A SMOOTH SEA NEVER MADE SKILLED SAILORS
Covid-19 had a major impact on the Maritime Museum once again in 2021; we had to close our doors for a total of 24 weeks and we had to cope with numerous restrictions after reopening. We received 79,000 visitors in total. This is much the same as 2020, at about 40% of visitor numbers in 2019, the pre-coronavirus year. The financial damage to the museum remained limited. The personnel reorganisation we were forced to undergo in 2020 meant lower personnel costs. In addition, we had cancelled the new ‘Tattoos and Maritime Lifestyle’ temporary exhibition and were able to rely on support measures through the Municipality of Rotterdam.
Fortunately, a lot of nice things did still go through. Together with Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, we presented the 'Maritime Masterpieces' exhibition in June. The absolute highlight was the opening of a new pavilion in the museum harbour this summer.
Last year’s circumstances forced us to adapt and make new plans again and again. We are proud of our crew who piloted the museum through difficult waters again this year. We are therefore looking to the future with confidence.
The municipality of Rotterdam analysed three scenarios in 2021: renovation of the building, a new building on the current site and a new building on Rijnhaven. Based on the added value of the museum for the Maritime District in the heart of the city and the added value of the combined indoor museum, museum harbour and workshops, the decision was made to renovate the current site.
Opening of a new pavilion: maritime crafts on a pedestal
After lengthy preparations, we were finally able to open the new pavilion in the museum harbour last summer, in collaboration with the Port Pavilion and the municipality. In this pavilion, there are publicly accessible workshops that we need for restoring and maintaining the Maritime Museum’s collection of ships and cranes. There is a carpentry workshop, a metalworking shop and a smithy. The pavilion means that our long-cherished wish to present our museum exhibitions, museum harbour and workshops to the public as a cohesive experience has now been realised.
FEWER VISITORS AGAIN
The two lockdowns and the huge decline in visiting school groups, business receptions and national and international tourists has inevitably been reflected in poorer results in terms of visitor numbers and turnover from admission fees. Our visitors were mainly from the municipality of Rotterdam and families with young children from the rest of the country during the summer and autumn breaks.
In the summer of 2021, we experimented with extending the opening hours of the pavilion and the catering in the museum harbour until 20:00. We wanted to reach a partially new audience and get people to realise that the museum harbour is a unique place for maritime history in the evenings as well. In 2021, we also looked to collaborate with parties that fit in with the museum in terms of the target demographic, aiming to get a new audience involved with the museum. We undertook to connect more “lightweight culture users” in Rotterdam to the museum and exchanged knowledge with the eight other RCB-8 institutions to that end.
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.
The collection was expanded in 2021 with various special loans and gifts such as the Journal d’Anna travel journal, the portrait of the East India Company officer Jan Hendricksz Tim, a general outline plan for a Frisian admiralty corvette from 1782 drawn by the master shipbuilder Jan Sweeres, drawings by Josef Sipkes, two eighteenth-century manuscripts and an early photograph of the Nieuwe Waterweg canal. The museum library collection also received some additions, including several issues of the inland shipping magazine Rhenania from the period 1889-1891, a rare series.
In October, the museum was able to take over the vacant depository of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in the Metaalhof municipal heritage depot. When emptying the other depot in Ridderkerk, we used the opportunity to check the collection against our collection guidelines and consider if various objects should be disposed of or reallocated. We disposed of eleven objects in 2021, as per the museum’s guidelines.
With limited resources, the museum library was refurbished and presentation spots were created for the collection. We will be extending the opening hours of the library from 2022 onwards.
> See it now: Last summer, the online presentation of the collection was renewed and made accessible on its own website
Nominated oral history project: the impact of coronavirus on the maritime sector
The Maritime Museum kept a record in 2020 and 2021 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 started a project called ‘Tales of Corona in Shipping’ that will let us add objects and narratives to our collection.
> Watch the film: The impact of coronavirus on shipping
City Grain Elevator restoration
After over five years of preparation, fundraising and intense cooperation with the Flemish government, we started the large-scale restoration of City Grain Elevator 19 in 2021. This is a unique international project related to industrial heritage, involving the Maritime Museum on behalf of the Netherlands and the Museum aan de Stroom (MAS) on behalf of Flanders. In March, City Grain Elevator 19 was moved to the Talsma shipyard in Franeker for the first phase of the restoration of what was the last working city grain elevator in the world, a symbol of maritime innovation at the start of the twentieth century. It is a project that we want to finish by 2024, when the museum celebrates its 150th anniversary.
We want to let our visitors get to know the maritime world. It is an unknown world for many, and for others it is a world full of opportunities and possibilities – as long as you dare to look past the horizon. Centuries ago, we had the courage to go out to sea and explore the world. There will still be an important role for the maritime world in the future. The world’s population is growing and the land is becoming ever fuller and more exploited. There are opportunities at sea for food and transport, energy, living and recreation – bringing solutions for major social problems with them. From this vision, we want to offer a wide audience – who in many cases do not have any special interest in the maritime world – an inspiring, fun and educational museum visit. We do this through socially relevant and contemporary programmes in which we put the emphasis on cooperation with new and existing partners, creators, educational and social organisations, and on creating added value for the public at large.
In the ‘Offshore Experience’, we get visitors thinking about the energy transition and in the ‘Dealing with Drugs’ exhibition, we introduce them to the enormous impact of drug trafficking through the port. Our collection has a starring role in the exhibition called ‘The Port’ and we opened the ‘Maritime Masterpieces’ exhibition in June, the last in the ‘Boijmans bij de Buren’ series by Museum Boijmans van Beuningen. The exhibition tells the stories of shipping and ports and the people who live there through six centuries of art and painting, with a unique collection ranging from Hieronymus Bosch through Willem van de Velde the Elder to Guido van der Werve, and from the sixteenth century to the twenty-first. All the works have been chosen for their high quality and the craftsmanship of the maker. Together, they give a unique picture of 600 years of maritime painting. ‘Maritime Masterpieces’ is about art and the art of seeing. The accompanying narratives are about the fascination of the painters and their techniques, as well as being about the people, ships and harbours portrayed. Attention has also been paid to the colonial past and the violent sides of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) and the Dutch West India Company (WIC).
We also produced two temporary presentations, ‘Tales of Corona in Shipping’ and the loan of the ‘VOC Data Experience’, an augmented reality installation.
We had only limited capacity for receiving school visits in 2021. Despite that, 4,308 pupils visited our museum on school trips. In the summer holidays, another 2,153 pupils aged 4 to 12 visited the museum with a Young Person’s Holiday Passport. We renewed our educational vision this past year. It is the framework underpinning current and further development of our programmes, both existing and new. Our young visitors represent the future – literally, as they are young and have their whole lives in front of them, and also because they bring their own culture and views that can teach us a lot. We want not only to tell our young visitors and their parents about the past, but also to inspire them to look beyond the horizon with us.
Financial support from the Verolme Trust Foundation has let us focus strongly on the development of technology education since 2017. We offer technology lessons for primary and secondary education. Through our collaborative partner JINC, we organised ‘Flash Internships’ at companies in the maritime sector for pre-vocational secondary education pupils. Every Monday was the Offshore Experience, which has an extended classroom site for first-year vocational students at the Shipping and Transport College. The Technasium Project for third-year secondary school pupils was held in digital form this year. Pupils from seven technical colleges were given an ‘innovation assignment’ by the Maritime Museum Rotterdam and CLEAR RIVERS.
In addition to technology teaching, we also launched various other educative concepts and programmes for the general public. In collaboration with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, we organised a programme called ‘Between Art & Sound’ for secondary school children. Working with Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, we developed programmes for people who with visual and hearing impairments: ‘Unseen Boijmans’ for the blind and visually impaired, and ‘Boijmans in Dutch Sign Language’ for the deaf and hard of hearing. The programme called ‘With a different view’, which was developed in 2021, lets our guides start discussions with the visitors by taking a look at the Maritime Masterpieces exhibition from various perspectives.
MARKETING, COMMUNICATION & development
After the reorganisation in 2020, the focus in 2021 was on internal communication and the strategic direction. We developed a wide range of communication tools for visualising and embedding the newly refined strategy within the organisation. 2021 started with a lockdown that lasted until the summer. This meant that we had to adjust the opening of 'Maritime Masterpieces' and its associated press and media campaign once again. Instead of live events, we presented online video content to keep the connection with our visiting public. After the reopening, we organised live receptions for our contacts, sponsors and Friends in collaboration with Museum Boijmans van Beuningen and the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra. In collaboration with the municipality and the Port Authority, we organised the opening of the Leuve Pavilion in mid-July with receptions for the press and our contacts. We launched a new brand identity and communications for our new daytime catering outlet, Loeve. To offer visitors an attractive stay in the museum harbour this summer, we invested in temporary information screens with online historical film footage and photographs from our collection that could be accessed using QR codes, plus a Professor Splash climbing wall for kids. We launched a new and straightforward Maritime Museum Harbour Ticket and an online media & PR campaign to raise the museum harbour’s profile.
> Video: Maritime Masterpieces from the perspective of the spoken-word artist Y.M.P.
> Online content file: More about Maritime Masterpieces
> Long read: A starring role for maritime crafts in the new Leuve Pavilion
> Vlogs and information about our summer programme
Our events were different from what had originally been planned due to the lockdowns and measures. In the summer period, we organised museum activities and round trips to add to the museum experience. Welcoming guest ships at our jetty kept the Maritime Museum Harbour more lively. From the plastic soup sloops by Plastic Whale, which visitors could use to fish plastic out of the Leuvehaven, to the historic steam-powered dredger Friesland. We received the royal yacht Piet Hein and the Lammie, the infamous drugs-running boat from the 1970s that was also extensively covered in our presentation ‘Dealing with Drugs’. We also had to cancel our participation in maritime events elsewhere in the country this year. The Maritime Festival that we organised in September celebrated the maritime world; this was done in collaboration with the World Port Days, Rotterdam Festivals and various cultural and maritime partners. During the autumn break, we celebrated the 30th anniversary of the interactive children’s science exhibition ‘Professor Splash’ with various activities for children. The family programme that we had planned for the Christmas holidays had to be cancelled due to the year’s second lockdown.
> Video: Open Rotterdam produced a report on the Maritime Festival
> One of the many guests in the museum harbour: Optimist on Tour