Utrecht has a jewel in Museum Catharijneconvent

We are introduced to the beautiful Museum Catharijneconvent by Maaike. She is a junior employee in the Marketing and Communications department. Last year she mainly worked on a new visitors guide in four languages for foreign tourists

Maaike was born in Bilthoven, close by Utrecht. As my grandparents are from Utrecht I was always drawn to the city because of their stories and moved here in 2010 as I started my Bachelor in History.

She studied Cultural History at Utrecht University and the University of York (UK). In my opinion History is about knowing where we come from and sharing this knowledge and stories with others. That’s why I’ve been a tour guide at the Dom Tower for seven years and now enjoy working in the Marketing department of Museum Catharijneconvent.

I, Sailko [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

I asked Maaike to introduce her museum and tell us why we should visit

A visit to Utrecht is not complete without a visit to Museum Catharijneconvent. Here you can wander the halls of a medieval monastery and be enchanted by the most beautiful collection of medieval art in the Netherlands. You can marvel at the glittering gold and silver in the Treasury, admire paintings by Rembrandt, Jan Steen and their contemporaries from the Golden Age and visit our unique temporary exhibitions.

In the late Middle Ages, Utrecht was a prosperous episcopal city and leading economic, political and religious centre in northern Europe. Strolling around the city, you can still see many of its old churches today. Indeed, the Netherlands bears so many traces of Christianity that it is impossible to understand Dutch society without some knowledge of Christian culture.

Museum Catharijneconvent aims to tell the story of Christian culture and art in the Netherlands.

What is your favourite part of the museum and your favourite artefact and why?

Being an historian, I personally enjoy the Medieval part of our collection the most. My favourite object is the Middle Rhine Altar from the 15th Century. It depicts scenes from the lives of the Virgin Mary and Christ in such vibrant colours that completely contradict the view of the Middle Ages as a dark and sombre era.

I, Sailko [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

How do you acquire exhibitions for the museum? 

The process of developing new exhibitions takes a long time and is cooperation between many different departments within the museum and sometimes specialists outside the museum such as other museums and universities. An important step in the process is to determine which topics will appeal to our visitors and fit with our identity and collection.

Subsequently we work with local and national media partners and Utrecht Marketing to brand the exhibition nationwide and attract visitors.

How does the museum go about attracting visitors?

The identity of Museum Catharijneconvent is embedded in the identity of Utrecht, a medieval city, a prosperous episcopal city and leading economic, political and religious centre in northern Europe. With our rich and unique collection, we tell the story of Christianity in the Netherlands and therefore provide a context for this history and identity.

2019 is a special year, for it is the national Rembrandt year in the Netherlands. We’re the only museum in Utrecht that has a Rembrandt in its own collection. The painting is now part of an exhibition on Dutch Masters in the Golden Age.

What is your present main exhibition?

Currently we have an exhibition on Relics; What is the power of relics? Why are they cherished, and why do people travel thousands of miles to see them? Museum Catharijneconvent is the first museum in the world that will be presenting the veneration of relics as a universal, living phenomenon that transcends culture and religion. The exhibition shows that relics are more than Catholic and medieval; they are still remarkably popular and have a universal appeal. Relics is on show until 3 February 2019.

From 8 March 2019 we will have a new dazzling exhibition: Münster Treasury.  Dazzling riches have been preserved in Münster Cathedral for centuries. The most marvellous objects of gold and silver, precious stones and exotic materials from all over the world have been assembled and kept there since the Middle Ages. These treasures have survived, unscathed by war, disaster and iconoclasm, and now, for the first time in history, are leaving the cathedral Treasury and bringing their radiance to Museum Catharijneconvent.

FaceMePLS [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

 What type of visitor do you want to attract?

Our aim is to attract people who enjoy art. We have a beautiful collection of medieval art, that is unique in the country.

During the holiday season, in November and January, we also have special activities for families focusing on the Dutch heritage of traditions around Sinterklaas and Christmas.

What future plans does the museum have?

Each year we have two or three exhibitions in the museum, that takes a lot of planning, sometimes even years in advance. In addition to these exhibitions we will focus on new programs for families and tourist from outside the Netherlands. Last summer we launched a new visitor guide in four languages, English, French, German and Spanish, that is available for free to our foreign visitors.

Does your museum have a central role in Utrechts life?

We have a partnership with Utrecht Marketing and the Dom Cathedral as the latter is also a partner in the project Dutch Museum Churches

Where is your favourite place in Utrecht?

What I love about Utrecht is the hidden courtyards where it seems as if time stood still. The Pandhof next to the Dom Cathedral is well known, but did you know that there are at least ten more of those hidden pearls? One of them is here in the museum.

How is the museum funded?

We receive income from entry fees, private funds and the Dutch  Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.

We receive financial funds from the national government, but have a good partnership with the Gemeente Utrecht.

Are you competitive with other city museums? Do you try to attract the same type of exhibition at times or are you very individual

What makes Utrecht unique is that there a lot of museums and cultural institutions within walking distance from each other. We each have our own identity, but reinforce each other. There is something for everyone in the city, rather than just one option.

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Jon Wilkins

Jon Wilkins is Welsh and lives in England. He is a writer. A Europhile and Remainer, he is a regular visitor to Utrecht and has set his crime novel series in the city.

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