Museumindex. Foto: Peter Cox
Museumindex. Foto: Peter Cox


the museum in numbers
13/12/2018 - 03/01/2021

updated versions from January 2019

The Museum index consists of a series of infographics, based on data from the museum’s collection database. The designer Joost Grootens has translated these data into the graphics shown in the museum.

What data does the museum collect about the artworks in its collection? What information is contained in these, and how can we improve access to this information? Which works have travelled most, and where have they gone? What is the ratio between works by Dutch artists and those by foreign artists? The list of questions which almost all of us ask ourselves from time to time as we walk through the museum is virtually endless. The answers can be found to a large extent in the database of the collection. How can we make this data accessible? 

The Van Abbemuseum invited the designer Joost Grootens to help us think about these things. Grootens is a lecturer at the Academy for Industrial Design in Eindhoven, and is well known for the clear way in which he can provide a visual insight into complex data. He translated the data from the collection database in infographics, and these have been on display in various places in the museum since 2010.

 For example, there is a survey of all the artworks in the collection, indicating which can be seen in the museum and which are out on loan. The top twenty artworks which have travelled most are listed and there is a survey of the “ages” of the artworks at the time that they were purchased. A wall with vertical lines of stacked symbols shows how many works have been purchased from male and from female artists. The nationalities of the artists in the collection are shown on a world map next to a survey of the different nationalities in Eindhoven.

 A collection is a living body of work to which new works can be added. The infographics sorely needed to be updated. The updated infographics will be shown in the museum from January 2019.

They provide a new perspective on the collection policy and the presentations of the collection.

Background to the Museum index

The Museum index research project started in 2010, introduced by the (guest) curator Galit Eilat during the exhibition of the collection Play Van Abbe 3. Several versions of data graphics have been produced over the years.

The research was carried out by the Collection department in collaboration with students from the University of Amsterdam, the Free University of Amsterdam, and the University of Maastricht. Joost Grootens was responsible for the design.