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A special look at Leiden's Special Collections

The Collections Matter exhibition opened on Wednesday 26 April in the hall of the Oude UB. The exhibition has been put together by students of the master's specialisation in Museums and Collections, who looked through the eyes of two very experienced lecturers at the gems of the Special Collections held by the University Library.

Photographs and prints

Art historians Nelke Bartelings and Tineke de Ruiter have shared their knowledge of the Special Collections with students of the Faculty of Humanities, De Ruiter in the field of photography and Bartelings on print and drawings. Both will shortly be retiring. To thank them and to give the public the opportunity to share their knowledge, they are 'the subject' of the new Collections Matter exhibition in the hall of the Oude UB. 

Theory linked to practice

‘They are both passionate lecturers, who have always used exhibits from the Special Collections here in Leiden in their teaching and research,' Nana Leigh explains. Leigh is senior lecturer in the Curating Collections programme, and it is her students who have put together the exhibition. 'This is a good way of linking theory with practice,' she went on.

Eveline Lameer, one of the students who worked on the exhibition.

Organised by students

Eveline Lameer is one of the students who has worked on the exhibition. 'We first asked Nelke Bartelings and Tineke de Ruiter what were their favourite works, or the works they felt were the most special.' Then we asked students and former students about works they had come into contact with via the two lecturers. ‘This produced a list of special works that we focus on in our exhibition.' 

International collaboration

The whole process of setting up the exhibition is in the hands of the students. 'That means the content of the exhibition, as well as everything else around it, such as loaning works from the University Library, the communication and organising the opening,' Lammer explains. 'You really get to find out about the practical aspects of setting up an exhibition.' The students spent three days arranging all the exhibits. Their lecturer, Leigh, was pleased with the result. 'It's a very international group of students, which is also a good learning experience. While preparing the exhibition, they also learn how art and museums are regarded in other countries.'  

A copper plate dating from 1592 of a print of Scaliger.

Original plate

The exhibition in the Oude UB (Rapenburg 70) includes more than 40 prints. Lameer points to a copper plate in one of the showcases. 'This is the original printing plate dating from 1592 that was used to make the print below, a portrait of Leiden Professor Scaliger. It's amazing that both are part the Special Collections, and great that we can display both the print and the printing plate.' 

Old and modern side by side

In another display case Lameer shows items that Bartelings suggested for the exhibition. An Italian print from the 17th century, and a very modern 'print', made up of different colours of ink on plexiglass. 'The selection is very diverse and for each work there is a small plate that tells you about the link with Bartelings or De Ruiter. Visitors to this exhibition look at the gems of the Special Collections through their eyes.' 

The Collections Matter exhibition is made up of prints, drawings and photos from the Special Collections of the Leiden University Library. The exhibition can be seen in the hall of the Oude UB (Rapenburg 70, Leiden) and is open for visitors free of charge on workdays from 09.00 to 17.00 hrs from 26 April to 23 June 2017.

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