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Save the Date: Conference Museums, Collections and Society

woensdag 5 juli 2023 - donderdag 6 juli 2023
This conference will take place in 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.


This conference session grows out of ongoing research about a micro-collection of five museums of modern art that emerged in the Netherlands during the fraught interwar years of the 1930s. The founding histories of these museums – Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Van Abbemuseum, Kunstmuseum den Haag (formerly Haags Gemeentemuseum), and Kröller-Müller Museum range from municipal initiatives to private collectors, to national institutions. As they represent a collective history, within the context of an international modernist movement, of institution building in a specific space and time, they contribute to a distinctive institutional typology within the history of museums. Their architecture, development of the exhibitionary “white cube,” and radical, international avant-garde collections represent a sharp break from their monumental predecessors.  Maintaining high profiles in the western art world, these Dutch museums continue to interpret their modernist lineages, reimagining them for the present day.

This panel presents an opportunity to address broad theoretical questions that a microhistory of Dutch modernist museums raises– 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 discussions with scholars, museum experts, art historians and writers who approach these modernist legacies critically and question what it means for museums of modern art to stay modern.

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, often, destruction and plunder of cultural heritage in times of armed conflict is much more than merely “collateral” damage. In fact, cultural heritage may be a means to pursue and fuel a war.

This part of the MCS conference will focus on the role of cultural heritage in the war in Ukraine. The focus will be on the following questions: (i) what do we know in terms of destruction of cultural heritage in Ukraine?; (ii) what role international law - such as the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict 1954 has in this regard; (iii) how can offenders of cultural heritage crimes be held accountable; and (iv) what can the international community do to protect cultural heritage in Ukraine better? Amongst the speakers will be experts from Ukraine, Poland, the UK and Belgium

Provenance research has become one of the core activities of museums over the past decade. Under the influence of (inter)national postcolonial movements and protests, many museums are trying to reckon with the possibly tainted Colonial past of parts of their collections. The advent of Big Data and the increased availability of large datasets can enable researchers to study these processes and patterns at unprecedentedly large scales. This panel focuses on how digital and statistical approaches to provenance research can facilitate large-scale research, but can also help researchers move beyond focusing only on Colonial collections to understand the broader collecting worlds these problematic collections are part of. The panel brings together provenance specialists working with different kinds of material (European art, ethnographic material, archaeology and beyond) in order to sketch the potential of new wide-ranging approaches to provenance research.

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