The National Glass Museum – Fragile ideals
At the beginning of the 21st century, the National Glass Museum had fallen into serious decline. The museum was housed in the crumbling villa of the factory director who had brought Leerdam glass greatness a century earlier. A somewhat sad monument to an illustrious industrial and also idealistic past. Initially, it had been a typical company museum but the more Leerdam glass had run into trouble over the course of the last century due to cheap competition from low-wage countries, the more the museum tried to steer its own artistic course. The museum focused on contemporary glass artists who often created free artworks in their own studios. Mature and fresh mixed together and, if we are honest, without much development. An ageing audience still gathered, but glass was anything but hip.
Around the year 2000, the urgency at the glassworks had risen so much that they decided to sell the valuable collection and the museum premises. First, they offered it to the museum foundation, but if it could not raise the money it would go to the highest bidder. The glass museum in Corning, USA, for example. Board member Wouter Ritsema van Eck asked me to make a fundraising plan. I wanted to, but I thought such a plan would only have a chance of success if embedded in a complete transformation plan for the museum. Together with curator Job Meihuizen, I wrote a plan in 2001 under the heading “Het Schoone Wint”, one of the old factory director’s idealistic mottos. In 2001, the building was already bought and in spring 2002 the collection was acquired with support from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, the Mondriaan Foundation and the Rembrandt Art Association.