Rijksmuseum wins European Museum of the Year, embarks on digitization project

The European Museum Forum (EMF) has announced Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum as the winner of European Museum of the Year for 2015.

The award is granted annually to museums demonstrating a high level of volunteer involvement and well-developed public outreach projects.

Past Dutch winners of the prize include the Open Air Museum in Arnhem (2005), the Zuiderzeemuseum in Enkhuizen (1984), and the Catharijneconvent Museum in Utrecht (1980).

Jury impressed by Rijksmuseum renovations, outreach

After a nearly 10-year-long renovation project, which included the restoration of many historical artworks, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam reopened its doors to the public in 2013.

The EMF jury was particularly impressed at the scale and visitor-oriented design of the new Rijksmuseum. The organisation of works into historical galleries, including the addition of an Asian Pavilion and medieval room, allow the museum to showcase the breadth and variety of items in its collection.

The museum’s ambitious outreach projects (it aims to "reach every child in the Netherlands by the age of twelve") struck the jury as admirable and achievable.

The museum offers detailed audio guides in a range of languages and a sophisticated virtual tour on its website.

Digitizing the Rijksmuseum

Online communications form a growing part of the Rijksmuseum’s outreach agenda. The EMF award comes in the wake of a new project underway at the museum which aims to see every item in the collection digitized by 2020.

Already, high-res images of over 25 per cent of the museum’s objects can be downloaded for free via the Rijksmuseum website. The most-downloaded image so far is of Rembrandt’s Night Watch.

In April, the museum hosted a conference, attended by representatives of the world’s leading museums, including museums in Amsterdam, on digitization and cultural heritage.

While many museums have espoused the idea that sharing digital versions of their collections has broad educational value, the Rijksmuseum’s vision of an entire online collection is unique.

It is motivated by the idea that museums should do everything possible to bring their collections to the public - even if that means interaction takes place online, rather than in the space of a gallery.

So far, the availability of high-quality online images of its treasures has not deterred visitors from actually visiting the Rijksmuseum: 2014 saw attendance levels hit record highs.

Emily McCallum


Emily McCallum

Emily grew up in a small coastal town in western Canada and moved to Utrecht in 2014, after completing her studies in Vancouver and Germany. So far, she has been...

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