Rotterdam, Depot Boijmans van Beuningen opens, the first ever accessible museum repository

In Rotterdam, everything is ready for the opening of the Depot Boijmans van Beuningen: this is the first museum depot in the world to be open to the public at all times, continuously and permanently, in its entirety and for six days a week.

Everything is ready for the opening of the first museum depot in the world to open its doors continuously and permanently to the public, in its entirety and every day (except Monday, the day it is closed): this is the Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen, the depot of the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam, a large building containing 151,000 objects divided into fourteen sections (and even into five areas with five different climates, for the conservation needs of the works), the result of 172 years of collecting works and pieces spanning five centuries. The inauguration is set for Nov. 5, in the presence of King William of the Netherlands, while tours will begin on Nov. 6. The Depot will also serve to miss the museum less, which has been closed for a large-scale renovation since 2019 and will not reopen until 2028.

In the Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen, artworks are stored just like in any other depot, and visitors will therefore have the opportunity to observe the behind-the-scenes of the museum world, seeing how an important art collection is maintained, cared for, and preserved. According to Boijmans van Beuningen, museums around the world typically exhibit only 6 to 10 percent of their collections-more than 90 percent of their collections are in museums. Rotterdam therefore intends to break this tradition to bring visitors everything, but really everything.

And to accommodate the works, which arrive from five different warehouses (the move was an operation with a quasi-military organization that took four months, with 216 truck trips transporting the pieces from the previous storage facilities to the Depot), a special building has been designed in the Museumpark, the work of the architectural firm MVRDV: the project (11 floors spread over 39 meters in height) is under the banner of sustainability, as the museum uses only solar energy thanks to 1.664 panels covering its 6,609-square-meter glass surface. A roof garden adorned with pine and birch trees has also been installed on the building, and visitors will be able to refresh themselves at the Renilde restaurant (a tribute to Renilde Hammacher, curator of the museum’s modern art collection between the 1960s and 1970s), which already opened last Sept. 30. Also available is an events room, the Coert Room (celebrating instead Coert Ebbinge Wubben, director of the institute from 1950 to 1978), which also opened Sept. 30. The interiors, on the other hand, were designed by three artists-John Körmeling, Marieke van Diemen, and Pipilotti Rist.

The question on all visitors’ minds is: what will be possible to see at the Depot? The Boijmans van Beuningen explains that this will be a very different visit than one would normally have in a museum. In a museum you can never exhibit more than a small selection, whereas in the Depot you can discover for yourself a collection from thousands of objects, accumulated over 172 years of history. The repository has fourteen sections equipped with racks for all the different works. Visits will be granted to individual groups numbering up to thirteen people, who can enter the various sections accompanied by a guide and for a maximum duration of eleven minutes, after which the space visited will be closed because forty-nine minutes will be required to restore the correct microclimate-an essential operation to keep the artworks in good condition. Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen’s guides have been trained in recent weeks through a special program: the museum, in early 2021, sought thirteen people to assign them to act as guides in the repository (chosen from a base of 500 applications).

It is a challenge that started in 2017, when construction began on the building that will house Depot (which was thus finished in record time), but one that has been talked about since 2005, when the first discussions about the accessibility of the collection began. And a challenge from Rotterdam to the whole world: never before has a museum decided to show the public the entirety of its collection. To learn more, or to book a visit, you can visit the Boijmans van Beuningen website.

Pictured: the Depot

Rotterdam, Depot Boijmans van Beuningen opens, the first ever accessible museum repository
Rotterdam, Depot Boijmans van Beuningen opens, the first ever accessible museum repository

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