NETHERLANDS – Comments please: Research project on significance of religious objects

Museum Catharijneconvent (Museum Saint Catherine’s Convent) and Stichting Kerkelijk Kunstbezit in Nederland (Foundation for Ecclesiastical Art and Artefacts in the Netherlands) are working on a project that deals with religious objects that can no longer be used in their original context: churches and monasteries. A lot of these buildings have to close their doors due to increasing secularization. The project is a close cooperation of a variety of national heritage institutions, universities and representatives of churches in the Netherlands and is funded by the Dutch ministry for education, culture and science.

The amount of religious objects that will become ”homeless” when more and more churches and monasteries in the Netherlands close their doors is vast. As a result of this, decisions must be made concerning what to keep and what not. There is not enough room (and funding) to store all objects, in for example museum depots.

Making decisions concerning conserving and deaccessioning objects is a difficult process. Ways have to be found to answer questions like: Why is one object more valuable than another? Who has to establish the significance of objects? How to form transparent guidelines for deaccessioning objects?

At this moment, we are developing a method that will provide for a responsible way of dealing with this problem. Also, our goal is that this method will become a national standard in the Netherlands for dealing with endangered religious objects.

The Netherlands is not the only country in Europe or in the world where secularization takes place. This is why we are interested in other projects that deal with the problem of finding suitable destinations for religious objects coming from churches or monasteries. Because of this, we would like to ask if similar problems and projects are taking or have taken place in Europe. If so, how do these projects deal with the often hard to establish significance of objects? We are also interested in knowing who has developed these projects and how, for example, churches and secular institutions work together in dealing with objects from religious buildings that have to close their doors.

We hope to share interesting ideas and experiences.

Please reply directly to: Sebastiaan van der Lans (Project Assistant) Museum Catharijneconvent, t+31(0)30 231 38 35, s.vanderlans@catharijneconvent.nl