{Netherlands} What’s in your bag?

November 21, 2014

Netherlands

If it weren’t for my interest in quirky and unusual museums, the Tassenmuseum Hendrikje in Amsterdam – or to give it its English name, the Museum of Bags and Purses – would probably never have caught my attention. Indeed, I have to admit to not owning a single handbag. Shoulder bags, backpacks and tote bags are more my style. But oh my goodness, what a fascinating museum it turned out to be!

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With a collection of over 4,000 bags and purses, the museum is the largest and foremost of its kind worldwide. The collection takes you all the way back to the 16th century, charting the history of bags until the present day and the various functions that bags have fulfilled over the centuries. And while the main focus is on the history of the Western ladies bag, one of the first thing you learn is that, up to and during the 17th century, handbags were worn mainly by men!

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At the Tassenmuseum, you will find bags and purses in every shape, size and form imaginable – even some of the display cases are handbag shaped! The collection includes everything from hand made bridal bags, work bags, school bags and travel bags, to hand bags and evening bags from high fashion labels such as Chanel and Louis Vuitton.

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Linen and leather, lace and feathers, satin and straw, wood and ivory, beads and even Swaroski crystals – the range of techniques and materials and techniques on display is truly stunning. One particularly interesting bag, was a souvenir that had been embroidered with beads to depict a giraffe – an early precursor of sending postcards, perhaps?

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The collection of novelty handbags also provides a little fun at the end of your visit – how about a doggy shaped handbag for your next night out? Or the handbag with built-in functioning telephone may come in handy too.

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The museum stretches over three floors of an old canal house in the heart of Amsterdam, so in addition to learning about the fascinating history of bags and marvelling at the treasures on display, you can also make the most of the museum’s beautiful surroundings. Or enjoy some afternoon tea, with a choice of delicious cakes on offer, in the museum’s exquisite cafe. Or both.

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Exhibition text throughout the exhibition is largely available in English, and there is  also free WiFi. The Tassenmuseum is located at Herengracht 573 in Amsterdam and open daily from 10am to 5pm except at Christmas and New Year and on King’s Day. Full price tickets are 9.50 Euro with discounts available for seniors, students and children. Children under 13 and ICOM members go free. For up-to-date details on opening times and admission prices, check the museum website.

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