Evelien Scheltinga

The Van Abbemuseum under fascist influences. Exhibition histories 1939-1944.

This research is about the position of the Van Abbemuseum during the Second World War. It is sometimes assumed that museums closed during the occupation, but this is not true. The most valuable artworks where stored in safe places, but exhibition programs continued, just like daily life did. A total of 32 exhibitions where held at the Van Abbemuseum during the occupation. The museum knows little about her own history in this period because no archive was held during this period. Bits and pieces of information was collected at the national archives, the institute for war and genocide studies, and newspaper archives.

This paper unravels the museums history between 1940 and 1944, shows the position of the three directors the museum had during the occupation and analyses the exhibitions that where on display, what was shown, what message was send, and how where they received by the press? But also, what narrative was present in the museum, and who actually made the decisions regarding what could, and what couldn’t be shown in the museum?


Evelien Scheltinga is a curator and researcher. She took part in the research for the exhibition The Stedelijk in wartime at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam (2015) and had a curatorial traineeship at the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven. She is part of a research group based in Morocco, focussing on different museum models. She worked with Jonas Staal on various projects and exhibitions. Currently she is assistant curator at the Van Abbemuseum.

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