A MOST PECULIAR YEAR
2020 was a year that began very promisingly. The new entrance to the museum had been opened, we had started building both the new jetty in the museum harbour and our own museum café. The Coolsingel renovation was in full swing and we were reaching a broader audience than ever. And then the coronavirus crisis hit and we were in the eye of a major storm. The world, Rotterdam and our museum were all hit hard. We had to close the museum no less than three times. Exhibitions, activities for the public, events, school visits and commercial bookings were postponed or cancelled and strict guidelines meant that we could only allow limited numbers of visitors in. That had a major impact on our organisation. We had to reorganise substantially and, with heavy hearts, say farewell to some committed staff. Despite financial support from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science/Mondriaan Fund and the municipality of Rotterdam, the operational result was a loss of €980,247.
It became a year of ‘stumbling forward’ and experimenting. That did also generate new insights and some useful ideas for the future, though. But we will have to do it with fewer staff and less in terms of financial scope. And that’s our challenge for 2021.
Key cornerstones of our income are the annual contribution from the BankGiro Loterij, the extra coronavirus emergency contribution from the municipality of Rotterdam and the Mondriaan Fund, which made it possible for us to cope with the initial impact of the coronavirus crisis. The Kickstart Culture Fund and the Cooperative Maritime Funds also proved ready to lend us a helping hand for exceptional coronavirus-related projects.
In 2020, we had 82,700 visitors. That figure was over 110,000 less than the 193,000 museum visitors we had been able to welcome in 2019. We had to close our doors for lengthy periods on three occasions as part of the efforts to restrict the spread of the virus. That meant that we had to cancel tickets, receptions and school visits that had been booked.
After opening again, we saw that museum visits were still a step too far for some groups of visitors. We saw substantial falls in particular for international and domestic tourists, the elderly and vulnerable, business groups and educational groups.
CONTEMPORARY AND RELEVANT PROGRAMMES – ONLINE TOO
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 energy extraction at sea in the ‘Offshore Experience’ to drugs trafficking through the port in the ‘Dealing with Drugs’ exhibition.We want to offer three generations of visitors – who in many cases do not have any special interest in the maritime world – an inspirational, pleasant 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. On 1 June 2020, we opened the new exhibition called ‘The Port’ –after all, Rotterdam is the archetypical port city. Our collection plays the key role in that exhibition, which also involved cooperation with Topsector Logistiek, the organisation for the logistics sector. The opening of the ‘Maritime Masterpieces’ joint exhibition with Museum Boijmans van Beuningen was planned in September, but we had to postpone it until February 2021. We also put on two temporary exhibitions in 2020, ‘75 Years of Freedom’ and ‘125 Years of the Seaport Police’. We started a dialogue with museum visitors about exhibiting collection items with a colonial past and we organised an online dialogue about the subject on 26 November with various experts, led by the writer Abdelkader Benali.
> Read more about the exhibition ‘The Port’
> Watch the preview video for ‘Maritime Masterpieces’ here (opening postponed until February 2021)
> Click here to watch the online dialogue about artworks with a colonial past
Events in 2020 ended up to some extent differently planned and with different content to what had been envisaged. We can look back at contemporary, socially relevant, high-quality events and activities (including online) for a wide range of visitors. Cooperation with cultural creators, social organisations and maritime tech companies – ranging from established organisations to up-and-coming talented individuals – and our involvement in city-wide events helped us do interconnected work with added value for the general public. During the summer period, we organised activities both from within the museum and for guests that made the museum experience even richer. The programme of activities was partly revamped, which meant recruiting, training and educating volunteers for it. We also welcome guest ships to our jetty, making the Maritime Museum Harbour more lively. During the last year, we hosted the Interceptor of the Ocean Cleanup, the Oosterschelde, patrol ship P5 of the Seaport Police, the music boat Cecilia, Plastic Soup vessels and the Rotterdam Sea Cadets.This year, we had to cancel the round trips on our museum ships and they were unable to take part in maritime events throughout the country.
> Talk show and webinar on plastic soup
> Museum Night 010
> Our 2020 summer programme
> Maritime Festival
> Interceptor of the Ocean Cleanup at the jetty
DEVELOPMENT OF THE MARITIME MUSEUM HARBOUR
Realisation of the Leuve Pavilion began in 2020. From the summer of 2021 onwards, this pavilion will accommodate two publicly accessible workplaces and the Maritime Museum’s daytime catering location Loeve, the Port Pavilion of The Port of Rotterdam, where visitors can get to know the port, and an evening catering sector outlet (to be determined). This new pavilion is going to be a genuine eye-catcher. The outdoor area will be renovated from January 2022 onwards. This will make the Maritime Museum Harbour an attractive recreational location for museum visitors, local residents, the people of Rotterdam and tourists.
> Start of construction of the new pavilion on Leuvehaven;
> Read more about the development of the Maritime Museum Harbour.
A WORLD-CLASS COLLECTION
Our collection covers six centuries of maritime development with a Dutch tint, containing items from all those periods. On instructions from the municipality and on behalf of 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, online and paper publications and presentations let us make that collection accessible to a large and wide-ranging audience.
In a memorandum entitled ‘Treasures of Rotterdam: Vision for the Rotterdam Collection’, the municipality expressed its view about the Rotterdam Collection and the narrative told by that collection, what the municipality’s ideas are about collecting, disposals and mobility of the collection, and how supervision and inspection are handled. This all resulted in a new management agreement in 2020. The Maritime Museum complies with the ‘Loaned Items Code’ drawn up by the Museumvereniging (museums association) and the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands. Starting with the 2021-2024 cultural planning period, the municipality is the principal arranging the four-yearly inspections.
The collection was expanded in 2020 with several exceptional loans and donations such as two eighteenth-century manuscripts, drawings by Josef Sipkes, photographs and a Solar Boat from the Solar Team of Delft Technical University, and books for the library. The acquisitions budget was scrapped because of the coronavirus crisis.
Maintenance of the outdoor collection has been making good progress. The floating sheerleg crane Simson has been in the dry docks and the tugboat Volharding 1 has been given a new steam boiler. Preparations are in full swing for the restoration of the grain elevator Stadsgraanzuiger 19, made possible by funding from the Flemish authorities.
In the autumn of 2020, in cooperation with the National Maritime Museum and the Zuiderzee Museum, we started a feasibility study into renovation of our collection database. We will be completing this study early in 2021.
> Discover our online collection presentation on Google Arts & Culture
> Preparations for the Maritime Masterpieces exhibition
> Restoration work for the exhibition ‘The Port’
> Restoration of the gilded painting frame by Theodore Gudin
Recording stories of the coronavirus crisis
The Maritime Museum would like to have a record of the exceptional situations that many ships and offshore companies found themselves in – the crews, their families and the shipping companies that were unable to make port or relieve the crews because of the coronavirus crisis. We want to be able to share these stories with the public, now and in the future. With backing from the Cooperative Maritime Funds, we therefore began a project in 2020 called ‘Tales of Corona in Shipping’, which will let us add objects and narratives to our collection.
The coronavirus crisis also meant that 2020 took an unexpected turn for education. The museum was only able to accommodate a very limited number of school visits: just 4,611 pupils from primary, secondary and vocational education. This is a long way below the target. During the summer holidays, 2,153 pupils aged 4 to 12 visited the museum on a Jeugd Vakantiepaspoort (Young Person’s Holiday Passport).
Since 2017, the museum has been making major efforts in the development of not only cultural but also technology education, to get children interested in technical further education. We offer technology lessons for primary and further education and we have developed workshops together with Mad Science. Together with our partner JINC, we are organising Lightning Work Experience places for vocational pupils with companies in the maritime sector. Every Monday, the Offshore Experience becomes an extension of the classroom for first-year vocational students of the Scheepvaart- en Transportcollege (Shipping and Transport College, STC).
The Maritime Museum also has a wide range of cultural educational programmes for various target groups. We contributed three programmes to the cultural project of KC-R in 2020 and we also had a cultural coach, in cooperation with the STC and the Maas Theater. Because of the coronavirus restrictions, ‘Travel Back in Time’, a unique cooperative venture with primary education teacher-training college of the Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences, was cancelled
Under the name ‘Samen Sterk’ (Strong Together), we worked with the STC Group and Albeda College on a programme for the first two years of vocational education to fit in with the exhibition ‘Dealing with Drugs’ to familiarise pupils with its themes: undermining, recognising the relationship with criminality, the law and resilience. Finally, again fitting in with that exhibition, we developed a ‘museum lesson’ in 2018 together with the trainers at Youz that brings vocational pupils face to face with the dangers of the drugs trade. Demand for this museum lesson is high; people realise it is important. We will therefore put into a digital format in 2021.
> Read more about out education policy
> Feb 2020 press release: Pupils beat maritime professionals in design competition (dutch only)
Research and education
The cooperative venture with Erasmus University Rotterdam – the ‘Rotterdam Centre for Modern Maritime History’ – also produced tangible results in 2020. Researchers shared the latest scientific understandings in a publication called ‘Havenschatten’ (Port Treasures). The cooperative venture encourages students and other researchers to use the museum’s collection in various ways as a source of knowledge about maritime history. The curators supervised five academic work placements in 2020; the coronavirus pandemic meant that was the maximum number of places. Within the limits imposed by the coronavirus regulations, the four students continued their studies of the history of Dutch shipbuilding as far as possible, albeit with some delay. Their work will be the basis for an exhibition about shipbuilding in the museum in 2024. Erasmus University and the Maritime Museum are investigating how this fruitful cooperation can be continued after September 2022, when the current funding ends.
> Read more about the Rotterdam Centre for Modern Maritime History
> Publication of the book 'Havenschatten' (Port Treasures) to go with the exhibition ‘De Haven’
OPENING OF THE MUSEUM SHOP AND MUSEUM CATERING
The operator of the museum café stopped in January 2020 and we started running it ourselves. The museum café Het Lage Licht was opened at the end of February. We opened a catering sales point in the Professor Splash exhibition in July. This let us meet the wishes of our visitors who fancied a nice cup of coffee or tea while their children get to know the maritime world through play. Since the autumn of 2019, we have also been operating the renovated Museum Shop ourselves.
Unfortunately, the coronavirus measures meant that the museum café was only open for 22 weeks in 2020. We are very positive about it nevertheless. Having our own museum café and Museum Shop helps strengthen the visitor experience in the museum and the day-away feeling, visibly and tangibly. Our visitors’ appreciation and the relatively high average expenditure per visitor show that there is plenty of potential once the visitor numbers pick up again.
> Discover the museum café Het Lage Licht
> Our new Museum Shop
MARKETING AND COMMUNICATION
2020 was a year in which marketing and communication were above all crisis-related: information, cancelling tickets and bookings, complying with the coronavirus protocol, realising a new e-ticket sales platform, lowering the perceived barriers to museum visits, and postponing and cancelling media campaigns.
The focus this year shifted from efforts to maximise visitor numbers and entrance revenue to developing inspiring online content that can be viewed, listened to and carried out at home, such as an online audio tour, an online guided tour and activities for kids. We invested in maintaining contacts with the stakeholders and target groups (including online contacts) and in improving our e-mail marketing. We developed livestream video content for our events and exhibitions, some of it in collaboration with media and cultural institutions, which let us reach new online audiences. There was also a heavy emphasis on internal communication to make sure we retained the links as well as possible with our staff and volunteers, who largely work from home; this is particularly important at times when reorganisations are happening.
> Online activities for children at home
> Our new e-ticket platform
> Watch the Open Rotterdam broadcast about the Maritime Festival here
> Press release for the reopening on 1 June with a message from our staff