Ahead of the crowds


Feb. 13, 2019 — In this blog, collection manager Caecilia Thoen gives us a glimpse behind the scenes by taking us on her weekly round of the Anne Frank House, on Tuesdays before opening hours.

It is Tuesday morning, eight o'clock. I take my measuring equipment, headlight, dust cloth, and mobile phone. Would you like to come along?

The Main House

I enter the museum through the central hall and start on my weekly round to check the condition of the Anne Frank House.I say hello to the cleaner sweeping the floor. Then I run into the manager who is on his daily opening round. Apart from them, I am the only one here.In the main house, I use a meter to monitor the temperature and humidity in the various rooms. I also check whether the light on the objects in the showcases and the posters on the wall is not too bright. I move from one room to the next, climbing the steep stairs and inspecting every nook and cranny.

Otto’s office

Otto Frank's private office is not open to the public. The original furniture is still there, and it is too vulnerable to have 1.2 million people a year pass through here. In exceptional cases we allow special visitors to step inside. As the collection manager, I feel privileged to have free access.

The Bookcase

My round continues to the landing with the original bookcase that hid the entrance to the Secret Annex when people were hiding there. For years, the bookcase was unprotected, but since 2014, it has a partial glass cover. I make a point of inspecting it with care. Any irregularities catch my eye straight away, because I know the existing scratches and dents by heart. If I am not sure, I take a picture and consult with the restorer.

The Secret Annex

Passing by the bookcase, I now go into the Secret Annex. After all this time, stepping through that doorway still feels special to me. It's darker than in the main house, so my headlight comes in handy. I check the original doors, frames, and doorposts for dust, damage, and loss of paint. It is important to keep the original woodwork well covered in paint, to keep it from wearing.

Anne's room

The paper objects in the showcases and the pictures that Anne stuck on the wallpaper of her room must be kept from fading. I take my meter and check to see that the light level does not exceed 20 lux. I also measure the temperature and humidity in every room of the Secret Annex.I take my dust cloth past the window sills, the panelling, the kitchen unit, and the stairs to the attic, to check if everything is clean. Dust is a potential source of pests, so I pay close attention.

Diary Room

I step out of the Secret Annex and continue my route through the other rooms of the museum. I finally reach the diary room where Anne's original diaries are kept, safely displayed in specially designed glass cases. They are exhibited under optimal climate and light conditions.

Opening Time

I finish my round by checking on the objects in the temporary exhibition. Is everything still in its place? Has nothing shifted? Then I hear the first group of visitors arriving. It’s goodbye to peace and quiet. I take my leave and wish the House good luck with another busy day.

Caecilia Thoen has been working as the Anne Frank House’s Collection Manager since 2012.

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