Friday, August 1, 2008

Head South, Young Woman!

Having finished a big two-item treatment project yesterday, I took today off to go on a photo conservation/museum adventure.  The end destination - Rotterdam.

Ticket in hand!

Lovely color choices.

I had really low expectations for Rotterdam.  The city has no historic center, as it was completely bombed into fragments by the Germans when they invaded the Netherlands at the beginning of World War II.  After the war, I supposed that Rotterdam City thought, "Well, we'll just make a brand new city center.  Take that!  Can't keep us down!"  So huge swaths of Rotterdam are very modern in appearance, much more so than any of the other cities I've seen in the Netherlands.  It is also the second largest port in the world, only having been eclipsed by Hong Kong is 2004.

My purpose in Rotterdam was to visit the conservation lab, as well as the galleries, at the Fotomuseum Nederland.  Public transit was extraordinarily slow this morning - I waited forty minutes for a tram, four times the usual wait time for said tram - so I was late, but the conservator Katrine figured I was caught in the bad-transit.

The Fotomuseum is kind of crazy looking.  It's only a part of a larger building, and it is all glass and neon pink and blue.  Why do photography museums feel the need to have radically contemporary architecture?  I fear it will become dated very quickly.  Policy at the Fotomuseum is also bizarre: the director demands that conservation carry out the in-house work and bid on projects for other institutions, essentially acting as competitors for Clara's Atelier.  This sort of set-up would never fly at home, especially since the Fotomuseum only charges 45 euros and hour for a project.  This is outrageously low - so basically they are doing a fantastic job at cheapening our entire profession, because I'd love to have this three-year master's degree worth the same amount as a starting position at Brockway Glass for somebody with a high school diploma.

The skyline of Rotterdam from outside the Fotomuseum.  

I had gone to Rotterdam to be disappointed and disgusted with modernity, but was pleasantly surprised.  It was a very nice day in a nice city: after the museum, I got the best iced latte of my life and wandered through some cool shopping streets before catching the train.  (The best iced latte of my life had real whipped cream on top.  Starbucks, you should think about doing that, trust me.)

From Amsterdam Centraal to Rotterdam Centraal is about an hour, and there are several stops in between.  Every single train I've taken in the Netherlands stops in Leiden, and it is one of the major transfer stations in the region.  I had been thinking of Leiden solely as a lone train station transition point, so I decided to make a quick stop, getting off at Leiden and catching a later train for the final leg of the journey back home.

Turns out that Leiden is quite charming.  It is a college town, home to one of the largest universities in the Netherlands.  It even feels like a college town: lots of young people, lots of odd-ball books shops and artsy shops, lots of restaurants and bars.  The State College of the Netherlands, if you will.

And there is an old windmill right in the center of the town.  So Dutch.

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