My name is Stefanie van Gemert; I am a PhD candidate and teaching assistant at the UCL Dutch Department, and this summer I worked on an HLF-funded community project called Treasures from the East. This project takes place at the Wallace Collection, not so far from UCL, and involves a year-long engagement with London community groups. The groups – mainly women with a migrant background – visit the Wallace Collection’s Dutch art on a regular basis and use Dutch 17th-century paintings as inspiration for creative art works that will be exhibited from November 2012 onwards. The project focuses on the Dutch East India Company as a major force behind the arts boom during the Netherlands’ golden age.
When I heard about this project, I was immediately enthused and wanted to contribute as a young researcher and teacher in Dutch history and culture, and postcolonial theory. Together with the Collection’s Audience Development Officer, Sophie Martin, I took on the challenge of developing a programme of four day-long workshops at UCL Art Museum and the Wallace Collection. To this end I researched objects from UCL Art Museum and UCL Special Collections; raised funds, and prepared and coordinated the workshops at UCL. It was great to work with the participants, in an informal setting, without the pressure of exams: just for the sake of having engaging learning sessions around wonderful objects.
What a surprise as well to find Dutch links in the Art Museum’s collections! There is the Grote Collection: donated by George Grote (1794-1871) to UCL in 1872. Like Abraham Francen, Grote’s Dutch grandfather Andreas Grote (1710-188) collected prints and drawings, and his grandson bequeathed his albums to the university. There were also many Rembrandt etchings in the UCL Art collections (like the Abraham Francen-print from the museum’s Vaughan Collection).
If you would like to learn more about the workshop programme, please read my Wallace Collection’s project blog entries.
I truly enjoyed working with this group of creative and inspiring women, challenging narratives of colonial history by focusing on global encounters, discussing and holding a wide range of objects in the Art Museum of a global university.
The partnership programme ‘Treasures from the East at UCL’ was made possible with the help of the UCL Step Out fund.
This entry originally appeared on the UCL Museums blog (minor edits).