Verzetsmuseum – Resistance and the War

I know I promised a review of the Sex Museum in Amsterdam but after visiting there isn’t really much to say. It’s a museum…about sex. You get the picture. There were some interesting parts – women’s lingerie dating back to the 19th century until today. Only visit if you have time to kill.

I should have premised these entries by stating that I have been to Amsterdam before. I spent ten days here early last year and saw all the big museums then such as the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum etc. This visit was more a refresher for the Maritime Museum exhibit. Since I have had some time left over I’ve been lucky enough to see the other museums Amsterdam has to offer. The ones I didn’t get round to seeing last time.

Today I dedicated two hours to the Verzetsmuseum, the museum of Dutch Resistance. Apart from America under Kennedy, the Second World War is what really got me interested in history. There is something so horrifyingly fascinating surrounding it. We all know the story of Anne Frank (another museum I have previously visited) but I was very eager to see more and learn more about this period from a Dutch perspective. I don’t want to get into the history of the museum too much because it’s dense, very dense. A lot of wonderful stories that you should come and see for yourself.

Entrance to Dutch Resistance Museum

Entrance to Dutch Resistance Museum.

Instead I’ll begin by reviewing the museum itself. To start, the audio guide was amazing. Throughout the museum were 32 audio guide locations. Each one spoke about an aspect of Dutch resistance to or collaboration with the Nazi party. After about one to two minutes of commentary you were given the option for more information on a number of themes briefly spoken about in the introduction. I love this style of audio guide. It caters to many more people. I also loved how it sort of coerced you into learning more. For example, one section of the museum focused on the colour orange and how it was used in the resistance movement. After a little spiel the audio guide said something along the lines of: Press A if you want to hear about how a baby’s name led to incarceration in a concentration camp. How could you not Press A!

The feminist in me absolutely loved the section on women’s resistance and the story of the “red-haired” girl. Women played such a vital role in Dutch resistance and I was so glad to see their contribution recognised. The audio guide for this section really stood out in my opinion with so much extra information and wonderful objects to accompany.

Besides the audio guide, the layout of the museum was fantastic. At first glance it looks a bit confusing with lots of rooms breaking off here and there. However, once you get started it becomes more logical. An absolutely amazing room to see is the cinema that plays a bit of a Dutch film and then Nazi propaganda that movie audiences would have watched. The audio guide said something in this room that will probably resonate with me for a long time. Although a lot of movie-goers would have been “anti-nazi” they still went and sat through the ads just to escape the outside world. They knew the ads would come on but it was a small price to pay in order to see a film and be transported momentarily. It was a comment on the human condition and although a throw away line in the audio guide I think it was the most powerful.

My favourite object from the museum is pictured below. A skirt created from sections of different fabrics sewn together. This skirt was worn at a celebration festival when the war ended. Each fabric segment was from an item of clothing that was significant to the owner. This was just a beautiful item to see – someone’s heart and soul poured into making an item of clothing used for celebration.


Celebration skirt in the Dutch Resistance Museum.

Overall the museum was definitely an experience I won’t forget. It is important to recognize that resistance came in many forms and the stories of those who played even a minor role should not be forgotten.

Bags and Boats

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: 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.

Opera Bag at the Bag and Purses Museum.

Opera Bag at the Bag and Purses Museum

Tea Set Bag

Tea Set Bag at the Bag and Purses Museum

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.

Travel Bags!

Selfie with the travel bag exhibit!!

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.

Comfy Chairs

Awesome interactive display at the National Maritime Museum

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.



Inside Foyer of Maritime Museum


Side of Maritime Museum