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Teylers Foundation awards gold medal to Lieke Wijnia

07 March 2018
Dr. Lieke Wijnia

Can museums be viewed as a substitute for churches and do visitors have spiritual experiences when they see art? Art historian Lieke Wijnia (1985), a fellow at the Centre for Religion and Heritage at the University of Groningen, will be awarded a gold medal by the Teylers Foundation’s Theological Society for her research on the topic on Friday 16 March. The Teylers Foundation and societies have actively stimulated art and academia since 1778. The Foundation opened Teylers Museum in 1784.

Teylers Foundation

Since its establishment the Teylers Foundation has awarded medals to the best treatise on an important topical or academic theme. One of its two societies holds an essay competition every other year. In 2014 Marcel Barnard, Professor of Practical Theology at the Protestant Theological University Amsterdam and member of Teylers Theological Society, announced the following essay competition: Invitation for ‘an investigation into the museum as a laboratory for the contemporary quest for God’. Barnard: ‘We thought for a long time that the Netherlands was becoming a secular society. We’ve moved away from that idea now. Instead religion has endured, but outside the walls of churches and other religious institutions, and no longer in classic forms. People continue to seek the sacred, that which transcends everyday reality, everywhere, and in their own way. Transcending everyday reality: that’s exactly what the arts do, too. And that’s why religious studies researchers nowadays often see art and religion as related phenomena. An encounter with art can intensify everyday life and provide a sacred experience. The museum can thus become a place with religious features.’

Dr Lieke Wijnia wins the competition with her essay In Pursuit of the Sacred. The Museum as Laboratory in the Contemporary Quest for God. Her research is theoretical in part and contains two strong case studies. The Society notes that Wijnia has looked to various disciplines such as ethnography, philosophy, theology and museology, and managed to find answers at the intersection between them.

Oval Hall Teylers Museum - picture by Kees Hageman
Oval Hall Teylers Museum - picture by Kees Hageman


Dr Lieke Wijnia (Harlingen, 1985) is an art historian and religious studies researcher. In 2016 she was awarded a PhD with cum laude honours for her study of perceptions of the sacred during the Musica Sacra Festival in Maastricht. She teaches art history at University College Tilburg and is a guest postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for Religion and Heritage at the University of Groningen. In her research she focuses on art at the intersection of religion, heritage and politics. She is editor of the forthcoming The Bible and Global Tourism (Bloomsbury Publishing) and is co-founder of the international research network Visionary Artists, Visionary Objects (1800-now).

Prize ceremony and symposium

The prize ceremony will take place on 16 March 2018 in the historical auditorium of Teylers Museum and is open to all. Doors open at 3 pm. To register please contact or 023-5160972.

Last modified:12 June 2023 8.19 p.m.
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