Save As.. - How to collect the city?

October 18, 2019 until March 1, 2020

On 18 October 2019, the exhibition Save as.. - How to collect the city? will open its doors to the public at the Amsterdam Museum.  In the exhibition, the museum provides an insight into its varied collection of over 100,000 objects, each of which tells a story about the city of Amsterdam and its inhabitants. From strange trinkets to iconic works. From human hair strands to valuable paintings. What does a city museum collect?

Since the founding of Amsterdam, more than seven centuries ago, all kinds of objects have been preserved that have something to do with Amsterdam, its inhabitants or important events in the city. The Amsterdam Museum manages, researches and exhibits these objects and the stories behind them, and continuously adds to the collection. In Save as... The museum displays no less than 750 objects from its collection, flaunting the size and diversity of the city's collection. Visitors discover the special and often personal stories behind the objects and how they ended up in the Amsterdam Museum. The museum also takes a critical look at what has been collected so far and, above all, at what has not been collected. The exhibition is the starting point for a new, more inclusive collection policy at the Amsterdam Museum and visitors can bring their own stories and objects to the museum. 

From expensive art to everyday utensils 

Of objects such as paintings, statues, city coats of arms and, for example, historical coins and tokens, it is obvious that a city museum should collect them. The Amsterdam Museum, for example, owns near 3,000 paintings. Another thing that is expected to be collected by a city museum are the many scale models of districts and iconic buildings that have been built in Amsterdam over the years. Fourteen of these miniatures can be seen in the exhibition. But there are also many objects in the museum's collection that the visitor will be surprised that the museum has kept. For example, the museum displays a full kitchen from the 1930s, a T-shirt with 'Black Pete is Racism' and the household effects of four Chinese migrants. At a flea market in 2004, the Amsterdam Museum purchased all sorts of items on sale by a six-year old Amsterdammer on Queen’s Day, such as toys, children's clothing and other merchandise. The large number of over 700 very diverse objects in the exhibition gives the visitor a surprising picture of how divergent and large the collection of a city museum is, or rather, has become over time.

One city, an infinite number of stories 

People collect both everyday and special object for different reasons. Because they are useful, beautiful, or worth money. Or because they recall personal experiences or special events. By no means everything was preserved and what was initially cherished often disappeared, unless collectors or institutions took care of it. This exhibition tells those unique and personal stories behind the objects. It’s one way how the visitor hears the story of Sophia Lopez Suasso (1816-1890), who was extremely fond of purchasing material goods. Throughout her life she collected furniture, jewellery, miniature silver and porcelain. She even bought an entire museum. After her death she left everything to the city of Amsterdam. Of three barbie dolls, the tale is told that Miep Over (1907-1976) gave them to her granddaughter Ruth as a gift on Saint Nicholas' Eve in 1967. Miep made more than a hundred different pieces of clothing and accessories for the barbies, because Barbie clothing from the shop was too expensive. 

How do you collect the city? 

In addition to the many interesting stories and objects the exhibition also tells how and why objects ended up in the city's collection. The oldest pieces in the city collection come from the estate of the city council. A large part was donated by, mostly wealthy, residents such as Gerard Heineken, founder of the beer brewery that holds the same name. Museum staff also took to the city in search of unusual rarities and to purchase objects. In an audio tour, the museum staff talk about their work, explain how to manage a collection and why some seemingly non-influencing objects get a place in the collection, while others don't. Prominent Amsterdammers explain what certain items from the collection of the Amsterdam Museum mean to them. 

Visitors are invited to add to the collection 

At the end of the exhibition we look at the present and the future. Which works have recently been included in the collection and how should the collection further develop? The museum asks visitors to take a critical look at how the museum has collected the city over the past centuries, but also how it’s collected the city in more recent years. Which aspects or events have not yet been collected, but must be added in order to have a clear view on the future of the city? We'd love to hear your thoughts. You can also share your ideas through the this online form.