Arnoud Odding: “I think and write about museums, I visit museums, work in museums and I also tinker with them. Viewed in this way, I am fairly monomaniac. Personally, I think that’s not too bad because, in my view, museums are about absolutely everything. Or, to put it another way, they are about the coherence of things. The coherence of things is the motto I once came up with for the Amsterdam Zoo, Natura Artis Magistra in Amsterdam. That motto has also become my personal motto. At Artis it was about the relation between nature and culture; between past, present and future; between humans and animals and between art and science. Museums are the most beautiful sanctuaries for the human spirit that we have: places of wonder, admiration, study, understanding, horror and aimless wandering. Museums are for everyone.”

“When someone asked me to choose which target audiences the National Glass Museum in Leerdam – of which I was the director for over six years – should focus, I couldn’t choose. It was for enthusiasts of the crafts and for artists; for the group of mostly elderly in the grandstand of the hot shop and for the industrial design students. Without him knowing my personal motto, marketeer Paul Mertz came up with the slogan: ‘Glass from all sides’. Those four words determined the astonishingly rich directions the museum found afterwards.”

“From 2012 to 2022 I worked in Enschede at Rijksmuseum Twenthe (an art museum from the Middle Ages to the 21st century) and De Museumfabriek (a local museum of sciences) , which – like Artis and the Glass Museum – were looking for a clear profile. Rijksmuseum Twenthe, was it a national museum or a regional museum? For the people living in Twente or for the whole of the Netherlands? For ancient or modern art? It will surprise hardly anyone that it is all that. Rijksmuseum Twenthe has reinvented itself as a national art museum where ambitious exhibitions of old, modern and contemporary art tell stories about social and cultural developments in the past centuries and their significance for the present.

The Amsterdam zoo Artis, the National Glass Museum, Rijksmuseum Twenthe and De Museumfabriek are all about the coherence of things. All four have chosen an adventurous course that is rooted in their own history. But at the same time, any strategic similarity really ends there.”

“de mooiste vrijplaatsen voor de menselijke geest…”

Arnoud Odding studied museology and art history in Leiden. He is the founder and director of strategic consultancy O dubbel d, which initially specialized in the realization of exhibitions and competitions. Gradually, these projects became increasingly large-scale and complex, such as the city jubilee 750 years of The Hague in 1998. After that, the focus shifted to concept formation and subsequently the management of large-scale exhibition projects in museums. Since 2002, the focus has been on advising and revitalizing museums and other cultural institutions.

At the beginning of 2004 he published a book together with Tiziana Nespoli entitled The Dreamed Museum. The dreamed museum is a pamphlet for cultural renewal, which goes back to the 18th century roots of museums as places where knowledge was interpreted and where interpretations were discussed. A vision aimed at restoring the museum to its old place at the center of the cultural and scientific debate. At the request of the DOEN Foundation, he wrote a sequel to this book in 2011 under the title ‘The Disruptive Museum‘. This second book is about museums in the network society. The disruptive museum is the network museum, the museum that provides a radically new answer to the question of existence.

The question of how art, science and museums can approach the issue of identity and relevance is a common thread through Arnoud Odding’s work.