Case,  Exhibition,  New Audience,  Online,  Technological

Corona in the city. A crowd sourced on- and offline exhibition (Amsterdam, the Netherlands)

The digital exhibition Corona in the city is about the impact of Corona on the city and its inhabitants and documenting this for the future real time. After one year more than 3000 photo’s, video’s, story’s, drawings, magazines, columns, letters, poems, interviews and songs have been collected and are shared on the exhibition website. The digital exhibition has been visited by more than 150.000 visitors in one year (15 may 2020 – 15 may 2021). For the corona in the city exhibition, not only the general public but also many organizations joined in, of which local strongly embedded media partners were most prominent. And this lead to greater exposure and themed rooms curated by many different organizations, artists and individuals. The exhibition is new in the way that the content is collected and curated by people from outside the museum world. The expectation would be that this makes the exhibition very inclusive.

Background

Situated in an orphanage building from 1578 in the heart of Amsterdam, the Amsterdam museum has changed its name from Amsterdam Historical Museum to Amsterdam Museum in 2010. This name change reflected its change from a more classical historical museum, glorifying the past of, for example, the much contested Dutch ‘Golden Age’ to a museum actively and critically investigating the city’s past, present and (so they say) even its future identity and story; “from a treasure trove to a networking production house” as current curator Margriet Schavemakers explains. One of their objectives is to make the citizens and visitors part of its story through participation and co-creation. They are actively collecting ‘the city’ and are collaborating with knowledge partners such as the university of Amsterdam. In 2025 they will organize an exhibition called “Collecting the city; 750 years Amsterdam” to commemorate the 750 years ‘anniversary of the city, a story mining project in which everyone with a story worth telling is invited to participate. In this way the museum is actively carrying out these objectives. The museum receives structural support from the municipality of Amsterdam and Bankgiro lottery. Even if situated in the heart of densely touristic Amsterdam, the museum attracts many local and Dutch visitors as well, due to its programming on actual themes reflecting the DNA of the city. The museum has a very diverse collection as is shown in the illustration below.

Description

The digital exhibition Corona in the city is about the impact of Corona on the city and its inhabitants and documenting this for the future real time. After one year more than 3000 photo’s, video’s, story’s, drawings, magazines, columns, letters, poems, interviews and songs have been collected and are shared on the exhibition website. The digital exhibition has been visited by more than 150.000 visitors in one year (15 may 2020 – 15 may 2021). The exhibition is still growing, and a new digital room was opened after the lock-down was eased, which documents the gradual reopening of the city and new entries are welcomed. From the 15th of May 2021, a few outdoor exhibitions have been programmed as well, showing a selection of the online exhibition on 23 billboards.

On the 15th of May a live show has been programmed on the channel of the museum itself and local broadcasting company Salto, in which the results of the initiative was discussed in six themes. The Museum has partnered up, apart from the direct partnership with its citizens with many (mainly cultural) organisations, and local media partners (e.g. alto, AT5, De Groene Amsterdammer, and more). These partners mostly created an online exhibition room on the website for their own input on the impact of corona in the city.

Impact

The museum was already venturing into the co-creation of its collection with the help of its citizens with the research project “collecting the city” with the final exhibition for 2025. Corona seems to have added an extra dimension to the energy created by crowdsourcing stories because the public in isolation felt a stronger urge to feel connected during the strict lockdown. For the corona in the city exhibition, not only the general public but also many organizations joined in, of which local strongly embedded media partners were most prominent. And this lead to greater exposure and themed rooms curated by many different organizations, artists and individuals. In the end more than 78 (check source Parool) rooms have been created.

In this way the museum gave its own curatorship away as (apart from the physical exhibition on billboards mentioned above) no selection has been made for the entries. The outcome in terms of content shows dramatic stories of loss by corona, and documents corded hospital rooms, stories that featured in the news every day, but this time from up close and personal and diverse perspectives. Another significant more specific Amsterdam related theme shows a city relieved from its heavy burden of tourism as the many images that have been sent in, are of places that are only known as crowded; the silent Dam Square had its own room in the exhibition as well as the room sounds of silence, a photography project registering the silence in the usually overcrowded city. Within the crowdsourcing of curation and creation of exhibition spaces, an extra layer of crowdsourcing was added, because many different crowdsourcing initiatives took place within the exhibition rooms; one example is the artist who asked all Amsterdammers to photograph the empty ‘blue pepper mills’ a nickname for the round big columns used for advertising cultural events, which were completely empty when there was nothing to advertise.

There are two critical notes to the exhibition as a good practice;
Amsterdam houses an extremely high percentage of citizens from the creative sector, it remains open if in other cities, the same creative surge would have followed when citizens and organizations were asked to contribute.

Secondly, the rooms are quite diverse and the website is not easy to navigate; rooms with themes, rooms from production houses, rooms from cultural institutions, rooms from individual artists, rooms with local initiatives are all quite bluntly put together and it makes it hard to navigate the exhibition if you are looking for something in particular.

Interpretation

The exhibition is new in the way that the content is collected and curated by people from outside the museum world. The expectation would be that this makes the exhibition very inclusive. The question would remain if all the stories in the 78 online rooms would have found their way to the museum without this initiative and browsing the outcome, it is safe to say; probably not. During the lockdown period, it is safe to say that initiatives such as the pepper mill collection created a bond between isolated citizens, by way of creating a photo documentary together. Initiatives as this could be perpetuated in future and can be therefore listed as a good practice as bonding will remain important for the social cohesion of a city or place.

References

  • https://www.amsterdammuseum.nl/tentoonstellingen/corona-de-stad
  • https://www.amsterdammuseum.nl/en/exhibitions/corona-city
  • https://www.groene.nl/artikel/dagboek-van-amsterdam
  • https://www.groene.nl/artikel/het-collectieve-geheugen-van-amsterdam
  • https://www.parool.nl/ps/corona-in-de-stad-vertelt-de-verhalen-van-de-amsterdammers-zelf~b3417d75/?referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2F
  • https://www.amsterdammuseum.nl/over-ons/over-de-organisatie/jaarverslagenhttps://www.amsterdammuseum.nl/tentoonstellingen/collecting-city-750-jaar-amsterdam
  • https://dvdl.co/the-future-of-museums-margriet-schavemaker-amsterdam-museum/
  • https://www.nporadio1.nl/fragmenten/nos-radio-1-journaal/37fcd567-3888-4b08-b185-926163fcfdd2/2020-05-15-tentoonstelling-corona-in-de-stad
  • https://www.amsterdammuseum.nl/sites/default/files/am_jaarverslag_2020_website.pdf

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