Museum Month: making the most of February Part I

With a month left in Amsterdam, Graeme and I are putting our Museum Year Pass to good use and visiting everything we can (or that we find interesting). Throughout the year we’ve seen the majors: Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh, FOAM. But now we’re moving onto the smaller, often less visited and expanding into other cities. (And I, Graeme, will add some of my commentary in Italics, so it’s like you’re hanging out with both of us and hearing all about our adventures!)


We missed the Centraal Museum in Utrecht on our first visit to this vibrant canal city, so we planned to visit it the day we headed down for a materials exhibition (super cool!). Giving ourselves a couple hours to see the history of Utrecht, some modern art and design (Rietveld furniture) and of course the cafe, we headed for the museum. The biggest challenge turned out to be following the ‘house rules’ which we would learn is quite common for smaller museums. You see, in order to protect the artifacts, they request visitors to store their belongings (bags, coats, umbrellas) in lockers and cloakrooms. What they hadn’t clearly communicated was that

a) this practice is mandatory and
b) these lockers require a €1-2 deposit that is
c) refunded when you’re done using it.

So, I made a big stink about not wanting to pay to store my stuff because I’d just hold onto my bag thank you very much until the oversized museum ticket collector refused my entrance. Hadn’t I read the sign? (uh, no, it’s in Dutch). When he finally explained the bit about the refund, I went back to the kind museum ticket desk agent to make change for the locker money. This wouldn’t have been as embarrassing if it hadn’t been for the earlier awkward conversation:

Would you like to see the Rietvelt exhibit?
OK, that’s an extra €3 each, please
Oh, ok, then I don’t want to see it.
What?! Why not?
Because I don’t want to pay extra right now.
Well! You don’t know what you’re missing!
(uh, right, well… I’ve been to his school and seen his work and don’t like add-ons, thanks) (Watching an American-Dutch person haggle with a Dutch-Dutch person over money vs value is a sight to behold. The Canadian in me is always looking for ways to smooth over the situation so no ones feelings are hurt, but in reality the American-Dutch and the Dutch-Dutch are reveling in every moment of trying to keep/take money. Oh well.)

So, once we stuffed the locker and gone back to the entrance, the oversized security man was nowhere to be found and we entered the exhibit space. A lovely display, lots of stairs and interesting artifacts and a well spent 1.5hours. AND, we sort of got lost and ended up in the Rietveld exhibit anyways and were never asked to show special tickets and we got to enjoy the (all Dutch) special exhibit anyway! I would’ve felt really ripped off if we had paid extra considering it was all in Dutch. Oh, the dutch in me really comes through, eh? haha


The first was Huis Marseille (photo museum) in an old canal house. Celebration of analogue printing with some beautiful color prints blown up HUGE. Their back garden would be a lovely spot to have tea on a warmer day.

Bible at book street sale

We also visited the Bibles Museum (interesting, but not worth the price of admission). I was expecting some really old Guttenburg or early printed edition bibles, but instead there was Egyptian artifacts from the ‘Israel captivity period’, a kitchy reconstruction of the tabernacle—one Dutch preacher’s life’s work, some essential oils extracted from plants listed in the old testament and a bunch of old furniture from this 17th century house. Oh, the wallpaper was cool. (Yeah, not a lot in the museum, which is an old canal house that used to be the home to a famous dutch preacher. They were undergoing renos, but there were only like 5 bibles and they looked like an old book you would find in the back room at camp.)

Next, the Anne Frank House. I visited as an 13 year old in 1998 while vacationing in Holland with my entire extended Limburg family. I remembered the ‘bookcase’ apartment but not much else. The reason for that is due to the extensive renovations that were completed since then to modernize and redesign the entire flow and presentation. The result is a beautifully crafted experience with the narrative explained through snippets of Anne’s diary printed on walls, transparent screens and scrims throughout the rooms. They had a miniature model of the house during the war, stories of the employees and other hiding persons. One thing I never realized was that Anne was inspired to rewrite many of her diary pages, short stories and chunks of her novel in order that it might be published after the war. Radio announcements called for people in the Netherlands to record their experiences and save/hide any diaries that documented the ‘real life’ in order to share with the world. Anne always wanted to be a journalist and though her father hadn’t realized it during the war, he helped realize her dream through his efforts. The last part of the museum is the interactive Otto Frank Exhibition displaying among other things video snippets of controversial questions that the visitors can answer by pushing Y or N buttons located around the room. An example is “In Germany, neo-nazi paraphernalia is banned and is expanding to include other extremist political expressions of clothing such as black boots with white laces. Should the police be allowed to raid homes and confiscate these items?” Then, the audience votes and the results are shown on the screens. In sum, these mini-presentations aim to facilitate reflection on peace, freedom and human-rights issues. (Also, you look around the room to see which person hit the “yes” button during the “should neo-nazis be allowed to do stuff” questions.)

Avoid the crowds: go early on a Sunday morning! Especially helps that our church starts at 11am and is right down the street!


One thought on “Museum Month: making the most of February Part I

  1. that museum pass sounds fantastic and it looks like you both are getting a lot of amazing cultural experiences out of it.

    I have always wanted to visit the Anne Frank House!
    Like you, I would’ve been really excited at the prospect of the Bible Museum: especially because I too would have assumed that several antiquarian Bibles would be on display.

    What a let down!
    Love hearing about your adventures!

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