Participation at the Van Gogh Museum

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  • Title: Participation at the Van Gogh Museum: A Balancing Act
  • Author(s): Ann Blokland
  • Publisher: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Collection: Common Ground Research Networks
  • Series: The Inclusive Museum
  • Journal Title: The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum
  • Keywords: Visitors, Participation, Contribution, Co-creation, Evaluating, Museum Practice
  • Volume: 12
  • Issue: 1
  • Year: 2018
  • ISSN: 1835-2014 (Print)
  • ISSN: 1835-2022 (Online)
  • DOI:
  • Citation: Blokland, Ann. 2018. "Participation at the Van Gogh Museum: A Balancing Act." The International Journal of the Inclusive Museum 12 (1): 19-38. doi:10.18848/1835-2014/CGP/v12i01/19-38.
  • Extent: 20 pages


Museum participation is a broad and fluid concept, involving participation, collaboration, and power-sharing. With almost two million visitors a year from around 100 countries, the Van Gogh Museum faces complex challenges in its efforts to engage visitors, forge relationships, share authority, and achieve a strong impact. It is a constant balancing act. In this article two cases of visitor participation will be discussed within the context of museum practice: one example of contribution, involving 30,000 responses from a diverse public to universal themes addressed by Vincent van Gogh and Edvard Munch, and one example of co-creation, involving a class of twenty-eight students from the Gerrit Rietveld art academy and relating to printmaking in the 1900s and today. We will share how we evaluated these participatory projects and how we measured their impact in order to find out whether visitor participation is working for the Van Gogh Museum. It will demonstrate the museum’s potential for inclusiveness. The conducted research was practice oriented and will function, we hope, as a valuable addition to the more theoretical research on this subject.