Annemies Broekgaarden: I see a big difference between state owned and private museums

Annemies Broekgaarden, Head of Public & Education at Rijksmuseum, The Netherlands​
Annemies started as a “virtual” museum friend of mine on Facebook. For two years, I have been fascinated by her knowledge of China and the numerous trips she made to China, both personal and professional ones. She answered my questions by email recently so that I can share her China experience with our readers.
  • When was your first time in China and when was the last time?
My first time in China was in 1987. I travelled more than 10.000 km over land ( with my husband). We entered China through Shanghai and traveling amongst others to Beijing, Datong, Hohhot, Jingyuan, Lanzhou, Dunhuang, Golmud, Xiahe, Chengdu, Kunming, Dali, Xishuangbanna, Guilin, Guangzhou, Hongkong. All by train, bus and boat.
In 2016 after 30 years I took a sabbatical and traveled by myself for 3,5 months (mainly by train and boat). Partly the same route, experiencing the big changes China has undergone since 1987. This time I traveled from Kunming through Chongqing via the Yangtze to Wuhan and Nanjing and visited Xi’an. During this trip I visited more than 50 museums and heritage sites. I met many museum colleagues and exchanged knowledge and information. It was a private tour but as I am very interested in museums and education I developed knowledge on the development of museum education in China.
Since then I have been back several times and providing my expertise in the museum education area.
  • What was your general impressions of Chinese museums before going and what was the biggest myth (about Chinese museums) busted after your multiple trips to China?
In 1987 there were hardly any museums in China. At the moment Chinese museums develop at a fast pace. I see a big difference between state owned and private museums. I notice that many museums are prestige objects and not developed to serve the public in the first place. Many are not visitor centered places. Education is in many places not core business.
  • Among your recent trips to China, what was the most memorable moment or most fascinating fact?
I love China and especially its people. Talking with Chinese artists, their dreams and worries were memorable moments. Also I met many young well educated people with dreams. It was wonderful to listen to their stories.
Visit to Bourdelle exhibition at the Tsinghua University Art Museum
  • What help do you think you would have appreciated before going or while there? Or what are the things that you would have loved to know before going? 
As I studied Cultural Anthropology I have an intrinsic interest in other cultures. I regret not speaking Chinese in order to better understand the Chinese people. But I like to discover and learn and I learn much more from the unexpected.
  • What are the things that you still want to know about Chinese museums?
What I am curious about whether there is a genuine interest to truly connect collections, their stories and meaning to people. Museums can play an important role in stimulating the creativity of people. Does the Chinese government enhance the importance of creativity? How can history museums connect more to art?
  • Can you share one of your recent projects with China?

In December 2017 at the Sino-Dutch museum training in cooperation with the Reinwardt Academy, we shared knowledge on how a museum can be an important place to enjoy and learn as family and how you can stimulate intergenerational learning. We taught how to bring ‘learning by play’ into practice. We took the Rembrandt collection of the Rijksmuseum as study material. We explored the case both from a management point of view and very offered a very practical training: making the participants design different types of programmes for children and for children with their parents. Coming December I will again cooperate with the Reinwardt Academy. We will offer a management training in Beijing in the week of 10 December.


Impression of the workshop during the Sino- Dutch management course Dec 2017, Beijing
Visiting the team of Ni Zhang in Hohhot that is working on developing a new children’s museum









This is the third of my series of interviews  with people working with Chinese museums.  I ask them about their “parcours” (how they got involved with China), their impressions before and after visiting China, the advice they would have wished to have before working with China and their current projects with Chinese museums. Let me know if you want to be part of it and share your China experience with my readers.

– Yu Zhang