Tuesday last week I had to take my car to Amsterdam and leave it for a day, so I figured we might as well make it a fun day in Amsterdam, right? I convinced DB to come with me. We spent most of the day in the Scheepvaartmuseum. The museum was closed for renovation for a long time and reopened in October 2011. This was the first time we had been there.
I had heard mixed reviews from others who had been there and was curious myself about the building and it’s contents. The focus of the museum is ships and everything to do with the seafaring Dutch, from exploration to whaling to the slave trade. Since the Golden Age was so important to the Netherlands and Dutch culture, much of the museum focuses on that period of time.
First of all, the building is really beautiful in a minimalistic way. Here are some photos.
I didn’t take photos of the displays, mainly because the light was so low in most places. There were a lot of activities and displays for kids, which surprised me. I guess they need to cater to the schools too. When we were there we must have been some of the youngest people there, but I understand that especially on weekends and school holidays it’s packed with kids (so try to avoid those days if you want to peacefully look around). On a Tuesday morning in the middle of winter it was really quiet. Nice.
I really liked the globes (very old and very inaccurate as you can imagine) and the old navigation instruments. It was also interesting to see exactly where the Dutch have added land to their country. There’s a running video in the background repeating over and over again repeating the saying “God created the world, but the Dutch created the Netherlands.”
There were some strange things about the museum that detracted from the experience. For example, there’s a large room full of model boats, from old to new, all displayed in a large glass case. The lighting was terrible! The spotlights would slowly flicker on and off certain boats. If you were busy looking at a boat suddenly the light would go out. What’s the point of that? Really annoying.
Then there was the lighting on the paintings. Again, terrible. Lights shone on the glossy paintings so that there was never an escape from spotlight glare. Surely they know better!
And even though there was a room full of at least 30 old globes to look at, not a single one could be viewed all the way around. Why not put one or two in the middle of the room, under glass, so you could see the whole thing? They were all lined up along the walls with the backs impossible to see.
Outside the building is a replica of a 17th century VOC ship which you can walk all around. We went inside and checked out all the decks. It actually felt bigger inside than I expected, until we came back outside and read the plaque that said 300 people lived on board! I was thinking that 100 would fit just nicely! Ugh, imagine the smell!
We spent a good 3 hours walking around this museum, and it really is worth a visit, if only to see the building itself, which is the highlight if you ask me. I’m glad we went. If you’ve got a day to kill in Amsterdam you could spent the whole day between the Public Library, NEMO and Scheepvaartmeseum, all in the same neighborhood and within walking distance from the Central Station.