Going Dutch? Museum bosses hope new Norfolk exhibitions will lure visitors from The Netherlands
Museum bosses have revealed they are hoping a combination of two major exhibitions in Norfolk, the weak pound and Norwich’s airport will bring bumper visitor numbers from The Netherlands to the county.
This coming weekend will see the opening of a major exhibition at Norwich Castle Museum exploring the etchings of Dutch master Rembrandt.
And next summer an exhibition will focus on the painting called The Paston Treasure – a work by an unknown Dutch artist which depicts objects and curiosities collected by Norfolk’s Paston family in the 17th century.
And Steve Miller, head of Norfolk Museums, said he was hoping those exhibitions could be a big draw for Dutch visitors and said Norfolk needed to do more to sell itself overseas.
He said: “I think we could do better. The offer we have is better than the perception. Research shows the cultural offer that we have is fabulous.
“But Visit Norfolk is a fantastic organisation and have done some bery good work in The Netherlands. We are positioning ourselves with the Dutch market in mind with our Rembrandt exhibition and with our Paston Treasure exhibition.
“We are talking to partners such as KLM. We can always do more, but hitting northern Europe, particularly with the airport links between Norwich and Schiphol makes sense.” He said the current value of the pound could make Norfolk an even more attractive destination to visitors from overseas, including the United States of America.
Mr Miller was speaking at a meeting of Norfolk County Council’s communities committee, where he told councillors the value of tourism to Norfolk was £3.15bn in 2016 – up 3.2pc on the previous year.
But he said he felt the virtues of Norwich were still underplayed. He said: “It’s the most complete medieval city in Europe, full stop, but if you ask people if they know that, they don’t.
“We could position ourselves with places like York and Canterbury. We should be somewhere that visitors to London come to for a day or two and we are undercooking it at the moment.”
Rembrandt: Lightening The Darkness starts at Norwich Castle Museum on Saturday and will run until January 7 next year.
Strangers’ Things: Norwich’s Dutch connections
With barely 250 miles (and the North Sea) between Norwich and Amsterdam, there have long been connections between Norfolk and the Netherlands.
The relationship began with the fish trade, but flourished in the 13th century when wool was exported through the Broads to the Weaves of Flanders.
In the 1560s, refugee Flemish weavers, fleeing the inquisition in the Spanish Netherlands, helped with domestic cloth-making, and brought with them their now-famous Canaries.
Although they were welcomed, they were known as ‘strangers’, hence Norwich’s Strangers’ Hall.
Through to the 18th century, Norwich was a cultural capital, heavily settled by those who had come over the North Sea, including the Dutch.
Today, Dutch architecture, such as gable ends, can be found across Norfolk, particularly in Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn.