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Museum aan de Stroom–MAS Antwerp, Belgium

The MAS Museum aan de Stroom has been defined in different ways, as a cultural heritage forum, promoting integrated local heritage policies and coordinating different collections, organisations and practices; as a landmark, catalysing the image of a developing district through the visibility of its eye-catching monumental form, but also fostering and orienting the local cultural programme; as a vertical city walk, guiding visitors through a sequence of different lively public spaces, almost defining a new city centre. MAS offers a complex experience providing a multi-faceted presentation of the history of Antwerp, which is a history of migration—of people, objects and ideas—because of its world port identity. Among the few newly-built Belgian museums in recent decades, it is now the youngest and largest in Antwerp, bringing together the collections from the former Ethnographic Museum, the National Maritime Museum and the Folklore Museum, along with part of the art collections from Paul and Dora Janssen and from the Vleeshuis Museum. The large size of the collection managed by MAS—it includes 470,000 pieces—and its heterogeneous character—it gathers together archaeological finds, folkloric and exotic objects, ship models, paintings, photography and ethnography from the former colonies—offer the possibility to promote different exhibitions on a variety of themes.

The museum was designed by the Dutch architects Neutelings Riedijk and inaugurated in May 2011. It is located in Antwerp’s Het Eilandje (“the little island”) neighbourhood, an area that is currently undergoing massive transformations. It is a riverside zone of warehouses, factories and docks from the Napoleonic era, not far from the city’s historic centre, where the museum stands with its highly iconic architecture that makes it a recognizable part of the urban fabric and a local landmark.

The mission of the Museum aan de Stroom focuses mainly on the narration of the history of the city, though the institution is not defined merely as a “city museum”—as also indicated by its name, literally “Museum by the River,” referring to the location of the building, as well as to the ancient appellation of Antwerp (which was also known as “Stad aan de Stroom”), and celebrating the crucial role of the Scheldt in local development. The evolution of the identity of the city has indeed arisen from its story as world port, fostered by an excellent geopolitical location. Since the 16th century, it has been a place for the meeting and exchange of diverse cultures. Nowadays, Antwerp is still, after Amsterdam, the Western European urban centre with the largest number of different nationalities—more or less 170, including a flourishing Jewish community, significant Moroccan, Chinese, Turkish and Eastern European groups, and several representatives from India and the Middle East. The declared task of the MAS is to present the long history of exchanges between the city and the world, in order to highlight the factors and events that produced and enhanced the development of the port, the urban area, its population and peculiar cultural system. The institution thus promotes a glo-cal mission, recounting the stories “about Antwerp in the world and the world in Antwerp.” Though MAS does not label itself as a “city museum,” its features, contents and purposes allow its identifications as a contemporary city museum, proving how the encompassment and the role of this institution are currently questioned and constantly redefined both in theory and in practice. ææ the city in the world and the world in the city

The museum building is a 10-storey high tower, conceived via a combination of a showcase of

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European Museums in the 21st Century: Setting the Framework - Vol. 2  

This book grew out of the earliest work of the MeLa Research Field 6, “Envisioning 21st Century Museums,” aimed at exploring current trends...

European Museums in the 21st Century: Setting the Framework - Vol. 2  

This book grew out of the earliest work of the MeLa Research Field 6, “Envisioning 21st Century Museums,” aimed at exploring current trends...

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