Walking has been a popular activity during the pandemic. The walking tours of Dordrechts Museum are unique because they show Dordrecht through the perspectives of a Dutch landscape artist. The tours were especially geared towards landscape artists who worked in the surroundings or had a connection with the city such as Albert Cuyp. Dordrechts museum continues to explore the outside as an extra museum space and more outside activities have followed.
Dordrechts museum is not only one museum, but encompasses five cultural institutions combined into one organization called Dordrechts Museum, which has the same name as the biggest of the five cultural institutions. The other four institutions are: Huis Van Gijn, Regionaal Archief Dordrecht, Het Hof van Nederland and Centrum Beeldende Kunst. Together they teach visitors more about art and history with a focus on the city of Dordrecht. The entire organization has approximately 100 employees, divided into eight different departments. This case description will focus on the main museum, not the complete organization.
Dordrechts Museum was established in 1842, which makes it one of the oldest museums in The Netherlands. Over time, the museum has had different locations and eventually settled on Lindengracht in Dordrecht. Due to the growing art collection, Dordrecht Museum has had to expand often. Dordrechts Museum’s goal is for a broad and diverse group of people to come in contact with art and history. There are many different activities for all ages but museum tries to have an extra special focus on two special target groups; older people and children.
The main part of the collection is focused on six centuries of Dutch painting. With multiple rooms for exhibitions, permanent and temporary, visitors can learn about artists such as Aelbert Cuyp, Ferdinand Bol, Aert Scheffer, Eugéne Louis Boudin and Karel Appel.
Dordrecht Museum also has a shop and restaurant Art & Dining. The garden of Dordrecht Museum is a quiet area in the middle of the busy city, with objects of art made by locals. When the weather is good art & dining guests can sit outside (Dordrecht Museum 2020).
During Covid 19 Dordrecht Museum developed an online museum webpage called Museum at Home featuring arts and crafts ideas for children, daily online activities, and much more. This webpage was the most visited page showing its success. Many activities could be taken as good practice examples, but one of the activities stood out, namely the four different 2-4 km walking tours based on the landscape paintings in the collection. The four tours each have their own theme; a Dutch painter; Aelbert Cuyp, Aert Schouman, Godefridus Schalcken en Johan Barthold Jongkind. They are painters who either grew up in Dordrecht or spent a lot of time there.
The walking tours pass important locations in all four of the painters’ lives. Participants will learn about the painters’ life stories by visiting important locations in Dordrecht. For example; the church where Aelbert Cuyp got married, buildings that inspired Aert Schouman, where Godefridus Schalke went to school and why Dordrecht was Johan Barthold favorite city (Dordrechts Museum).
The goal of these walking tours was to show visitors of Dordrechts Museum why painters were so inspired by Dordrecht and to showcase the city of Dordrecht at the same time. Visitors of the museum received a flyer with a map of Dordrecht on it and a walking route, nowadays the route can be found via the museum’s website in pdf format. After learning about different painters and paintings, visitors could explore the city of Dordrecht (Paarlberg 2022).
During COVID-19 more people went on walks. Wandelnetwerk Noord-Holland, a website with walking routes in the province of North-Holland, has seen an increase in visitors to the website. In 2020 the website was visited 526000 times, which is double the amount of 2019 (Ravensberger 2021). Many walking tour websites have seen an increase. During COVID-19 many people still want to be active and partake in activities. Walking routes are alternative ways to still enjoy activities during COVID-19 (RTLNieuws 2020).
Museum at home became the most visited webpage of the museum’s website in 2020. Dordrechts Museum decided, even if COVID-19 were over, to keep posting such activities online. The museum also sees an increase in willingness to pay for online content and will continues provide online activities next to live content.
It is hard to tell how many people have discovered Dordrecht through one of the walking tours. Therefore, it is hard to see if the tours can be seen as a success. After an exhibition on William Turner, a walking guide was created and is sold in the museum shop. The guide was bought often and all over Dordrecht visitors were seen walking around the city with the guide. As the walking tours are similar to William Turner’s walking guide, the results could be similar as well (Paarlberg 2022).
Since the walking tours are free and easily downloadable through Dordrechts Museum’s website, it is unsure to get to know the target groups of the walking tours. The people who walk the tours likely live in the area, as visiting Dordrecht for just a walk might not be enough of a trigger for people who live further away. The walking tours are not intended for children or families, because the way information is told in a more grown-up way. Children often have a different way of learning as opposed to adults. There is a possibility Dordrechts Museum will create a walking tour that caters to children, so they can experience Dordrecht after having been to the museum (Paarlberg 2022).
During COVID-19 stops of the walking tours had QR-codes for people to scan and learn more. These codes were printed on stickers. As stickers are flimsy and not weatherproof, they need to be replaced often. The QR-codes were made for people walking around Dordrecht, who aren’t following one of the tours. This way, they will be able to receive information about the stop (Paarlberg 2022).
As for its after-life and legacy, the tour is still downloadable as a pdf file, and the museum has stayed inspired to get people to connect with its collection or with art in outside locations. An example is that in the summer of 2020 they created art workshops “in a bubble” in the garden where you could enjoy creating art with your close contacts. Furthermore, they have explored the outside ‘stage’ even more by creating a location based theatre play on an outside location about the meeting of William Turner and Albert Cuyp, who met each other in Dordrecht. The walking tour can thus be seen as a starting point for the museum of the exploration of how the outside world can be used as an extra ‘museum’ space.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dordrechts Museum has learned to organize online activities to still be able to reach customers. Different activities were created and sometimes even a new target group was reached.
It is quite hard to tell how successful the walking tours have been as there is no way to count exactly how many participants there were. One can only make assumptions based on the comparable William Turner walking guide. Simple adjustments such as the QR-codes do advertise Dordrechts Museum, even when it is closed. The QR-codes also create a broader reach as one does not have to follow one of the tours in able to be able to scan the CR-code and thus receive more information on a building for example. The downside is that the QR-codes are made from stickers and therefore are quite flimsy so a more sustainable material would be preferable.
Advertising the walking tours was a logical step for Dordrechts Museum, as more people started to participate in outside activities during COVID-19 lockdowns.
The museum at home was a success as it was the most visited webpage to the museum’s webpage in 2020 a lot of traffic came from their own social media channels, as frequent posts were made especially on Instagram. Therefore, the museum has decided to continue online activities even when the pandemic will be over.
The most important outcome is that the museum continues to explore the outside as an extra space in which to operate.
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- Monica Hesselink student at Inholland University Tourism Management Studies / Inholland University of Applied Sciences
Henk Monster on Wikimedia Commons