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Collecting Otherwise is one of the research projects currently being developed by Het Nieuwe Instituut as part of the Rethinking the Collection initiative, and under the umbrella of Disclosing Architecture. This background of this initiative is the decision of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW) to invest 11 million euros over the next six years in the visibility – and thus the restoration and digitisation – of the National Collection of Dutch Architecture and Urban Planning, which is hosted and cared for by Het Nieuwe Instituut. In this context, Het Nieuwe Instituut considers it imperative to ask fundamental questions about the value and significance of the documents contained in the collection. In turn, these questions could contribute to the reorientation of notions of what could, or should, constitute heritage and archiving in specific moments in time.


Collecting Otherwise proposes reading the collection and the practice of collecting and archiving from a perspective in line with current societal changes. To do this, it will focus on developing alternative methodologies for the acquisition, classification and distribution of heritage. Based on a series of archives that are part of the collection or in the process of being acquired, Collecting Otherwise will lead to recommendations for possible new collection policies. Its first iteration looks into feminist and gender queer spatial practices, connecting with Het Nieuwe Instituut’s ongoing ambition to reveal not only the possibilities of its rich collection, but also the gaps within it, thus recognising actors and practices that have been and are excluded on the basis of historical collection policies, for example.

Decolonising the collection

Collecting Otherwise is developed simultaneously and in alignment with other Disclosing Architecture research projects devoted to decolonising the collection and questioning notions of authorship and originality, the possibility of decentralised forms of archiving, and the role of emergent technologies in making choices and connections. All of these discussions are at the core of the fundamental transformation of the space and status of archives.

*Collecting Otherwise is a process, a continuous work in progress. The descriptions we currently use will be reviewed within that process, provided with annotations and contexts - partly due to the work the intersectional working group will carry out. One of the aims of this working group is to approach sensitive subjects critically and especially with care, through its diversity of perspectives. We all carry intersections within us, points of friction, threads of coming together. Giving a prominent position to the reproduction of a photograph of a Balinese woman working on a loom on our website may raise a host of issues, but also provides an opportunity to question her presence in the collection. The current treatment of the photograph as an 'inexplicable collection piece' encourages reflection. Both the image and the existing caption thus touch on essential points in Collecting Otherwise, from the 'look' of the person portrayed, via their position, to more abstract issues such as the (re)production of materials, impressions and power relations.


Hannah Dawn Henderson at Rijksacademie Open Studios

23 MAY 2022

Working Group member Hannah Dawn Henderson, artist in residence at the Rijksacademie, exhibited Blueprints, constructing the membrane of a temporary dwelling… an installation departing from working in Collecting Otherwise, in May. Henderson parallels architectural and archival practices that conceive and reinforce cultural propositions: value paradigms, social norms, and the narratives by which we codify our understanding of collective identity and social imagination. This is her artist's statement.

University of Amsterdam Students Research VBW Case Study

25 APRIL 2022

In January 2022, students of the University of Amsterdam MSc in Archival and Information Studies (led by Dr Annet Dekker), researched the Vrouwen Bouwen Wonen network archive as a case study at Het Nieuwe Instituut.

Gathering #5: Post/De/Colonial

12 APRIL 2022

On Thursday 24 March, Collecting Otherwise gathered in the intimate and familiar setting of Zoom, to host the soft take-off of the second iteration, Post/De/Colonial.  This event set the stage for dialogues and perspectives that centre decolonisation within (heritage) institutions and archives as movements of redress and restitution, asking questions such as: What is the role of institutions today in rebuilding heritage? And how do we think about — and most importantly, enact — redress?

Opening Up Architectural and Building Archives

21 FEBRUARY 2022

This project is particularly interested in how more ephemeral artefacts - often part of collections-in-progress that include users and community-based perspectives – can manage their inherent precarity and maintain equality as they move into institutional spaces.

Collecting Otherwise 2021 in Review

4 JANUARY 2022

Every year, the multi-year Collecting Otherwise project works within an ‘iteration’. In 2021, the focus was Seen/Unseen: Intersectional Feminism and Gender Queer in the National Collection of Het Nieuwe Instituut. For this iteration, Collecting Otherwise departs from both old, rediscovered archives and new acquisitions — emphasising the importance of tracing the genealogy of Othering, and viewing different roles designated for female, queer, Black bodies and bodies of colour in the National Collection.

Gathering #4: Soft Closing

17 DECEMBER 2021

On Thursday 9 December, the Collecting Otherwise team and Working Group gathered for the last time this year to [softly] close the project’s first iteration and look forward to what the new year will bring — despite the evening’s ever warm, caring and celebratory atmosphere, this is not a goodbye, but rather an introduction to the new and revived questions we will carry as the new iteration unfolds.

Gathering #3: Accessing the Trans-Institutional Archive

19 OCTOBER 2021

An evening highlighting the collaborative efforts and multi-layered dynamics that play into the existence of archives both inside and outside the institutions where they are located.

Working Group Meeting Hosts Special Guest Renan Laru-an

19 JULY 2021

On 28 June, the Collecting Otherwise Working Group held the 7th Working Group meeting, an intimate, thought provoking Zoom discussion with a special lecture by Renan Laru-an from the Philippines.