From the RUG to Rodin

The museum curator world is growing old, and the gap between studying art history and getting a job is not easily bridged. The Groninger Museum offers a special project to give new graduates a chance. Suzanne Rus organised the recent Rodin exhibition, and Julia Dijkstra is training to become the next curator.
By Koen Marée / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

Suzanne Rus (27, on the right) and Julia Dijkstra (26), have reason to smile. The Groninger Museum has only just opened, but a queue is already forming. ‘It’s the last week of the Rodin exhibition’, says Rus. ‘We’re hoping to reach 150,000 visitors.’

And they do: The Rodin exhibition joins last year’s ‘David Bowie is’ as one of the biggest successes ever at the Groninger Museum. And Rus can take partial credit for its success. In 2014, she started a two-year curator training programme. After a year, museum director Andreas Blühm invited her into his office. ‘He asked me if I was interested in the job of project leader for Rodin. It was an amazing opportunity.’


Blühm, who is from Germany, was also the person to come up with the idea for the Groninger Museum to offer a special training programme. ‘In Germany, it’s mandatory for art history graduates to do a two-year traineeship before applying to museum jobs. Blühm wondered why we didn’t have that here. The museum world is dominated by people who’ve been there forever. So it’s hard to get into that world’, says Rus.

The Beringer Hazewinkel Foundation made funds available to finance the programme. Only RUG students who have finished their art history programme are allowed to apply for a spot. And they do so in droves. ‘In my year, 20 to 30 people applied’, says Rus.


In Julia’s year, the numbers were also quite high. In the meantime, she has been offered a permanent contract in the collection department; she is the new curator in training. Over the next two years, she will be taught all the ins and outs of the museum. ‘I was over the moon when I heard’, says Dijkstra. ‘It’s going to be a great journey of discovery. Over the two years, I will be working in a different department every eight months. I’m starting with an exhibition on landscape painting in Northern Europe, which opens in December.’

‘If it’s half as fun a time as Suzanne had it’ll be great’, Dijkstra says, laughing. Rus beams: ‘You learn absolutely everything there is to know about being a curator: not just art research, but also the logistics of the job. My job description said I would be working on a regional project in the third trimester of the programme. That turned out to be Rodin!’

It was a large project for Rus, and it was not always easy. ‘But I made the switch quite easily. I suddenly found myself going to the Montreal Fine Arts Museum. The freedom I was given was amazing, but also confrontational. I think Julia will come across that as well: some things go really smoothly, mainly because of the great team we have here. But there have also been times where I didn’t know what to do.’


Dijkstra nods: ‘Those are the kinds of things you can only learn through experience. I’m going to find out what my skills are. I’m personally fascinated by the role of art and culture in society. When I’m working on figuring out the stories behind certain pieces, I feel like a real detective.’ Rus: ‘That’s the main difference between Julia and me. I’m more suited as a curator-slash-project leader, while Julia really focuses on the substance.’

‘We’ll see how it goes’, says Dijkstra. ‘I just hope I’ll make a good curator. Fun fact: we both focused on ancient art and here we both are in a modern museum, encountering all these other movements. I will be mainly focusing on the museum and getting to know its structures. I don’t know if I’ll get to organise an exhibition yet. Everything’s possible at this point. But for the next two years, I’m in a great position from which to discover the museum world.’


Notify of

De spelregels voor reageren: blijf on topic, geen herhalingen, geen URLs, geen haatspraak en beledigingen. / The rules for commenting: stay on topic, don't repeat yourself, no URLs, no hate speech or insults.


0 Reacties
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments