and leads training on heritage protection. Kristin has spoken on cultural heritage matters and guest lectures on cultural heritage law at universities around the globe. Before joining the Institute, she worked in Canada on the repatriation of Ancestral remains to Indigenous communities. Before becoming a lawyer, Kristin studied art history at Christie’s in New York and worked in the museum sector.

Dr. Elke Selter is coordinator for emergencies with the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage in Belgium. She has extensive experience working with heritage in conflict situations with UNESCO and other UN organizations, and has cooperated with ICCROM on the development of key tools for emergency response and peacebuilding. Elke has a background in heritage conservation and holds a PhD in Politics and International Studies from SOAS (UK), with research that focused on international engagement with heritage in armed conflicts. 

Nimalka Passanha is the coordinator of CER’s Emergency Projects Pillar under which the CER’s Ukraine Action Plan was implemented. She specializes in in streamlining support to local partners working in complex situations in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. At CER her core responsibility includes the continuous development of its emergency mechanism. Nimalka has been working closely with CER since 2018.

Romana Delaporte is project coordinator at CER. With a BA in Law and a MA in Heritage management, she specializes in the legal protection of cultural heritage. In the last 5 years she worked for several international organizations and NGO’s. During her work at ICCROM from 2018-2019, she assisted in the organization of the FAC course in. From 2020-2022, she worked at the UNESCO Secretariat of the 1970 Convention on the illicit trafficking and restitution of cultural goods. Besides her work for CER, she volunteers for Blue Shield France and the French Federation of Firefighters (FNSPF), where she participates in commissions, organizes trainings, collects and analyses data on fires and disasters that affected cultural heritage.

Richard Bronswijk is Head of the Art & Antiquities Crime Unit of the Dutch police

Dr. Evelien Campfens is post-doc fellow at the Research Group “Museums Collections and Society” of Leiden University. She consults various organisations on issues concerning restitution, amongst which the European Parliament who requested the study Protecting cultural heritage from armed conflicts in Ukraine and beyond (2023) - co-authored with several of the speakers. Between 2001 and 2015 she was director of the Dutch Restitutions Committee for Nazi-looted art, and presently also sits on the Ethical Committee of the Dutch Museum Association.

Tracing the Unknown: Learning from Provenance Data

09.30 – 09.45   Introduction: Martin Berger

09.45 – 10.45   Key-note Lecture: Prof. Dr. Lynn Rother, "Tracing the Unknown: Learning from Provenance Data"

Abstract: Recent restitution and decolonization efforts have shown that provenance has emancipated itself from being a subordinate cataloguing task in museums and the art market to a self-conscious scientific endeavor with ethical and legal implications. While the minutiae of ownership and socio-economic custody changes are increasingly recorded digitally, they have yet to be analyzed on a large scale as provenance continues to be recorded as unstructured data.

Experimenting with AI in structuring museum datasets, the untapped potential of analyzing object histories on a large scale has come within reach. However, the transformation of analog information and its digital offspring into structured data is not without challenges. This lecture will present experimental approaches and findings on the knowns and unknowns in provenance data.

10.45 – 11.15   Dr. Sandra van Ginhoven, "Remodeling the Getty Provenance Index as Linked Open Data"

Abstract: The Getty Provenance Index is an online searchable database of the Getty Research Institute that offers access to data relevant to the ownership, transfer, and exchange of works of art (primarily paintings, drawing and sculptures) in Western Europe and the United States spanning roughly four centuries as documented in archival inventories, auction sales catalogues, and dealer’s stock books. It currently holds over 2.2 million records that are being transformed into Linked Open Data (LOD) in order to make this information more accessible and usable, and to support research on the dynamic relationships that governed the mobility of cultural artefacts from the early modern period to the mid-twentieth century. The discussion will focus on the challenges and opportunities that stem from moving from a transcription-based to an event-based data model, modeling and linking disparate data, and adopting and developing and new (graph) interface system.

11.15 – 11.30 Break

11.30 – 12.00   Dr. Isobel MacDonald, "Counting when who and how? Using collections data as a research tool to enable a holistic examination of a national museum collection"  

Abstract: What happens when the digital records that hold information about objects within a collection are analysed quantitatively to try and read a collection of over 4 million digitally registered objects holistically? Can a numerical analysis of the data held within digital registers augment and challenge our understanding of a collection’s history and the wider institution within which it is held? 

This paper will begin to answer these questions by outlining and critically reflecting on the method and findings of research into the history of the current collection of the British Museum, the UK’s first national museum founded in 1753. This research examined the value and possibilities of using digital records as a research tool to explore, for the first time, institution-wide patterns in the history of the British Museum collection – across time, place, material and departments. In doing so, it moved away from traditional histories of collections that concentrate on individual collections or collectors. By examining a bigger picture, this approach to collection history aims to provide an overall context into which individual stories can be understood and considered.  

12.00 – 12.30   Sarah Binta Alam Shoilee, "Knowledge Discovery for Provenance Research on Colonial Heritage Objects"

Abstract: Heritage institutions hold rich information on cultural heritage objects involving contextual information about people, places, times, and events. This information is usually kept in institutional silos, where domain researchers often work with data across institutions. Linking entities among different institutions can enrich these data sources and, in turn, aid domain research.

The aggregated version of data can be further used to infer insightful knowledge that can excel in one of the time-consuming tasks of the domain, which is provenance research. This research will first focus on entity linking across institutions to construct a Knowledge Graph representing both structured metadata of objects and the collector's biography.

This work aims to use this newly formed Knowledge Graph to find interesting patterns to scale-up provenance research and analyse the effect of adding such information to the current data source. Experiments with the different modalities of data and pattern mining techniques will reveal to which extent this data enrichment places a role in finding useful knowledge for the heritage objects' provenance research.

The Future of Collecting

6 July, 14:00 – 17:00 h, P.J. Vethgebouw, room 1.01

Why do museums collect certain things and not others? And when, where and, by whom are these decisions made? Many scholars have tried to distinguish psychological reasons for individual collecting, such as a feeling of loss or a longing for a better world. Seldom, however, have these or similar questions been asked about institutional collecting.

In recent years ethical issues related to collecting have become a major focus of museum policies as well as societal discussions. What can we still collect and what not?

It is necessary to reflect on the ways in which museums choose, or not, what is collected and what is not collected. In what way can new avenues of collecting be opened up? Do we always need to have ‘the authentic’? How do we collect the digital? And what to we do with radioactive heritage? Should museums incorporate a discourse on its collecting practices, past and present, into the museum's exhibition spaces? If yes, why and how?

All these questions are important, since the composition of museum collections determines to a large extent how a subject or a culture is (re)presented in exhibitions. In this closing panel, we will examine these questions, through the larger question of contemporary collecting. Together with curators from some of Leiden’s national museums, we’ll reflect on what and how to continue collecting in the 21st century.


14.00-14.15: Introduction, Prof. Dr. Pieter ter Keurs

14.15-14.30: Dr. Thomas Beaufils (Université Lille)

14.30-14.45: Dr. Wonu Veys (National Museum of World Cultures, NL)

14.45-15.00: Dr. Daniel Soliman (National Museum of Antiquities)

15.00-15.15: Prof. Dr. Ad Maas (Museum Boerhaave/Leiden University)

15.15-15.30: Ismini Kyritsis, MA (Leiden University)

15.30-15.45 Break

15.45-16.30 Discussion

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