Saturday, 24 April 2010

Amsterdam Historical Museum (Amsterdams Historisch Museum), Hoerengracht

[Post published by Liviu on Liviu's [in Netherlands] Blog]

Amsterdam Historical Museum (Amsterdams Historisch Museum)
Entrances in the museum:

There are 4 entrances (apparently): Kalverstraat 92, Sint Luciënsteeg 27, Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 357 and Begijnensloot. Let me explain:

Long story:
Well, it's a very big building, with quite a large interior court, which also hosts a small restaurant right after the Kalverstraat 92 entrance.
Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 357 leads to both the main entrance of the museum and then to the interior court.
The entrance from Kalverstraat 92 leads to the restaurant and then reaches the court.
The Sint Luciënsteeg 27 leads to the court and right in front of you there is the Civic Guards Gallery (therefore another museum entrance) asking for your visit.
Begijnensloot, at its end, leads to both the interior court and the Civic Guards Gallery.
At Begijnensloot corner with Begijnensteeg there's a door with the museum's name and schedule on it: that' the entrance to Begijnenhof, i.e another interior court, with trees and grass and flowers and real houses inhabited by real people - that's why there are some barriers against tourists there :) There's also the English Church.

Feel free to check these entrances as I also placed them on my Netherlands Map:

View Netherlands (by Liviu) in a larger map

Admission: free with Musemkaart. Feel free to check the detailed price list.
Note: one has to pay only for visiting the main part of the museum, on Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 357. Otherwise, one can visit for free everything else.

You are allowed to take pictures, too.

One can find lockers when entering through the main entrance, on Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 357, in order to let unnecessary clothes there.

I suggest you check Amsterdam Historical Museum's online collection - it's cool; you shall like it.

Day 1: 8th of April: Main part of the Amsterdam's Historical Museum and the Hoerengracht exhibition

Main part of the Amsterdam's Historical Museum - entrance from Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 357

Very nice. A lot of things to see. Very well organized.

I've always liked stuff regarding a nation's
  • growth / expansion / conquests
  • warfare (military technology)
  • politics and internal organization etc.
Indeed, there are quite a lot of things to see in this area.

  • Somewhere in rooms 3-4 there's a really cool crossbow hanging from the ceiling: I studied it for about 5 minutes - a remarkable piece of military technology I'd say since it could put an arrow into a target 350 meters away (yes, three hundred fifty meters) - that's how one should conduct a cool war! Congratulations!
  • There are details on ship design and building - nice... I found brilliant the solution of putting large wooden boxes under a big ship and then pumping water out of those boxes, in order to raise the ship out of the water, therefore allow it to get through the shallow waters of the Ij river and reach the city.
  • One can see Rembrandt's The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Jan Deijman - To put it nasty, the rich doctor and his assistant got immortalized while analyzing some dead man's brains; indeed, it's called an autopsy.
I enjoyed this part a lot - it took me 3h to visit it, although I admit to have paid less attention to some parts. I suggest you reserve some 4-5 h for it.

I spent another 1h in Day 2, just to take pictures - yes, they let you take as many pictures as you want!


Hoerengracht [official website] is a separate exhibition (inside the main part of the Amsterdam Historical Museum, which I visited in Day 1) - let me quote their site: [..] a reinterpretation of Amsterdam’s famous Red Light District. The Hoerengracht functions as a composite street of the whole neighbourhood. Hoerengracht literally means Whores Canal, a pun on the genteel Herengracht.

They say: We hope you enjoy The Hoerengracht. - Well, actually I did not enjoy it, since I did not understand its point.

Day 2: 16th of April: Civic Guards' Gallery, The Exhibition in the Restaurant's Court: The Civic Orphanage, Begijnhof

Civic Guards' Gallery

Basically, on the old times, it was a matter of rich people's prestige to organize themselves in Civic Guards. Of course, each one had to buy his own weapons. The higher the rank, the cooler and more effective (and therefore more expensive) weapons one had to purchase himself.

Do you know what was even cooler? The get your guard painted by a cool painter... Every member had to pay in order to appear in the painting; obviously, not all members had that much money and many times the paintings do not show the whole guard.
Of course, the more money one paid, the closer to the center they were.

I said prestige, indeed, since they did not get paid anything for being members of the civic guards.

Civic Guards' Gallery shows many such paintings.
Of course, Rembrandt's Night Watch is the most famous one, but one can find this one at the Rijksmueum.

All in all, I'd say these people did a good investment: now we look at them, take their pictures and write their names in history books. Yeah, it was worth the money to get painted.

The Exhibition in the Restaurant's Court: The Civic Orphanage

After entering from Kalverstraat 92, one reaches a small court where the restaurant is. There's also a small exhibition about The Civic Orphanage.

Quite interesting to find out about the hard life of orphan boys: they got up at 4 AM, were at work at 6 AM, came back not later 9 PM for supper; they were never allowed to miss a night because it meant they were forced to stay in the orphanage up to an older age.
This system seemed like halfway to prison to me, but on the other hand I admit it was much more efficient for the society this way, which both used cheap labor and ensured they did not turn into criminals.


It's quite a big and very nice court (grass, flowers, trees, very nice houses), inhabited by real people - that's why there are barriers to keep tourists away.

There's also the English Reformed Church here, at Begijnhof 48 - very nice; they even had the description printed in Romanian, just like they had it at the Tulip Museum - felt so good!

Opposite to the English Church there's the Begijnhof Kapel (en: chapel) - it's still in use, people pray there etc., so be careful not to take pictures and not to disturb them.

... And then I visited the main part of the museum again, just to look at those cool things and take their pictures. The guard probably thinks I'm obsessed with crossbows or something.


I recommend you visit Amsterdam Historical Museum. Be there (1) early so you have time to visit it all, (2) fresh so you can pay attention to everything (or at least most of it), and (3) bring your camera to take lots of pictures.

The Hoerengracht exhibition is weird and I personally did not understand it. Should you visit it, don't blame me if you do not understand its point...

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