INVESTING IN THE OPTIMUM VISITOR EXPERIENCE
It was all hands on deck in 2019! We have been making substantial investments in improving the visitor experience. The entrance lobby has been revamped, for instance, so that we can offer our visitors a maritime welcome, improving the visitor flows and the level of hospitality as well as putting our collection in the spotlights. We are now managing the museum shop ourselves and it has been renovated. Preparatory work has been done in the museum harbour for the construction of a new pavilion, we have drawn up a long-term maintenance plan for the 41 items in the outdoor collection for the next nine years, and we have taken the first steps towards the construction of a new jetty. At the same time, we presented a programme of exhibitions and activities about the fascinating maritime world that were bursting with education, inspiration and pleasure – we have never had so many visitors before: over 228,000. It has been a constructive year of resounding successes, thanks to the hard work, inspiration and commitment of our staff and volunteers and the support and enthusiasm shown by our many collaborative partners from the maritime industry, education, governmental authorities and culture-makers.
A world-class collection
The Maritime Museum collection covers six centuries of Dutch maritime development, containing items from all those periods. On behalf of the municipality and the 650,000 people of Rotterdam, the Maritime Museum manages a collection that is reckoned to be one of the three most significant maritime collections in the world. Our programming, lectures, publications and congress presentations let us make that collection accessible to a large and broad-ranging audience. Over the last year, we sent out 92 items from our collection on loan to museums all over the world, with our collection also regularly being used for research purposes.
In 2019, we drew up a long-term maintenance plan for managing our outdoor collection and keeping it operational; these 41 large objects require a great deal of care. And we also started the ‘Model Ship Preventive Preservation’ project, a long-term project in which all the scale models – of which there are about 3,000 – will be cleaned and photographed.
The collection was expanded in 2019 thanks to purchases and donations from individuals and companies. The museum used the acquisitions fund to purchase an extremely rare calendar from the Java-China-Japan Line. It was very special to be able to acquire a collection of 22 early nineteenth-century technical drawings, thought to have been collected by Hendrik Jan Smit (1861-1908), a shipwright from Alblasserdam. Another intriguing addition is the log of the clipper ‘Kosmopoliet II’ of the Blussé Van Oud-Alblas shipping company for Dordrecht, covering a voyage from Rotterdam to Java and back in 1874-1876. The library acquired a rare nineteenth-century book, ‘The Skilled Ship’s Surgeon or Manual for Mariners for Recognising and Treating Various Diseases and Deficiencies', published in Amsterdam in 1843.
> More about our collection;
> A special acquisition by the French artist André Wilder;
> Lectures about current issues;
Contemporary and relevant programmes
We want to surprise, inspire and move our visitors by regaling them with our tales of all the ways the maritime world affects our day-to-day lives, from the energy we consume that is extracted from the sea to the trafficking of drugs through the port. We want to offer three generations of visitors – who in many cases do not have any special interest in the maritime world – a memorable and educational museum visit. We do this by having a programme of socially relevant and contemporary exhibitions and activities in which we put the emphasis on cooperating with new and existing partners, creators, educational and social organisations, and on creating added value for the public at large.
In the new family exhibition ‘Sea Monsters' the visitors get to know the intangible heritage of six exceptional water monsters, ranging from the Loch Ness Monster to the Kraken – an enormous octopus or squid – as well as giant crabs and mermaids. Figments of your imagination? Or could they really exist? The stories have been selected with the assistance of a sounding-board group of six families with differing backgrounds from Rotterdam and the surrounding area. In June, we opened the ‘Windows on the Port’ exhibition, together with Spido (celebrating a major anniversary), which originally started out as a shuttle service for seamen and has now been offering its passengers views of the ever-changing port for over a hundred years. A particularly special moment was the presentation in May of the original Act of Mannheim to the museum, received on its behalf by Cora van Nieuwenhuizen, the Minister for Infrastructure and Waterways.
> More information about Sea Monsters;
> Anniversary exhibition about Spido: Windows on the Port;
> International design prize for Dealing with Drugs;
> Presentation of the Act of Mannheim;
Last year, we cut our programme of events down to just a core. We want to expand those events to make them more successful for more visitors. We are looking back at contemporary, socially relevant, high-quality events and activities for a wide range of visitors. Our trips on the museum ships, welcoming numerous guest ships that can be presented to the public and the organisation of museum activities on the quay, the ships and on the water are all ways of letting us keep the museum harbour and the Maritime District more lively. Our museum ships went on tour and were presented at various maritime events. Cooperation with cultural creators – ranging from established organisations to up-and-coming talented artists – and our contributions to national and city-wide events helped us create added value for the general public. For the eighth time, with the help of volunteers including many staff and partners, we organised the Dream Night at the Museum for chronically ill children and their families, a target group for whom we are aiming to lower the barriers to museum visits through this event.
> Talk show about Rotterdam as a drugs city;
> Sinfonia Maritime Festival;
> The bustling museum harbour during the Maritime Festival;
> Our museum ships on tour to maritime events;
> Ocean Clean Up as a guest in the museum harbour;
We were visited by 20,700 pupils from primary, secondary and vocational education. That means that we met our objectives comfortably. No less than 4,100 of these pupils took part in our summer programme via their 'Youth Holiday Passports'. Since 2017, the museum has been making major efforts in the development of not only cultural but also technical education in order to get children interested in technology. For this, we are working closely with Mad Science, JINC, the maritime research institute Marin, and Van Oord. The collaboration with Rotterdam’s STC Group (the Shipping and Transport College Group), in which lecturers use our ‘Offshore Experience’ as a classroom, was continued. Under the programme known as ‘Strong Together', we worked with the STC Group, business & industry, and various civic organisations. We worked with the Albeda College to develop a programme for youngsters who are disadvantaged in terms of their educational, employment and social opportunities. At the same time as these youngsters are being given a special inside view of the world of offshore and engineering activities, they are receiving intensive coaching at school to help them find the course of study that is right for them.
1100 vocational training and high school students took part in the good citizenship lessons that we developed together with the trainers from YOUZ for the exhibition 'Dealen with Drugs'. In line with the ideas behind the exhibition, pupils were shown the hazards of the drugs trade and made aware of how society is being undermined. This information was responding to a pressing demand from the education sector. In collaboration with the PABO primary education teacher-training college of the Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences, we organised the project ‘Travel back in time’, in which 400 primary school pupils and many dozens of future teachers became acquainted with the maritime history of the Netherlands.
> Discover how we use our technical education programme to inspire pupils;
> Maritime experts beaten by schoolchildren;
> The Technasia design competition, in collaboration with our partner Van Oord;
Research and education
A fourth doctoral student has started work at the Rotterdam Centre for Modern Maritime History (RCMMH, our cooperative venture with Erasmus University Rotterdam), studying the history of Dutch shipbuilding in the period from 1983 to the present day. In the coming cultural planning period, the museum will be devoting an exhibition to shipbuilding. In 2019, the curators also supervised eight academic interns from Rotterdam and Leiden, at both the bachelor and master levels, as well as giving several lectures and practical sessions in the museum, using objects from the collection. Funding for the RCMMH is guaranteed until September 2022. The Maritime Museum and Erasmus University Rotterdam are in discussions about continuing the scientific programme after that period.
> Read more about the Rotterdam Centre for Modern Maritime History;
Further development of the Maritime Museum Harbour
Contrary to expectations, the realisation of the Leuve Pavilion did not start in 2019. Increasing cost levels in the construction sector and stricter regulations for municipal property regarding sustainability meant that refinancing was required. The planned realisation date is now spring 2021.
> 2020/2021: construction of the new pavilion on Leuvehaven;
> Festive opening to the sailing season;
Marketing and communication
Despite the renovation and construction work, we were able to welcome a record number of museum visitors and we achieved revenue growth of 16% from the entry fees. Studies showed that our visitors value the museum very highly and that many of them intend to come again. Over the last year, we invested in the efficiency of our reservations system and the working processes for sales and events so that we will be able to manage the planned growth targets for the coming years. We also invested in our online presence and online ticket sales through reseller channels for the domestic and international markets and for corporate events – an investment that we hope to see reflected in the results in the coming years. We successfully launched new exhibitions, events, round trips and educational programmes, with results-driven deployment of owned, earned and paid media. We worked with many cultural, civic and educational institutions and events to create added value for our audience and increase our audience. The priorities here were to increase the level of commitment on social media, CRM (customer relationship management) and e-mail marketing. For our TV and online commercials, we chose a new and innovative concept: we asked families to vlog for us and share their findings. No actors, no paid influencers and no fixed script – just real museum visitors and a spontaneous story. The healthy dose of ‘brand love’ they provided led to it reaching a lot of people and getting a lot of positive reactions.
> Take a look at the vlogs of “our” two vlog families;
> Would you like to know more about the museum as the location for a business reception?