The EMA family has had to bid farewell to our beloved friend colleague and mentor, Wim van der Weiden, one of the founders of EMA in 2009, who passed away on 28 October after a difficult illness.

European Museum Academy

The EMA family has had to bid farewell to our beloved friend colleague and mentor, Wim van der Weiden, one of the founders of EMA in 2009, who passed away on 28 October after a difficult illness.

Wim was a distinguished personality in the European museum world, an expert who created the pioneering museums of Museon and Naturalis, a stimulating, humorous, communicative museum man. He had clear opinions, was full of empathy, a connector who detested pomposity and snobbery and was inspired by innate curiosity and simplicity.

Wim, your work will be continued, in your spirit, and your intellectual legacy is a great gift for the EMA family, but this does not soothe the sorrow we feel.

Quoted by Wim van der Weiden interview

“Recommendations to colleagues
    •Pay attention to what is going on in all kinds of museums, not only the one where you are employed. For instance, it can be very inspiring to see what is done in a natural history museum, though you are a staff member in an art museum. So, do not focus on museums similar to your own. Widen your scope!
    • Keep in mind that a museum is created for visitors, not for its employees, your colleagues. The appreciation of a museum depends on its ‘Public Quality’. Try to develop a variety of activities for people of all kinds of walk. Do not just focus on the ‘usual suspects’ at both ends of the spectrum: the well-educated and ‘well-to-do senior citizens’  on one side and the ‘Happy kids experience’ on the other side.
    • Social responsibility, inclusion and sustainability belong to the core business of a museum nowadays

Andreja Rihter , EMA President

Wim believed that museums are visitor-centred, offering a variety of activities for critical conversations about the past and the future. Museums are catalysts for changes in the way of life, and they are especially educational supplements for young people.

I met Wim in 1997 in Lausanne, when the Micheletti Prize was awarded to the Municipal Museum, Idrija, Slovenia. I also met Kenneth Hudson. In 1999, the cooperation of the two and, above all, the interest in the almost unknown world of Slavic museums brought EMYA to Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia and also the host of the EMA awards in 2018.

Wim and I have always been a bit “winded”, but our views on museums and their creativity complemented each other. We went on professional tours of museums together several times, and he always accompanied me to museums in the Netherlands in particular. A gentleman at every step who was deeply appreciated and “listened to” by his colleagues, who trusted his comments and criticisms, which were not merely negative, when needed, but  always an encouragement for the future. Therefore, it was no coincidence that my first international trip as a Minister of Culture took me to visit his director’s office in Naturalis – Leiden. Laughter during the chat, where the museologists can take their work and their audience. Did I do well in accepting my position as a Minister? At that time, Wim was already an experienced director who did not lack diplomatic experience.

That is why I was deeply honored when, together with Massimo, they called me in 2009, entrusted me with the story of the creation of EMA and invited me to the position of President of the foundation. Our trust in each other, openness and respect have been built over the years, and that is why EMA is a foundation for which life’s values are in the first place and the basis for all cooperation.

My last personal meeting with Wim, as with all EMA awards judges, was this June in Dortmund. We were not aware of the moments with him, because the meeting was similar to all our previous ones. But the last online meeting with him and with Massimo, this year, remains strongly in my memory. We agreed on the more intensive involvement of EMA and FSK in the HiM project. Our meeting passed in a relaxed conversation, laughing at moments from our cooperation and above all mocking our health conditions. The mockery turned into a target of death. I miss you, my friend.

A portrait of Wim by Kenneth Hudson

In 1995 Kenneth Hudson (then the EMYA and EMF Director) wrote in the EMYA  Newsletter and article presenting Wim in the context of a series entitled “Meet the EMYA Committee”
“ For a while he (Wim) hesitated between working in a museum and working in the theatre, but soon decided that the museum world was where he really beionged. He expressed this in a delightful Dutch phrase. Translated literally, it says “I am a museum person in my heart and my kidneys’. Elsewhere, he has described himself as “a genuine museum animal”

He is a self-confessed workaholic and one of his most characteristic remarks is “If  I’d wanted to work from 8.15 to 4.45, I should have stayed a curator.”

“A tough, kind very friendly, approachable man, who thinks carefully before he speaks and who expects other people to do the same. Someone who smiles and laughs a lot, who looks at women, not through them or round them, and who sees no point in keeping his opinions to himself, A person who speaks good English, French and German and who is thoroughly at home in international society, A man with a wide range of interests, who realises that power brings responsibility, who does what he promises to do. A very democratic and successful leader who respects people for their present achievements, not their past records. An essentially non-political figure. This is probably as close as one can  get to a portrait of Wim van der Weiden, a much-loved friend and a treasured member of the EMYA Committee.”

Marièlle Beek, Perspekt Studios

I considered Wim my museum-father, my mentor, my friend. He encouraged me in many ways to reach out to audiences, to think ‘big’, to realize and implement sometimes seemingly impossible ideas. I would have loved to continue are our walks and talks on how to reach the seemingly unreachable.

This stimulating, supportive side of Wim – known by many – is going to be honoured in a Wim van der Weiden Encouragement Prize. This Award is aimed at the University of Amsterdam Public History master students with the graduation thesis that has the best chance of reaching the ‘unreachable’. Wim embraced the idea, as it is very much who he was.

I do miss Wim dearly. However, I am honoured to have known him and to continue his ideas and work.

The Wim van der Weiden encouragement prize is initiated by Anno, the European Museum Academy, the University of Amsterdam Public History master, and my team.

Robin Lutz
A brief history of Heritage in Motion award

In 2008 Robin Lutz received in Hollywood a golden film award and in that period, he noticed that there were actually no award festivals in which cultural heritage was discussed.
He researched that matter and it turned out that there were hundreds of film festivals all over the world, but none about specific “cultural heritage”.

He thought it would be a good idea to set up such an award especially for cultural heritage. He found Wim very willing to shape this plan together, as an expert on the museum scene. 

Wim and Robin decided to make Heritage in Motion part of the European Museum Academy, an existing organisation into which HiM fitted very well, Onno Ephraim was appointed as director of HiM and after a few tryouts the first HiM award ceremony was held in 2014 in Glasgow in conjunction with the EMA annual meeting.  It was very successful, and proved there was a clear need for a scheme on the theme of European cultural heritage.

From 2023, HiM will hand out its awards in a joint venture with Forum of Slavic Cultures, European Museum Academy and Europa Nostra. The latest  2023 HiM Ceremony in Timişoara proved the vitality of the scheme which was so close to Wim’s heart. We are committed to go forward on the path indicated by Robin and Wim. HiM’s history so far has becomne a very valuable repository of pioneering experienced all over Europe, a source of inspiration and a valid tool for sharing knowledge with the younger generations.

Candidates for the 2024 edition are very welcome! To know more and to apply, please keep an eye on the EMA and FSK websites !

Wim wrote an article for Museum Practice (no. 23, 2003, Museums Association London) entitled ‘Deaccessioning’, which generated an interesting debate. This was the headline to that article:

Deaccessioning artefacts and specimens will enable museums to not just survive in the 21st century, but to thrive.

In the following issue of Museum Practice, Mark Jones (then Director at the V&A) reacted with a short article which ended with the following remark:

“It is perhaps time to recognise disposal as a proper part of collection management”
It was typical of Wim to be able to formulates statements able to ignite a fruitful discussion with no prejudices.

One the problems Wim was very concerned about was the endless growing of collections and the difficulties in making this process sustainable in the long term. He was frequently  asked to lecture about deaccessioning. Meaningfully this is a passage from his article mentioned above.

The problem of ever growing collections, packed into over-full store rooms, is widely recognized by museums today. Since the 1990s museum professionals all over the world are wondering how selective acquisitioning and deaccesssioning can be part of their museum’s policy.But the problem has not been tackled yet. Many museums are still building new store rooms because the collection has grown.
Disposal is an extremely delicate subject. The existing guidelines for disposal are extremely severe. Deaccessioning must become a widely accepted instrument enabling museums to survive. How to achieve this?

The true story of the birth of EMA told by Wim in ‘Searching for Excellence EMA / 2009—2019, published by the International Foundation Forum of Slavic Cultures, Ljubljana, Slovenia, 2019

Brussels, Central Station, 29 June  2009, 7 p.m.

Two gentlemen [Massimo Negri and Wim van der Weiden] in a simple bar drinking a beer after an exhausting but inspiring brainstorm meeting. Subject: what do European museums need in the 21st century? The meeting was over, but not the thinking. That’s how at that very moment in a Belgian bar the notion of an academy was born. Four months later, 28 October 2019, the European Museum Academy was founded, soon to include 10 museum experts from all over Europe. What had these founding fathers in mind?

They considered the time right to establish a dynamic and forward-thinking organisation to stimulate innovative thinking in European museums. To that end a first meeting was held in Strasbourg, on 28 November 2009. This enthusiastic group of professionals in the museum field and the wider cultural sector wanted to keep alive the legacy of the distinguished museologist Kenneth Hudson (1916-1999) on the 10th anniversary of his death.

All members of the “Strasbourg Group” have worked with Kenneth Hudson for many years in the European Museum of the Year Award scheme, in the area of industrial archaeology and in other fields which benefitted from the pioneering contributions of Kenneth Hudson. In 1977 Kenneth Hudson created, with John Letts, the European Museum of the Year Award (EMYA).

As Kenneth Hudson always said, he was the first cosmopolitan who had “museologist” as his profession in his passport. And rightly so: he had an unequalled knowledge of museums and of European culture. His views on the museum world were and still are refreshing, and more often than not provocative. He was a highly independent-minded museum guru.

(See the EMA publication “A tiger in a museum is not a tiger”, Ljubljana, 2017, ISBN 978-961-94274-1-5 and the quotations throughout this booklet.)

Assuming Kenneth Hudson was the first “museologist” means that he was the first “scientist” in the world of museums. It might have been the very moment that a museum academy was needed.

This Book is dedicated to Wim van der Weiden
The Museum of the Future – Between Physical Place and Virtual Space

This collection of essays attempts to explore the spatial dimensions of the museum, which have experienced a particular challenge as a result of rapid digitization. While post-structuralism has pointed out the social construction character of space with the spatial turn, the ongoing digitalization of the world means a “growing spatial crisis” (Peter Sloterdijk), which is expressed in a dramatic dematerialization of reality. This interdisciplinary and multi-perspective anthology examines the urban development situation of museum buildings, museum architecture, museum scenography, curatorial practices in dealing with space, virtual extensions of the museum, digital interpretation opportunities and the significance of spatial environments for museum learning. As a result, the museum seems to be positioned between physical space and virtual space – spatial dimensions that do not compete with each other, but complement each other. Understanding the museum as a social space makes the apparent contradictions dissolve.  

Edited by Karl B. Murr on behalf the European Museum Academy with contributions by Uwe R. Brückner (Germany), Peter Carpreau (Belgium), Karin Glasemann (Sweden), Bernhard Maaz (Germany), Maggie McColl/Pete Brown (United Kingdom), Simone Mergen (Germany), Karl B. Murr (Germany), Massimo Negri (Italy), Silke Schmidt/Tim Deussen (Germany), Jana Scholze (United Kingdom), Volker Staab (Germany), Henrik Zipsane (Sweden).

EMA – European Museum Academy Foundation
Oude Diedenweg 75, 6704 AB Wageningen, The Netherlands.

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