Accepted paper:

Collecting Suburbia: the period room as an inspiring concept?


Mayke Groffen (Museum Rotterdam)

Paper short abstract:

This presentation will focus on domestic interiors in museums and on a much debated museum tradition: the period room. My approach isn’t confined to the stylish elitist interior from a distant past. To what extent can the period room be an inspiring concept for collecting contemporary interiors?

Paper long abstract:

Museums have a rich tradition in the field of housing culture, varying from urban planning and architecture to lifestyle and interior. Probably, the most debated museum tradition regarding housing culture is the period room. In the 1970s and 1980s many period rooms have been dismantled and banned into depots. Recently there seems to be a revival. For example, the reopened Dutch Rijksmuseum proudly presents the Beuningkamer. This rich 18th-century rococo interior from an Amsterdam canal house had been stored since 1976. The museological concept of the period room is, however, not confined to the stylish elitist interior from a distant past. In this presentation I will look at different concepts of the post-war period room, taking into account variables of style, period, class, personae, etc. A special case in this respect is the living room of a fictional persona, which was acquired by Museum Rotterdam in 2001. I will reflect on the history and composition of this very common constructed interior, and also on challenges to keep this ensemble up to date. On a higher level of abstraction, I want to explore to what extent period rooms like these can be an inspiring concept for collecting contemporary interiors. Working as curator of modern city culture at Museum Rotterdam, I just started my PhD-research on post-war and contemporary domestic interiors. Under the title 'Collecting Suburbia' I want to compare various collecting practices in this field and analyse them in the light of recent museological discussions on contemporary and participative collecting.

panel Mat05
Dwelling(s): museum practice meets ethnology