Marta Pan, Sculpture Flottante, Otterlo, 1961, Kröller-Müller Museum

In October 2019, I worked in the staff offices at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) to grow my understanding of contemporary conservation theory and assist Dr. Sanneke Stigter, Program Lead and Assistant Professor of Contemporary Art at Master’s, Advanced Professional Program, on her ongoing Interviews in Conservation Research project.

The UvA-supported Interviews in Conservation research project “aims for an integral approach to the use of oral history in conservation research and seeks to reflect the use of interviews as a dynamic process.” There are various ways in which this research is being manifested over the one-year work period. My involvement was relatively limited given the short timeline of my work-placement (5 weeks), and I spent much of my time transcribing an artist interview from 2005 between artist Marta Pan and conservators Sannneke Stigter and Lydia Beerkens. The interview was conducted to learn more about the Sculpture Flottante, Otterlo (1961), a polyester kinetic sculpture that floats on a pond at the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo, Netherlands

Artist Interview Workshop led by Dr. Sanneke Stigter, University of Amsterdam, 9 October 2019. Image courtesy of Sanneke Stigter.

Transcribing oral histories is a timely process, made even more difficult when the quality of the audio recording is older or of poorer quality. The transcription step is just one of many in the acquisition, digitization, archiving, and accessing of oral history, and is not as straightforward as one might imagine. Fortunately, my time at UvA coincided with several relevant workshops related to oral history interviews, which allowed me to proceed with this project work with a critical eye, and conduct an interview of my own with Paula van den Bosch, Senior Curator Contemporary Art at the Bonnefantenmuseum in Maastricht, Netherlands.This interview is a case study to understand current practices for documenting and archiving artist interviews and related oral histories, and to inform if a central repository for Dutch Institutions is of interest. In preparation for the interview, I made a spreadsheet with questions that helped guide the discussion. Sanneke and I are considering revising this spreadsheet so that it can be sent out as a questionnaire in lieu of interviewing other curators and conservators in person.

Natalya Swanson