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VM inspiration: Rijks Museum in Amsterdam

Amsterdam’s Rijks Museum, literally State Museum, is an archive of Dutch national treasures dedicated to the arts and history of Amsterdam, including paintings by Vermeer and Rembrandt. It also has wonderful collection of Asian artifacts, many the result of the explosion of trade by the Dutch East India Company (1602 - 1796), the world’s first multi-national company.

Motivated by a desire to secure some of the European spice trade this flat-land nation, with few natural resources and engaged in a constant battle with the sea, became an early republic. Its primary city traded its way to unimaginable wealth, becoming a political and economic force in Asia.

The amazing museum exhibits are imaginatively displayed. Porcelain, earthenware, and metal teapots have been mixed together including examples from China, Turkey, and Europe, with Russian samovars on the bottom shelf. Together they show a wonderful array of procedures for making tea, inviting the visitors’ eyes to compare and contrast tea-making practices, of which almost every visitor will have experience.

A glass display against a dark wall invites similar comparison, and would be a great means of displaying glassware in a home store.

This cube display of glassware, with an entrance point on the far side, enables visitors to see both sides of the object, usually impossible when objects are displayed in wall cabinets. Notice how the light from above is amplified by an angled mirror set in to the top of the cabinet, enhancing the crystal sparkle.

Classically simple glass cabinets display fine blue and white porcelain, using classic VM techniques: nothing below 40cm from the ground, nothing above eye-level. The result looks clean, coherent and attractive.

Demonstrating how an item would have been used, as here, makes its opulence compelling. A carved fireplace under a framed mirror below a towering corner unit of small shelves, each forming a perfect niche for examples of Delftware and Asian porcelain, creates a wonderful focal point for the all-important Dutch stove.

An enthnographic display of South East Asian head moulds might make a compelling image for an optician’s window.

Delftware ceramics, developed after the first blue and white porcelain was brought back from Japan, found a ready market in a country accustomed to earthenware. These tiles are shown to their best on this green-tinted wall. They would be rather lost on a plain white wall, customary in so many museums. The glass panel covering the exhibits is sufficient to protect them, but not to distance the viewer.

The shop is imaginatively displayed too. The addition of inverted shopping bags with images from the collection to simple body forms displaying T-shirts transforms them in to personalities modeling the merchandise.

Photographs : Darren Neave