Since the wait for lunch is apparently long at this cafe I thought I might as well write my first museum reviews. This morning/afternoon I visited two absolutely marvellous museums here in Amsterdam.
The first was the bags and purses museum: http://tassenmuseum.nl/en/. As you can probably guess, I am completely enthralled by textiles. Handbags most certainly fall into this category. This museum reinforced the importance of a humble accessory showing how the bag has developed over the last few centuries. From bags with specific purposes to ones that were fashion statements this museum had them all. One statement that particularly caught my attention was that bags contain important elements of our life – what we carry can define us. What better way to see what value was placed on certain items throughout history than by unzipping the bag and looking within.
There were so many highlights in this museum! I absolutely loved a little bag from the 19th century that a woman would take to the opera. It contained little sections for a fan, binoculars and change for the bathrooms. Resting alongside was another bag with a very specific function. It unfolded to reveal an entire tea set. Never let being away from a kettle get in the way for your need for tea. I understood this bag on so many levels.
I also absolutely adored this entire display cabinet on travelling bags. The history behind it brought the items to life. With the invention of the steam train and faster people movers, travel became more widespread. There was a new market for bags that could hold a lot more objects yet be carried around with ease. It made me think a lot about how I packed for this trip – suitcase, carry-on luggage etc. All of this packing apparatus had its origins right back in the Industrial Revolution. The embroidered one in the middle was just incredible.
So it seems like a random museum but I could not recommend it enough. Also, just saying, the gift shop was voted best in Amsterdam for 2014. I may or may not have purchased a bag… I couldn’t help myself!
After the bag museum I headed off to the National Maritime Museum (Het Scheepvaartmuseum). This museum is especially close to my heart as it offered me inspiration for my first conference presentation – that on trans-Atlantic slavery. That exhibit has been and gone but what is left is also amazing. The Dutch Golden age of exploration and rapid expansion is delightfully told through interactive boards and objects.
I have never been in such a tech-savvy museum in my life. For example, one spectacular room is filled with photo albums from certain maritime individuals. You walk in and see a whole group of comfy arm chairs. The idea is you sit down, select your language on the arm rest and hear the story of the album you are looking at. Meanwhile projectors show a whole bunch of photos. It was so comfy I could have stayed there/slept there for some time.
The navigational equipment room is also worth a good look around. What I loved so much about this museum was seeing how everyone could interact with everything. Each room had computers, touch screens and even object interactions. It made my time here so enjoyable and it gave my eyes a rest from having to read copious amounts of information.
Both museums were just amazing. The handbag one especially was exceptional. I don’t like the way clothing and accessories can sometimes be looked down upon as being frivolous. Just like every other object out there they can tell stories to amaze and inspire. What you wear is an important part of your identity. I think more and more museums are understanding this and there are some spectacular displays both out there and coming.
Brace yourselves for my next review when I will be tackling a bit of a different museum than I am used to. I keep walking past the Sex Museum and thinking “yeah why not”. This should make for a fun review.