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SAMA 2.0: A journey of the street art collection registration

Updated: Nov 15, 2021

It is a pleasure to share that Street Art Museum Amsterdam is now going through a process of its collection registration!

The core collection of SAMA constitute open-air, site-specific street artworks on public and semi-private property. They became an integral part of Amsterdam Nieuw-West urban and social dynamics, making personal stories shared and vice versa. They are ephemeral as they meant to decay. Their impacts on the very complex and versatile social texture are more of intangible nature.

SAMA has always been a grass-roots, agile eco-museum with a strong bond with communities of Nieuw-West. SAMA's institutional mission lays in the safeguarding of the intangible component street art bears: experiences, memories, emotions people attach to it. Today, SAMA decides to take a step further and truly become a Museum 2.0 in its vision to make the intangible component street art bears available for everyone through the use of participatory methods of collecting. These methods imply that we aim to shape, document and share the expertise on street art together with our stakeholders: communities, artists, governmental and administrative structures, academia, museums, and social places.

The museum's core collection has been shaped by inter-personal relationships and its ethics. SAMA's acquisition policy is very much based on strong ethics such as principles of DIY, a-commercialism, anonymity, democratic and moral stands. Another principle is honoring artists' wish not to be bounded to any written legal settlements but establishing instead trust-based verbal agreements when an artwork is commissioned. The very uncollectable nature of street art and it's alleged reluctance to belong to a gallery space creates a dilemma of how do we gate it through traditional museal systems. In this sense, museal systems were created for something more permanent, movable, tangible. So how do we accommodate such works?

Our journey of assessing collection starts with research that is meant to answer questions such as: 'What is here to be preserved?' 'In which form do we document intangible components of street art practices?' 'How do we manifest the belonging of the commissioned street art to the collection?' 'How can we allow stakeholders to partake in the collection assessment?' and ultimately 'Shall we even register artworks tangible form of which we cannot preserve?'

Approaching this dilemma, we have been consulting specialists who move forward the heritage-making from different angles: scholars, policy-makers, administrative bodies. Thus, the Reinwardt Academy scholars will help us to formulate a conceptual idea of street art being in the form of a digital memory capsule. The governmental body of Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands will assist us in using their recent and innovative system of Collection valuation in six steps, outlined in 'Assessing museum collections' (Cultural Heritage Agency, Amersfoort, 2014), so we could evaluate the significance of our collection items based on the multi-perceptivity of the stakeholders.

Once our fundamental questions are answered, we proceed with completing a methodology for participatory documentation of the collection values. And, finally, SAMA will create a digital catalog with versatile, mixed media heritage documentation, including VR and AR to be gifted to the city and its residents, to celebrate the 750th anniversary of Amsterdam. We are hoping that this adventure of fining tune methodologies for participatory street art documentation for the collection registration will make a precedent and enforce further debates on the relationships between street art and a museum.

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