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The importance of The Depot and the Archives as the secret keepers of the past

One Saturday morning, Babs took me to go and visit The Depot in Rotterdam so we could see some of her artworks that are kept there. I had no idea what I would face and when I saw it for the first time, I was awestruck. Have you ever wondered about the places where the treasures of our culture and history are safeguarded? Picture this: a gleaming tower made of mirrors nestled in the heart of Rotterdam, reflecting the city’s skyline. This architectural marvel is not just any building; it is The Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen, a beacon of preservation and accessibility in the world of art and culture. Opened on 5th November 2021, the purpose of this depot is not just about storing art; it is a way to take a look at what is behind the curtain of museum operations and conservations. Just imagine walking through the corridors of The Depot, gazing through glass windows into many compartments where various artworks are stored, carefully protected by climate-controlled environments. It is like a treasure trove, with each piece carefully catalogued and preserved for the next generations. 

But why is The Depot so important? It is the world’s first publicly accessible art storage facility and houses the entire collection of the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, with over 154,000 artworks spanning centuries of artistic expression. Before the creation of The Depot, only a fraction of these masterpieces could be displayed in the museum and the rest were kept in facilities not accessible to the public. Now, thanks to this innovative space, the entire collection is open to everyone, arranged not by period or movement but by the artworks’ unique climate requirements.

Let us ponder, in parallel, the concept of Archives. What exactly are they, and why do theymatter? Archives are more than just dusty old documents; they are repositories of our shared history, preserving the raw materials of human experience for future generations. Whether it is ancient clay tablets from Mesopotamia or digital records of today’s events, archives contain the building blocks of civilization.

Think of archives as time capsules, capturing moments in time and preserving them for posterity. They are the secret keepers of our past, holding the keys to unlocking the mysteries of history. And just like The Depot, Archives are not just about storage; they are about access. They provide scholars, researchers and curious minds with a window into the past, allowing us to learn from those who came before us.

In today’s digital age, the concept of Archives is more relevant than ever. With the click of a button, we can access vast troves of information through human history. But with this convenience comes responsibility. As guardians of the past, we must ensure that our digital archives are preserved for future generations, unless we want to lose valuable insights into our collective heritage.

As I was walking around The Depot, I came across a sign talking about NADD. Not having heard of it before, I continued reading and my interest was piqued. The Network for Archives of Design and Digital Culture (NADD) is a crucial advocate for preserving the creative legacies of designers. In their campaign “Archives at Risk: Seeking Shelter“ NADD spotlights the often-overlooked archives of designers, underscoring their essential role in documenting the evolution of design and digital culture. These archives are not only repositories but they also hold invaluable insights into the creative process, revealing the journey from conception to realization. Without a concerted effort to preserve them, many of these archives risk staying unknown to the world.

Through initiatives like NADD, the significance of archives as vessels of cultural memory is reaffirmed. They are not merely relics of the past but invaluable resources for understanding and shaping the future.

So, the next time you visit a museum or browse an online archive, take a moment to appreciate their significance. They are not just buildings or websites; they are gateways to our shared past, guiding us on a journey through the annals of history. And who knows? Perhaps one day, your own story will find its place among the archives, waiting to be discovered by the generations to come!

See you next time! (✿◠‿◠)

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