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18 years behind the scenes at MoMu with volunteer Maria

Jan Van der Perre

Maria has been working in the library of MoMu since 2003. As a volunteer, she is fulfilling her childhood dream of being part of a museum team. Encouraged by her mother's love of painting, she always had an eye for aesthetics and as a young girl, Maria was a regular visitor to the Cinquantenaire Museum in Brussels. There, she developed a passion for the history of art and despite studying to become an interior designer, she became a teacher and taught Art History and Art. Yet she had always wanted to work in a museum. That dream came true when she walked into MoMu after she retired.

Jan Van der Perre
Jan Van der Perre

Since 2003, she has travelled to Antwerp every week. As a volunteer, she is a full member of the MoMu team. Her work is essential to the operation of the museum. What you see in the exhibitions is only a fraction of the thousands of archival items preserved here and Maria helps keep a check on them all. Together with her colleague and MoMu librarian, Birgit Ansoms, she works in the MoMu library. There you will not only find books about fashion, but you can also study and touch actual items of clothing. The study collection is accessible to professionals, researchers and students, but also to those who want to know everything about fashion and would like to turn a trench coat or corset inside out. This ‘tactile’ collection consists of 2,000 study pieces.

Maria labels the collection pieces that the curators bring in and assigns them a unique number. Thanks to the label, they can easily retrieve everything in the archive afterwards. The labels are sewn on very carefully, as the items of clothing themselves are often old and delicate. Maria also ensures that clothing is safely displayed for consultation in the library and that items are expertly stored in the archive. Her work is never dull and even Maria is still surprised on a weekly basis by what comes along. From ancient baby clothes or sturdy nuns' underwear to fantastic lingerie from the twenties – the whole history of fashion has already passed through her hands. She is also still interested in fashion and has seen countless trends come, go and – years later – become trendy all over again!

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    Jan Van der Perre
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    Jan Van der Perre

Maria is definitely not thinking of stopping yet. After the museum was closed as a result of the coronavirus measures and following its recent renovation, she is back at work and full of enthusiasm. Maria considers the social aspect of her job to be the greatest asset. At MoMu, you run into people from all corners of the world, from visitors to interns, each of whom has their own story to tell.

Want to become a volunteer?

Have you been inspired by Maria's story or did you always want to be part of the MoMu team? MoMu is always looking for volunteers for the different departments of the museum. Send an e-mail explaining why you want to volunteer with us to info@momu.be.