Eliza Steinbock
The Critical Visitor: Intersectional Approaches for Rethinking & Retooling Accessibility and Inclusivity in Heritage Spaces
– the Netherlands
Funded research programme 2020-2025


Eliza Steinbock (Maastricht University) - Main applicant/Project leader with co-researchers Hester Dibbits (Reinwardt Academy/Erasmus University) and Dirk van den Heuvel (TU Delft/Het Nieuwe Instituut). PhD candidates Liang-kai Yu and Noah Littel (Maastricht University). NWO-SMART Culture. Awarded € 500.000. Additional € 143.138 in-cash/in-kind from consortium partners.

Fifteen-plus heritage partners collaborate on activities across five work-packages to develop critical language and tools that dismantle intersecting oppressions, forms of exclusion, and marginalization.

I am the project leader of the national consortium “The Critical Visitor: Intersectional Approaches for Rethinking and Retooling Accessibility and Inclusivity in Heritage Spaces” in which I oversee research co-creation with 75 participants from 15+ partner organizations and public audiences.

The project came about soon after I started serving as an advisory board member of the Queering the Collections Network in the Netherlands (2018-present), when I experienced firsthand how inclusion initiatives were being siloed in institutions. Practices of queering, decolonizing, and accessibility were treated as special issues rather than sharing intersecting aims. To rectify this trend, and to establish more cooperation amongst small and large institutions, I put together a national consortium that would gather together within the “The Critical Visitor." The project asks, “How can initiatives in the Dutch cultural sector become more intersectional, in the sense of developing multi-issue approaches to inclusion and accessibility?” We have identified major shared pitfalls and common cause through experimental research formats that nurture professional learning, namely in the Field Labs, Queer Salon series, and Artists and Archives meet-ups.

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Research Centre for Material Culture & National Museum for World Cultures, IHLIA LGBT+ Heritage, Atria: Knowledge institute on gender equality and women’s history, Van Abbemuseum, Imagine-IC, Studio i Platform for inclusive culture/Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam Museum, izi.travel.com, The Netherlands Institute for Sound & Vision, Eye Film Museum, Het Nieuwe Instituut, ARIAS, Amsterdam University of the Arts, University of Amsterdam, TU Delft, Erasmus University, Reinwardt Academy, Maastricht University + participating individuals


  • Field Labs: Testing Intersectional Approaches to Inclusive Actions – led by Hester Dibbits and Eliza Steinbock
    Completed five of five on site visits and evaluations with consortia resulting in a co-edited volume Practices Matter with Prof. W. Modest (to be published OA by RCMC). Focus on developing (1) concepts and (2) methods related to intersectionality and solidarity, (3) best practices for digitizing archives and collections for wide range of accessibility, (4) accountability processes for museums collaborating with marginalized communities, and (5) accessible and inclusive storytelling through live, audio-guided, and audio-visual narratives. 25-40 participants each.

  • Archival Interactions: Artists and Archivists – led by Eliza Steinbock
    Completed six of six expert meetings with artistic researchers, scholars, data managers/specialists, and archivists to develop a network on critical and intersectional approaches to archive studies. 15-35 participants each.
    Resulting in a symposium “Archival Interactions: Performing Intersectional Counter-Archives” on 30 June 2022. 75 participants. (With Prof. Laura Cull University of the Arts, Amsterdam).

  • The Queer Salon, bringing together insiders and outsiders – led by Dirk van den Heuvel
    Completed two of five public events hosted by Het Nieuwe Instituut during their Thursday Night Live programming. An on-going staged experiment to connect institutionalized, insider heritage spaces such as national archives and collections with the outsider heritage spaces through encounters with "critical visitors" on topics related to social and institutional exclusions. Resulting in a special issue planned for 2025.

  • “Queering the Museum: Contemporary Artists and Curators as Critical Visitors and Their Creative Intervention into Dutch, British, and German Cultural Institutions” – Liang-kai Yu
    An embedded Doctoral research at Van Abbemuseum, and in conversation with Studio i, leading to an assessment report of museum diversity policy (delivered in article published OA Baseline. Een nulmeting van queerness in nederlandse musea) and a dissertation.

  • “Founding an Inclusive Space: Legacies of Alternative Archiving Practices in the Netherlands, Germany and the United Kingdom” – Noah Littel
    An embedded Doctoral research at IHLIA LGBTQ+ Heritage and Atria leading to a traveling exhibition on their histories (delivered in Atria and IHLIA Het Archief in ontwikkeling) and a dissertation.