Zeeuws Museum

Marjan Ruiter


Zeeuws Museum

Postbus 378 4330 AJ Middelburg


Zeeuws Museum (Middelburg, Netherlands)
2009 The Council of Europe Award

Local identity in an international context

The Museum has over 30,000 art treasures that recall Zeeland's past. The varied collection includes the famous 16th century Zeeland tapestries and the historical collection of the Royal Zeeland Society of Arts and Sciences, with unusual objects such as a baby dragon, an ivory pocket sundial and an Indian headdress. It also houses fine collections of china and paintings, a spectacular array of fashion and traditional Zeeland costumes, and cabinets containing works of art from East and West. The museum also contains the Province of Zeeland's collection of contemporary art.
Main collection fields:                                                                            
- Zeeland tapestries and the Eighty Years' War (1568-1648)
- Traditional costumes, jewelry and accessories
- Porcelain and silver
- Archaeological finds
- Old paintings and applied art
- Natural history, fossils and shells
- Modern and contemporary art

In 2001 the museum closed its doors to facilitate a renovation of the building. It was then decided to use this opportunity to also develop a new philosophy for the museum.
It took almost 6 years to reopen the museum and approximately 9 million Euros. The necessary funds were supplied by the Province of Zeeland, the community of Zeeland and a number of non-governmental funds and private sponsors.
Since its reopening in 2007 the Zeeuws Museum is exploring the significance and function of local identity in an international context. It also questions the role and function of a "local" museum in today's society. Important issues within this approach are:
-    Through which processes can one influence the formation of a collection and its expansion?
-    How can a collection serve as a source of inspiration?
-    How can a museum use its collection in new ways to make it accessible to parts of the public that are difficult to reach?
-    How does the collection reflect local identity?
Museums tend to seek culture in objects, but culture is also what people do. The Zeeuws Museum is exploring ways of making this visible.
To assist the museum in this innovative approach it invites artists and designers to act as curator. These artists and designers are often also asked to create new works of art based on, or inspired by the collection of the Zeeuws Museum, thus creating the cultural heritage for the future. In this way, the Zeeuws Museum aspires to achieve both a passive and an active role towards our heritage and cultural legacy.
Inviting external parties is also a very effective way to create a new perspective on the museum, its collections and its function.

Council of Europe Museum Prize 2009
Strasbourg, 09.12.2008 - The Council of Europe Museum Prize for 2009 has been awarded to the Zeeuws Museum in Middelburg in the Netherlands.
The museum, housed in a twelfth century abbey that later served as a regional parliament, presents regional collections in unexpected visual and sensory contexts, relating the local scene to other parts of Europe and the world. Zeeuws is a regional language spoken in the Dutch province of Zeeland. The museum's focus on "excitement, liveliness, interaction" and its appeal to a younger audience were particularly appreciated.

The Zeeuws Museum intends to continue its experimentation the coming years. The results will be visible in the exhibitions and the policy of the museum. The museum underwrites the importance of sharing the acquired knowledge and experience with interested third parties.


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