Don't you just dream of going to a museum? Winding your way through exhibitions, poring over manuscripts & delighting in charmingly written museum labels? We know we do! As soon as things open up, we have so many spots we absolutely must visit: The Rijksmuseum, the Stedelijk Museum, Museum Voorlinden. But there's one place that we'll definitely go to right away - Museum Van Loon.
We chatted with the director, Gijs Schunselaar, about all things Van Loon. Keep reading to find out more!
gloobles: Hi Gijs! Thanks so much for chatting with us. We'd love to know a bit more about you to begin. Before you became director at Museum Van Loon, what did you do?
Gijs: Before working in the museum world, I used to work in classical music & literature. With an educational background in business economics, public policy, law & art history, I guess it’s fair to call me a generalist. As a cultural omnivore, I love contributing to other people’s enjoyment of the arts & culture.
gloobles: A cultural omnivore! We love that. How does it feel to be the director of such a unique cultural institution?
Gijs: Museum Van Loon is a unique place indeed: the only remaining historical ensemble of a 17th century canal mansion, garden & coach house in Amsterdam that is open to the public. It is such a privilege to bike to this amazing workplace everyday (well, normally, in the non-Covid-19 situation!).
gloobles: There really is something magical about it. If someone had never been to Museum Van Loon, how would you describe it to them?
Gijs: It offers a unique opportunity to look behind the façade of a 17th century house of a well-to-do Amsterdam family and to visit the place as if the family could return home any moment. While you’re there, we will provide you with family anecdotes, art historical top pieces & relevant chapters from the history of The Netherlands.
gloobles: We couldn't have put it better ourselves. What’s your favourite spot in the museum?
Gijs: Actually, I love being in my office, which overlooks the garden. My office door is adjacent to the grand staircase that visitors use on their tour through the museum. The audacious ones will softly try to see if my door – indistinguishable from other doors in the premises – is open, only to find out that it is. Also, it’s always a great pleasure to be amidst our visitors as soon as I step out of my office.
gloobles: That's so cool that you're right in the throes of the action. The museum is a living, breathing thing. Where do you see Museum Van Loon in ten years?
Gijs: Obviously, we do all we can to take good care of this century old monument & its collection; those have to remain in perfect condition. Parallel to that, we are broadening the scope of the stories that visitors will encounter during their visit. Museum Van Loon is a prime example of the history of The Netherlands, and it has had many aspects, stories & relevancies. We are working on making Museum Van Loon relevant to an audience as diverse as possible!
gloobles: Wonderful. If you’re not soaking up culture at Museum Van Loon, where do you like to do so in Amsterdam?
Gijs: I love visiting the Open Space Contemporary Art Museum (OSCAM) in Bijlmer. Their programming of artists – from the surrounding neighbourhood, from Amsterdam & internationally – is really into the ‘now’, refreshing & eye-opening. And: it’s hard to keep up with the pace of their exhibition programming. There’s always a good reason to go there!
gloobles: Oh, we've never been! We'll add that to our list. What’s your favourite place to see art in the world?
Gijs: That would have to be the Brooklyn Museum. I’m a huge fan of their encyclopedic permanent collection, their exhibition programming & their community outreach. They present outstanding, top-notch exhibitions in a very accessible way. Every visit brings me new insights & inspiration.
gloobles: Another one to add to the list. You're really giving us an urge to travel! Alright, last one. What makes Museum Van Loon so special?
Gijs: Working with a small staff; I think it is fair to say that it feels like family. It is this closeness that trickles down to the way everyone is very involved, from our supervisory board to our patrons, from the Van Loon family to our suppliers. I am convinced that our visitors can sense this hominess, even if the house itself seems from ‘another world’.