Transitioning the museum reference library into a research center – identifying roles and responsibilities

Vanessa Paumen and Manfred Sellink

Under the auspices of the Vlaamse Kunstcollectie, the Groeningemuseum in Bruges is developing the Flemish Research Center of the Arts in the Burgundian Netherlands. Over the next five years, the center aims to establish itself as an authoritative research institution on the art of the Burgundian Netherlands, focusing on the integration of (art) historical research with scientific analysis of materials and techniques.

Initially, the museum library will be thoroughly expanded in the related areas. But even more than developing a well-stocked reference library, the center plans to play a pivotal role in stimulating and facilitating integrated research related to Burgundian art. As such, the center wants to position itself on an international level and attract scholars, researchers and curators to conduct integrated research on works in Flemish collections.

In this transition from a standard library to an international research center, several questions regarding the role(s) and responsibilities of such a center arise. In order to optimize the center’s service role, it is important to have a clear idea of the needs and expectations of the community(-ies) to be served. Thus, the key questions we would like to put on the table are:
• What are the research center’s roles in stimulating and encouraging integrated research (art historical and scientific) on works in Flemish collections?
• What are the research center’s responsibilities to other actors in the field (research institutions, museums, the public, etc.)?
• How can international networks (CODART, HNA, etc.) collaborate with the center in order to stimulate research?

Hans Memling (ca. 1430-1494), Moreel Triptych, 1484 Groeningemuseum Bruges

About Vanessa Paumen and Manfred Sellink

Vanessa Paumen joined the staff of the Groeningemuseum in 2010 as coordinator of the Flemish Research Center of the Arts in the Burgundian Netherlands. Previously she worked as a research assistant and instructor of art history at the University of Texas in Austin. She is also an instructor at the Kunsthistorisch Instituut of Antwerp, where she teaches a course on the Flemish Primitives.

Manfred Sellink is director of the Musea Brugge, where he began working in 2001. Previously, he worked for ten years as the senior curator at the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam and as researcher at Utrecht University. He is specialized in 16th-century Netherlandish art, in particular the prints, drawings and life of Pieter Bruegel the Elder. In addition to his position as director, he coordinated the major exhibitions related to Bruges Cultural Capital (2002) and had final responsibility for the international art festivals Corpus and Bruges Central (2005, 2010) in Bruges. He is an active member of the board of CODART, the Vlaamse Kunstcollectie, and various expertise commissions of the Flemish Community.