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Internship report Keramiekmuseum Princessehof Leeuwarden


Academic year: 2023

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I n t e r n s h i p r e p o r t

K e r a m i e k m u s e u m P r i n c e s s e h o f L e e u w a r d e n

Nadine Sagel s3283356 Master Art History

Curatorial Studies

Internship guide: Dr. Wendy Gers Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Ann-Sophie Lehmann

02/02/2023 Word Count: 2945


Keramiekmuseum Princessehof

The Princessehof National Museum of Ceramics, located in Leeuwarden, is specialized in ceramic objects that tell stories throughout history. The museum brings visitors in contact with the relationship between East and West, the past and the present, and provides a broad insight throughout excellent contextualization. The objects and exhibitions are shown in a unique building that formerly belonged to Princess Mary Louise van Hessen-Kassel (1688- 1765), who became regent of the northern provinces of the Netherlands after her husband passed away. Several rooms within the museum are dedicated to her life story and are maintained in the original condition and interior of the period she lived in.

The Ceramic Museum contains a collection of over 35.000 objects, stored within the Kolleksje Sintrum Fryslan (KSF), together with objects of other museums in Leeuwarden. A majority of the ceramics come from Asia and the Middle East, both premodern and

contemporary pieces. The Museum, however, also focuses on local themes and periods such as Frysian pottery, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and maintains strong collaborations with the European Ceramic Work Centre (EKWC) where artists in residence create innovative art with earthenware and ceramic materials. Global themes such as decolonisation, inclusivity and sustainability have become important, and sometimes challenging, subjects for museum institutions over the last few decades.

Dr. Wendy Gers, curator of the Modern & Contemporary Ceramic department of the Princessehof Museum and simultaneously my internship coordinator, works with

abovementioned themes on a daily basis. Gers had already built an impressive record of publications, lectures, and freelance curator work for museums before she took up the position of curator at the Ceramic Museum in Leeuwarden. Her research interests include African art, social practice, environmental management, and sustainability. Under her care I have been taught the ins- and outs of being a curator as well as other responsibilities and tasks of working in a museum, during the course of my internship. In this internship report I will summarize and discuss the various assignments and activities I have undertaken, as well as the outcome of learning goals that had been set up at the start. Lastly, I will give a critical reflection on the overall period of my internship.


Assignments & Activities

The internship started officially on the 20th of September, but unofficially I had already done a few tasks Gers had asked me to during the summer holidays. This included making a Reading list for the students of her Sustainability course she gives at the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen. Additionally, she requested if I could find essays or books for learning how to conduct interviews. I recommended her to use chapters from a book titled Doing Interviews (S. Brinkmann, S. Kvale 2018), as it was a useful and contemporary source that has helped me before during my own academic research for my Bachelor thesis.

On the first day of my internship, I was welcomed warmly by Wendy Gers, and she proceeded to give me a tour throughout the Ceramic Museum and provided additional information about her specialty in modern and contemporary ceramics. Later that day, I received an introduction to Adlib, the digital program most museums in the Netherlands use for collection management and processing data. It is crucial for a curator to work with software like Adlib (which will later this year be updated to a new system called Axiell) in order to register gifts, acquisitions, and loans. It took about three lessons to get the hang of it, and throughout my internship I have worked on a daily basis with Adlib.

One of the first major assignments Gers proposed to me was to give a guided tour through a small exhibition for the committee and staff of Koninklijke Tichelaar BV (1572), based in Makkum, the oldest ceramic company of the Netherlands. Gers had assembled a range of pieces made by the factory to celebrate its 450-year anniversary. I was both excited as well as nervous as speaking in front of a group of people was not my strongest feat. It presented, however, the perfect chance to practice my speech and it turned out successful.

Over forty people from the factory showed up and I guided them through the exhibition in the attic of the museum, highlighting a few objects to talk about their significance and answering questions from the guests (appendix 1).

After the temporary Tichelaar exhibition had ended in October, Gers was already focusing on the next one titled: Handle with Care. The opening was planned for the 26th of November. The main theme revolves around the hand and gestures – expressions of intimacy, compassion, serenity, authority, labour and celebration. Gers had made a selection of

ceramics from both the Princessehof as well as the Fries Museum which embody hand gestures in one way or another. Gers asked me to try and write a label for some of the pieces


that had no description yet (appendix 2). I started out with doing general research on the pieces that were selected for me, to learn more about their history and provenance. Some pieces, such as a contemporary sculpture made by Belgian artist Sharon van Overmeiren, or an African sculpture from the Mbari culture, had an abundance of information to be found on the internet, thus making it easier to write an interesting text. For other pieces, however, it was difficult to trace their origin or backstory, and some had little to no information available in Adlib either. Gers introduced me to co-workers from the Public & Presentation department who are experienced in writing labels and texts for exhibitions, and I learned a great deal from them when it came to writing style, making concise and clear sentences, and writing for a specific audience.

Around the end of October, I joined Gers her RUG students for a visit to the depot (KSF), where Dirk Boomsma, teamleader conservation, management and knowledge management, gave us a tour through the facility and showed the different aspects of

managing a collection (appendix 3). The students were writing an object biography and they were allowed to come in direct contact with their assigned objects as colleagues of the collection team had brought them out of storage for the students to do their research on. I assisted wherever I could in handling objects, and I was immediately intrigued by the tasks, responsibilities, and environment of the storage facility. During the rest of my internship, I have assisted Gers several more times with her students in the form of checking their assignments or answering emails.

November was undoubtedly the busiest month of my internship. With the focus on the opening of Gers her exhibition, I received more tasks and more responsibilities to handle.

Some of them were small and quick to finish, such as responding to inquiries in Gers her stead, or helping her with translation work in Adlib or her own emails to her Dutch

colleagues. I was also allowed to attend important meetings between Gers and her colleagues and the board of directors, including Kris Callens, the museum director. These meetings gave me a direct insight on the processes and tasks of installing exhibitions and working out questions relating to them. I had initially not expected to be allowed to attend such meetings as an intern, but I am glad Dr. Wendy Gers gave me the opportunity to experience the full picture of being a curator and the daily tasks that come with the job. The topics and content of the meetings ranged from discussing ideas and early concepts for upcoming exhibitions of modern and contemporary ceramics, to financing them, and marketing and communication


strategies. Once every two weeks a curator meeting is held at the Fries Museum, where the curators for all three museums (Princessehof, Fries, and Fries Verzetsmuseum) come together and discuss ideas or problems regarding their own specialization and exhibitions. It was interesting to see how many different departments work closely together to make an

exhibition happen, and also how they face and tackle problems that arise during the process.

At the end of November I was invited to the opening of Handle with Care and to attend a dinner in the evening that consisted of the museum staff and the artists of the works being on display at the exhibition. I had the pleasure to meet and talk to several of the artists at the dinner on whom I had done research on their objects prior to the opening. One of the artists, Neha Kudchadkar (India), held a performance on the opening day and I had been in contact with her before during online meetings and email exchange. In the last month of my

internship I was asked to make a pointerfile (a list of chosen objects from Adlib) of objects Kudchadkar had selected from the depot and which she might need for future projects.

In December I was mainly working on several small assignments, such as answering emails or reaching out to artists and institutions for future projects from the Princessehof Museum. I tried contacting the ceramic factory of Sevres in France and Meissen in Germany to ask whether they could provide us with a list of contemporary artists in residence that have made work at their factories, but unfortunately, I had not received a response from either of them. In such cases, the curator asks around with colleagues if someone has an internal connection and if they could try reaching out.

In the meantime, Gers had asked me if I could write a disclaimer for the website of the three Frysian museums (appendix 4). Almost daily, the curators of the museums get inquiries from artists, galleries, and the general public. A majority of these inquiries concern objects which people want to donate to the museum or want to know more about their origin and provenance and sometimes the value. The curators at the museum try their best to answer these questions as best as possible, but they are often time consuming or do not fit within the specialisation and knowledge the curator can give. My task was to write a concise and clear text which holds an FAQ section and explanation of the way the museum handles inquiries and specific questions. Additionally, each museum needed their own version that aligned with their objects, wishes, and needs. In overall, this was an assignment I had worked the longest on and is at the moment of writing in its final stages. The hardest challenge for me was to find a proper balance between giving people the opportunity to send in their questions or objects, but not encouraging them too much either, or the curators will get flooded with


unnecessary inquiries. Marlies Stoter, curator of premodern art, was of great help to me in editing and discussing the final version together.

In January I returned to the depot one more time to get an insight on how condition reports of objects/artworks were done by the collection management staff. Tessa van Caspel was so kind to show me the process and let me help her in assisting to handle an actual

painting. I learned a lot from both the curators and the collection management staff during my internship, which I am ever so grateful for.

Lastly, at this moment of writing, I am working on making a catalogue for the Handle With Care exhibition that will include object information, images, and a colophon. I have offered to work on this further even after finishing my internship, as I am happy to help wherever I can, and I enjoy learning from these assignments that can help me for me my future career.

Learning Goals & Outcomes

During my internship at the Princessehof Ceramic Museum I have acquired knowledge and insight of the different departments of the museum and being in contact with more than one function. For big projects/exhibitions, several departments work together in the making of, such as the department for Finances, Marketing and Communication, Public and

Presentation, and Collection Management. I attended meetings and was freely allowed to give my own personal input as well.

For the Handle With Care exhibition I was involved with every step of the process and I got a more than sufficient insight behind the scenes of the creation of exhibitions. I learned about the diversity of aspects a curator deals with, both the positive and also the negative struggles (f.e. difficulties coming to an agreement due to different opinions, changing plans last minute, or financial obstacles). I have acquired critical and academical knowledge on the workings of a museum and the responsibilities of a curator in the sense of making

exhibitions, maintaining contact with artists and galleries, doing research on artists and objects, and administrative work in the collection management database.

Furthermore, I was kindly given the freedom by Dr. Wendy Gers to choose my own additional goals on what I wanted to learn more about. I had requested to learn how to write


labels and C-texts for exhibitions and Gers put me in contact with one of her co-workers at Public and Presentation, Erik, with whom I had spent several meetings to get a proper insight of his tasks during a day. Later on, I had also requestion if I could learn how condition reports were made and I was allowed to email the Collection Management staff to make an

appointment at the depot. The freedom to have worked on my own assignments and to be able to give personal input made me feel part of the team and part of the museum.

Through my internship and guidance of Gers, I have gained experience in writing texts for a diverse public, such as texts for museum visitors and a disclaimer for the website, but also writing formally to artists, galleries, other museums and doing independent research.

Additionally, I got acquainted with the physical aspects of the job in the form of handling objects, making condition reports and organising a guided tour through exhibitions.

Another important aspect of being a curator is communication. As more than one department is involved with curating exhibitions it is crucial to communicate clearly with co- workers while simultaneously maintaining contacts outside of the museum and promoting projects via an established network.

My time at the Ceramic Museum Princessehof has greatly improved my (academic) knowledge and skills on the museum world and the job of a curator.


Being a curator is so much more than just creating exhibitions. Beforehand I had little insight and knowledge of the tasks and responsibilities of a curator in a museum, and I was unsure on how to set up learning goals because frankly did not know what exactly I would be learning. From the outside I had always viewed curators as mysterious people who stayed behind the scenes, and foremostly worked on their own. After five months of emerging myself in the museum, at the side of Dr. Wendy Gers, my perception has changed a lot.

I have learned how diverse a curator’s job is and the responsibilities they bear on their shoulders. They have to be flexible in their time and mindset in order to achieve the goals they have set out, while simultaneously they need to be a strong team player as well as being able to work independently on research and projects. The first thing I would like to address is how everyone at the museum has welcomed me with kindness and treated me as their equal.

The atmosphere has always been friendly, making me feel comfortable in and around the


many spaces and departments of the museum. I am grateful Dr. Wendy Gers took me in as her (first) intern who taught me the ins-and outs of her job, and sharing her passion for ceramics, sustainability, and various other topics of her life and interests. She has showed me many aspects of her daily tasks and I have learned that no day is the same. One day we are both doing administrative work in Adlib, before attending a meeting about Sustainability. The other day we welcome an artist from the other side of the country who wants to talk with Gers about the possibility of a commission or simply exchanging ideas.

The main goal for me personally was to get a complete picture of the role of a curator.

At the end I can say this goal has successfully been reached and I believe I have gained important new knowledge and skills which can contribute for my further career. A highlight during my internship was the possibility to assist Gers with her own exhibition (Handle With Care) in November and the months building up to the opening, and also finding a new unexpected passion for collection management. Lastly, at the end of January a meet-up for curators of the three northern provinces was organised at the Fries Museum, and this proved to be a great opportunity to network with fellow curators of different museums.

While I look critically back on the five-month period, I cannot come up with significant points that need improvement. The previous months in searching for an internship place were rather stressful and perhaps the communication between the University, the students, and museums could be improved so all parties know what to expect of a possible internship.

I would like to thank Dr. Wendy Gers and the entire staff of the Princessehof and Friesmuseum for making my internship possible and creating an instructive and insightful period for me.



Photo on the cover: Mushin (No-Mindness), Hans van Houwelingen, 2019, porcelain, leather, 11 x 47 x 7.5 cm. Source: https://www.princessehof.nl/te-zien-en-te-


1: Part of my written speech for the Tichelaar conducted tour in which I highlighted some of the objects and added photos for my memory.

2: Three examples of labels I have written (which were later edited by colleagues from Public

& Presentation).

Beeld van moeder met kind (BP 2006-034) C-label tekst:

Dit aardenwerken beeld van een moeder met een kind aan de borst is onderdeel van een Mbari altaar. Oorspronkelijk heeft dit beeld gestaan in een ritueel Mbari huis, samen met tal van soortgelijke sculpturen. Deze huizen, gemaakt uit mierenhoop klei, werden gebouwd door etnische groepen in het zuidoostelijk deel van Nigeria, als reactie op bovennatuurlijke verschijnselen, zoals natuurrampen. De huizen en sculpturen werden toegewijd aan ‘Ala’, de Godin van de Aarde, in de hoop haar steun te krijgen om verdere rampen te voorkomen.

Omdat de Mbari huizen van mierenhoop klei waren gemaakt, raakten ze na verloop van tijd in een natuurlijk verval waarbij de klei terugkeerde naar de aarde, terug naar Ala. Door een


burgeroorlog in de jaren 60 in Nigeria zijn de oorspronkelijke Mbari huizen helaas ten onder gegaan.

Sources used:

Why the Mbari Houses in Nigeria Became Extinct, Martin, Bryan. Published on September 6, 2021.


Mbari Art, Amadi, Lawrence E. 1976, Ufahamu: A Journal of African Studies. DOI:

https://doi.org/10.5070/F762017466 Mbari Art (escholarship.org)

C-tekst: Caesar Milan, Sharon van Overmeiren (PH2022-141)

Wie kent hem niet: Caesar Milan, de wereldberoemde hondenfluisteraar die onhandelbare honden het rechte pad weer opstuurt. Milan en zijn honden vormden de inspiratie voor dit rode, keramische sculptuur, waarbij Van Overmeiren religieuze elementen combineert met fictie en soms vreemde vormen. Het figuur, zittend op twee teckels, heeft geen menselijk gezicht, maar in plaats daarvan rijen aan lachende monden, wat volgens Van Overmeiren een

‘schattige parasiet’ moet voorstellen. De parasiet is een metafoor voor de kracht van het loslaten, het vergeten, en ruimte geven in plaats van ruimte innemen.

Source: PDF file provided by Dr. Wendy Gers

C-tekst: Kruik met decor van maandieren en man (GMP 1977-158)

Deze kruik, afkomstig uit Peru, was gemaakt door de Chimú gemeenschap. De Chimú stonden bekend om hun zwarte aardewerk, waarvan het tot op de dag van vandaag niet helemaal zeker is hoe zij dit voor elkaar hebben gekregen. De theorie is dat zij gedurende het bakproces het zuurstof gehalte omlaag hebben gebracht, om zo een zwarte gloed te


Op de kruik staan vier panelen waarop telkens twee ‘maandieren’ staan afgebeeld, met daaronder een man met gespreide armen. Het is onduidelijk of deze dieren gebaseerd zijn op bestaande diersoorten (sommige wetenschappers denken dat het een buidelrat moet

voorstellen, anderen denken een katachtige), of dat het mythische goden zijn. Net als de man dragen de dieren een sikkelvormige hoofdversiering, maar het meest opvallend is het

ontbreken van de maan zelf.


Chimu Pottery and its meaning, Dr. Stan Florek, published on June 26, 2020.

Chimu Pottery and its meaning - The Australian Museum

The Lunar Animal: A Northern Tradition, Carlos Fuentes Romero, published on February 24, 2021.

El animal lunar: una tradición norteña | Complejo Arqueológico El Brujo


3: Day at the depot with Gers her RUG students.

4: Disclaimer for the website of Princessehof and Fries Museum. Below is the final version made for Princessehof. (The one for Fries Museum differs slightly due to different


Bijdragen aan onze collectie en kennisdeling

Meer dan welk ander medium ook is keramiek van alle tijden en van iedereen. Door de mens gemaakt, gebruikt en gekoesterd, nuttig en verleidelijk. Keramiek is een spiegel van de cultuur en van de tijd waaruit zij voortkomt. De wereldberoemde collectie van Keramiekmuseum Princessehof is van oudsher gebouwd op particuliere schenkingen en legaten en ook vandaag de dag worden particuliere giften aan het museum toevertrouwd.

We doen ons uiterste best om deze grote verzameling zorgvuldig te bewaren en zo goed mogelijk te behoeden voor de tand des tijds. We delen de informatie, de kennis en de verhalen over de collectie via tentoonstellingen, publicaties, activiteiten als rondleidingen en lezingen, en natuurlijk via onze website. Om een indruk te krijgen van de collectie of om een gerichte vraag over de aanwezigheid van een kunstwerk, een voorwerp of en maker te stellen, vragen wij u om allereerst de collectie online te raadplegen.

Wij kunnen het ons voorstellen dat u ook andere vragen heeft. Hieronder vindt u de meest gestelde vragen en de antwoorden daarop.

• Ik heb ideeën of objecten die ik graag in een tentoonstelling in het Princessehof zou willen zien. Kan ik hierover in gesprek?

Keramiekmuseum Princessehof hanteert een zorgvuldig afgestemde

tentoonstellingsprogrammering, die enkele jaren vooruit wordt gepland. Gezien de vrij lange looptijd van onze tentoonstellingen overstijgt het aantal ideeën altijd de beschikbare ruimte. De keuze van de onderwerpen wordt vastgesteld in een interne procedure van pitches en

beoordelingen. Hoewel de inbreng van onderwerpen van buiten het museum niet uitgesloten is, zullen deze, wanneer ze in lijn zijn met de missie en visie van het museum, dezelfde procedure


moeten doorlopen. Daarnaast verschilt het per conservator of zij tentoonstellingsverzoeken in behandeling nemen of niet.

• Ik wil het museum graag een voorwerp aanbieden.

Regelmatig ontvangen wij verzoeken en vragen over het opnemen van objecten in onze musea of kunstenaars die graag hun werk willen tentoonstellen. Helaas is het niet altijd mogelijk voor onze conservatoren om elk verzoek in behandeling te nemen, deels omdat het een tijdrovende klus kan zijn, en omdat we terdege rekening moeten houden met ruimtegebrek. Daarom moeten we goed bedenken, welk erfgoed en welke voorwerpen van kunst en geschiedenis nog ongekende en onverwachte aspecten van keramiek door de eeuwen heen kunnen belichten. Om aangeboden voorwerpen te kunnen beoordelen of ze van waarde zijn voor ons museum en echt passen binnen onze verzamelgebieden willen we graag schriftelijk – bij voorkeur via de mail – antwoord op een aantal vragen:

• Biedt u het voorwerp/voorwerpen aan als schenking, toekomstig legaat of wilt u het verkopen? Zo ja, heeft u al een vraagprijs? Op deze pagina kunt u alles lezen over eenmalige of periodieke schenkingen, schenkingen in natura, het nalaten van geld of goederen aan het Princessehof, en over de geefwet.

• Als u ons contacteert via email ontvangen wij graag duidelijke foto’s van alle zijden van het object, ook de onderkant, of achterkant als het om driedimensionale voorwerpen gaat. Bij keramiek graag scherpe foto’s van de merken. Het is de bedoeling, dat de conservator al een goed indruk kan krijgen van het aangeboden voorwerp of kunstwerk.

• Wij kunnen u het beste helpen als wij zoveel mogelijk bruikbare informatie toegestuurd krijgen over het object. Ook eerdere herkomstgegevens als u die heeft, ontvangen wij graag. (O.a.: naam vervaardiger, materiaal, afmetingen, jaartal indien aanwezig, hoe is het in uw bezit gekomen). Ook willen wij graag de huidige toestand van het voorwerp weten: is het toe aan reparatie? Is het in het verleden gerepareerd of gerestaureerd?

• Bij het beoordelen van uw aanbod kijken wij of het een toevoeging is tot onze reeds omvangrijke collectie. Wij toetsen ieder object aan het betreffende verzamelbeleid. Dit verschilt per collectie en per museum.

• Het object moet goed bewaard kunnen blijven. Factoren die meespelen zijn de grootte, materiaal, maar bijvoorbeeld ook de kwetsbaarheid en de houdbaarheid van het object.

Als u ons iets wilt aanbieden kunt u een email sturen naar info@princessehof.nl t.a.v. de desbetreffende conservator met een omschrijving van het object en duidelijke foto’s. Mocht u er niet zeker van zijn bij welke conservator u terecht kunt, zorgen wij aan de hand van de door u gegeven informatie over het object, alsnog dat het op de juiste plek terecht komt.

Objecten die naar ons worden toegestuurd per post zonder vooraankondiging worden niet in behandeling genomen en ook niet teruggestuurd, daarom gelieve eerst een email te sturen.

• Ik heb een vraag over bruiklenen

Denkt u om een kortlopende of een langdurige bruikleen aan het museum? Mocht u een voorwerp in bruikleen willen nemen voor een tentoonstelling in een museum of een


verwante instelling, zie dan deze pagina met meer informatie over onze bruikleenprocedure en de voorwaarden die daaraan verbonden zijn.

• Ik ben een student/leerling en ik heb een vraag voor mijn scriptie of werkstuk.

Enquêtes en onderzoeksvragen van studenten kunnen wegens tijdgebrek van de

conservatoren niet altijd in behandeling worden genomen. Op de website van het RKD kan men al veel informatie verkrijgen over kunstenaars en hun oeuvre, of neem eerst een kijkje binnen onze online collectie.

• Kunt u mij vertellen hoeveel mijn voorwerp/kunstwerk waard is? Waar kan ik mijn werk laten restaureren?

Wij willen u er graag op wijzen dat wij als museum geen taxaties kunnen geven voor uw object(en) en alleen vragen kunnen beantwoorden die binnen het vakgebied van de conservator ligt. De lijst met conservatoren kunt u hier (hyperlink naar Wie is Wie) vinden.

Voor het bepalen van de waarde van een object verwijzen wij u graag door naar een erkende taxateur (<- hyperlink inbedden van: Gecertificeerde TMV makelaars en taxateurs voor kunst, antiek of inboedel (federatie-tmv.nl ) Daarnaast kunt u eventueel ook terecht bij plaatselijke veilinghuizen zoals Ald Fryslan.

Voor vragen omtrent restauraties van objecten, zoals schilderijen, verwijzen wij u door naar Restauratoren Vereniging Noord (rvnrestauratie.nl) voor het vinden van een erkende



De beschikbare eigen middelen voor de aankoop van aanwinsten voor de collectie is zeer beperkt.

Dit betekent dat wij in het geval van aankopen heel selectief te werk moeten gaan en alleen voor stukken die naadloos passen binnen het vastgestelde verwervingsplan per casus op zoek moeten naar financiële middelen. Daarbij moeten we ook altijd toetsen of er geen vergelijkbare stukken te vinden zijn in andere Nederlandse museale collecties.

Voor vragen met betrekking tot het schenken van Friese kunst zoals schilderijen, prenten, tekeningen, Fries zilver, of archeologische bodemvondsten, dan verwijzen wij u graag naar de website van het Fries Museum (<- hyperlink inbedden naar disclaimer Fries Museum).

Voor vragen met betrekking tot schenkingen aan het Fries Verzetsmuseum kunt u hier terecht.


5: Assisting Collection Management worker Tessa van Caspel with making a condition report for a 100-year-old painting. (Includes original labels of acquisition)



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