Jessica de Abreu and Michael Karabinos

Gate Foundation Archive

In 2006 the Gate Foundation Archive arrived at the Van Abbemuseum. The museum received boxes of files, artists’ portfolios, letters, exhibition ephemera and even a desk.
The archive serves as a record – of both recent institutional Dutch cultural history and of the many artists the foundation engaged with from 1988-2006 when it aimed to ‘stimulate conversation between western and non-western art’.
The Gate Foundation Archive, as presently held at the museum, is clearly a fragment of the whole.
Given this, “reconstructing” the Gate Foundation archive seemed counterintuitive. Pamphlets sit next to letters—were they received together? Is there some connection that is not easily obtained in the content of the record? Documents from 1993 are next to those from 1998. Was this someone using the older document as a reference point for the new record, or simply a filing mistake? Obviously, our own organizational structure was necessary to make the archive accessible to researchers and curators interested in the contents.
Following our project, the Gate Foundation Archive will be available to the public, but not before our work altered it. The archive is our representation of the Gate Foundation.
This weekend we (the archivists) will be available to discuss our work. What did we do in our project? What choices/decisions did we make? How did we influence how future researchers will interact with the archive? What is the role of the archivist in how we remember?


Jessica de Abreu (1989) graduated from the department of Social and Cultural Anthropology and Culture, Organization and Management at VU University Amsterdam. Her passionate commitment to the field of African Diaspora, led to researches on upward social mobility in New York, Amsterdam, and London. Her recent research on Organizational Anthropology focused on social entrepreneurship in Black British communities from post- and decolonial perspectives. She is a board member of New Urban Collective and co-founder of The Black Archives, which is one of the first historical archives in the Netherlands that focuses on Black Dutch history, and beyond.

Michael Karabinos is an archivist and archival theorist based in Amsterdam. He teaches Archival Studies at the University of Amsterdam and has been a research fellow at the van Abbemuseum since 2016. Karabinos received his PhD from Leiden University and was a visiting fellow at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Combining questions on the nature of archives with their role in the decolonization of Southeast Asia, his work has been published in Displaced Archives (Routledge Publishing, 2017), Information & Culture, and Bijdragen tot de taal-, land- en volkenkunde, among others.  He is co-editor of the book Colonial Legacy in Southeast Asia: The Dutch Archives.

Photo of Michael Karabinos. Photo: Marcel de Buck.Photo of Michael Karabinos. Photo: Marcel de Buck.