Meet our Presenters: Cathelijne Denekamp
Tell us a little about yourself and how you got to where you are today.
I was previously an event manager at the Rijksmuseum and had the honour of organising President Obama’s visit to our museum in 2014!
Now, I am a project manager who thinks about possibilities and never gives up when I believe in something. I think that is why I got this job! A big part of my job is working on the awareness of our staff through listening, talking and training. I am happy to say that our organisation has grown in accessibility and this has become one of the key pillars of the museums strategy.
What organisation do you work with / for?
The Rijksmuseum, the biggest museum with the most famous art and the history of the Netherlands. It is the history of all the people in the Netherlands, so everybody should have equal and independent access.
What access and inclusion provisions, services and programmes are currently in place in your organisation?
We provide a range provisions, services and programmes just some of which include sensory friendly evenings, tours for people with dementia, a meeting programme for elderly people from the local neighbourhood, tours for people who are blind or visually impaired, Sign Language video tours, tours for families with children with a low social-emotional development and more. For me it is important that all programmes are inclusive and when a separate programme is required it should not be a weak extract, but an equal alternative.
What are you working on at the moment?
A creative package for children in hospitals, who cannot leave their room due to the current pandemic.
What has been your greatest accomplishment?
Last year I started Nightwatch on tour, three life-sized replicas of the Nightwatch travelled throughout the Netherlands and stayed for a week in a number elderly homes and hospitals. The older peoples reaction to the programme was overwhelming with care homes organising special events to mark the Nightwatch’s visit.
What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?
Believe in yourself, show enthusiasm and work with the people for whom the programme is meant for.
What surprises you the most about your job?
It is the best job in the world and I meet great inspiring people. What I had not expected though was that I would change a bit as a person. I am so aware of accessibility now and I raise my kids to do so also.
Where do great ideas come from in your organisation?
As there is such a wide range of people working within the museum, and the conversations we have are inter-departmental and so some great ideas have grown.
Describe an access and inclusion solution or innovation that has inspired you and / or your work.
Crip the Met, a project of the Metropolitan in New York. They bring Met educators and curators together with artists, art historians, and scholars to explore collection through the lens of disability aesthetics and experience. The MET says: “we cannot claim to be inclusive of disabled people if we don’t address representation in interpretation and collecting” This inspires me.
What is the biggest challenge that faces access and inclusion in arts and culture today?
That you are never finished.
What has been your access and inclusion highlight to date?
There was the video tour made with people who are deaf, sensory friendly evenings or a room in the museum which is now a changing room for adults.
What is your access and inclusion goal for the future?
Representation, I would love to work with an art historian with a disability to curate an exhibition about disabilities from the collection. For example, art from our collection which was made by people with disabilities in dialogue with contemporary art by people with the same disability today.
Rijksmuseum Unlocked: Expressions of Rembrandt, Amsterdam. Video courtesy of The Rijksmuseum.