Working with constituencies in a museum is both necessary and complex. Necessary because it is based on including more voices in the programming of the museum at positions of power. Giving platform to constituency, means not only to give space, but also to support a voice and perspective in being heard. This re-positions the traditional expertise of the director, curator or even educator in a facilitating and supporting role to make heard instead of be heard.
The complexity in this is that the museum is public institution that can only perform its role if this public function translates in the reality of being uses by publics. The expertise of the traditional museum staff, and also the whole set-up of the traditional artworld is not designed around giving voice to constituencies. Both the type of exhibitions that attract publics and the form of museum organization needed form them operate differently than working with constituencies. The first reflex to counter this, as we have experienced in the Van Abbemuseum, is to separate the two ways of working and make exhibitions that attract bigger crowds and are more traditional, and combine them with constituent side-programming, that is more intimate. The problem with this, however, is that the museum still doesn’t really give its more public platform genuinely to constituent voices. Is it possible to change the museum working methodology more fundamentally and find a way to combine the expertise to work with constituents and make a programming for a bigger public? The Van Abbemuseum set-out with this ambition in the recent collection display Delinking and Relinking in the Collection of the Van Abbemuseum. This required a new curatorial process in which curator, mediator, designer and the production team collaborated in a different manner. This terms seeks to map the process connected to constituent working by looking more closely at this example.