the uncollecting process
frisian heritage


After each exhibition, we carefully store all objects in the depot. Paintings are hung in place. Drawings lie in the dark recovering from exposure to light. Who knows? Maybe they will hang again in a new exhibition in a year's time. Or maybe they tell their stories only to the next generation.

For some objects it is not clear why we have them in our collection. Other objects no longer fit very well in the collection. Saying goodbye is part of it: because those kinds of objects will do better in another collection, where they are shown more often. And so a farewell is always a new beginning. We call this process 'uncollecting'.

In this video, Dirk Boomsma (team leader conservation, management and knowledge management) talks about an old chaise (1800-1824) that was returned to the lender in 2017. The video was made by Sije Kingma and was part of the exhibition Collected work: the rich collection of Friesland (2019).

Video: Afscheid

what is uncollecting?

Uncollecting is the opposite of collecting: it is the removal of objects from the museum's collection. It is never about important objects, but about objects about which we know nothing, which are in very bad condition or of which we already have more than enough in our collection. We make the decision to uncollect on the basis of our collection profile, the description of what kind of museum we are and which collection belongs to that kind of museum. The consideration or valuation is therefore an assessment of the quality within and outside our collection; it is not a determination of financial value. In short, it is separating the wheat from the chaff.

We never simply reject objects. When an object qualifies for collection, we first make an inventory of whether there are other museums where an object would be better suited and whether there is a willingness to take over an object. If that is not possible, we ask whether a possible donor wants to receive the item in question back. If that is also not possible, we look at other persons or institutions who want to take over the management and ownership of the object. Our preference is always for a new cultural destination. An object we know nothing about might be a suitable prop for a theater company. An item in poor condition may be ideal practice material for a restoration course.

why do we uncollect?

The Province of Fryslân has instructed us to uncollect 20% of the volume of our collection. There is a good reason for this: the Kolleksjesintrum Fryslân, which was built for the provincial museums of Fryslân, must also be able to house the collections in the future. Our collection consists of more than 200,000 objects that must be preserved under optimal conditions. In addition, there must also be room in the Kolleksjesintrum for new gifts and acquisitions.

By uncollecting, we develop a strong, relevant and manageable collection that can be used more effectively both in the museum and elsewhere. We constantly and with great care consider which objects fit within our collection profile and the story we want to tell.

how do you come to an uncollecting decision?

The first steps in the process are preparations that must be made so that the assessment can take place. In this phase we check the information of objects in the database. Objects are photographed if necessary.

The consideration or valuation of the objects then not only provides a good picture of what we have and can dispose of, but also leads to a sharper collection profile. To carry out the valuation, the Fries Museum follows the national method 'On the Museum Weighing Scale', which was developed by the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands. Each object is valued on ten different criteria. (Financial value is deliberately not a criterion.) Based on the valuation, a list of items eligible for collection is drawn up. When in doubt, we ask external experts for a second opinion. We also maintain close contact with the donors of important and large loans: the Royal Frisian Society, which is the founder of the collection and of the Fries Museum itself, and the Ottema-Kingma Foundation, from which the Fries Museum has been managing and exhibiting many important loans for more than half a century.

After a decision has been made to uncollect, we search for a suitable place for the relocation of an object together with the curator. The LAMO, the Guideline for the Disposal of Museum Objects, serves as an aid in this search. The first step is to identify the owner. Is it a loan? Then the lender will be asked to take back the object or to give the museum permission to continue the collection. Subsequently, the Frisian museums and the museums around the former Zuiderzee will be informed of the proposed disposal. We then place the objects to be uncollected on the national Disposal database. Museums then have two months to express their interest to us. We also write to other museums who we suspect may be interested in the objects. If it is not possible to relocate an object to a museum, we will proceed to a relocation outside museums, but preferably with a cultural organisation. Only in the complete absence of cultural interest do we sell or, if the object is really in a terrible state, recycle the materials.

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