Frans Damman

Frans Damman, marketing and heritage development

“In the nineties I followed a ‘publishing’ class where I met Michael Defuster who planned to work for ‘Castrum Peregrini Press’. I became curious about this ‘publishing house in exile’ and applied for an internship. My assignment was to analyse the database of the subscribers of their magazine, which although relatively modest, contained an impressive range of countries worldwide in which customers were based.

I met the lady of the house, Gisèle, during a dinner. This fascinating artist spoke enthusiastically about her travels and work but also took great interest in what ‘kept me busy’. With her mercury-kind of agility she appeared much younger than the 80 plus years she counted in reality. Gisèle invited me to her studio and asked me if I was interested in helping her sorting out her personal archive, which I happily did as it was a wonderful opportunity to work together and learn more about her life ,which reflected the 20th century and her international artistic network. There I understood how life and work can be intertwined.

After my internship I stayed friends with Gisèle but moved on professionally to Elsevier/Reed, an international division of VNU and then to Nationaal Historisch Museum, a period that was important for me as I learned a lot and was privileged to work with fantastic teams. But I missed a passion for the ‘product’. After several years being loosely connected I officially joined the team of Castrum Peregrini, that in that time just consisted of Michael and Lars. It was a fantastic experience to be part of the radical reorganization process that had started some years earlier and that in 2009 resulted in the beginning of a new existence of Castrum Peregrini. We defined a new profile and values, organized cultural year programmes and the first European Project.

I still remember removing the blinds from the windows on the ground floor where for decades the publishing house in exile was based. With that act we symbolically opened the place for the first time in its 70 years of existence. In that year we were asked to participate in ‘Museum Nacht’. The lights from street level up to the top floor were lit and ‘Castrum Peregrini’ finally landed at Herengracht and invited Amsterdam to connect. This is what I keep dreaming for the future of the house: to make the place visible as part of the Amsterdam fabric and link it internationally with creative initiatives.”