The Amsterdam Museum preserves and tells the story of the city's lively history. It just might be the most interesting of the city's museums, but is often passed over by tourists in favor of the Hermitage, Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum. Visitors shouldn't miss the opportunity to take in the art masterpieces housed there, but the Amsterdam Museum offers a foundational perspective to it all.
The Amsterdam Museum is located Central Amsterdam, inside a series of buildings that previously housed the city's orphanage from 1580 through 1960. The museum is a bit of a maze, but staff are happy to direct visitors throughout. The entire collection includes more than 70,000 objects, of which 25,000 rotate through the various exhibits.
The building has been made to be wheelchair accessible with the addition of raps and elevators. Due to the age of the building, wheelchair users will at times need to break away from the normal path and backtrack to avoid stairways and steps. Despite this small inconvenience, the museum and its collection are accessible to all. A guide with the wheelchair access route is made available to all at the ticket desk.
Once you've passed through the door from outside, wheelchair users will need to utilize a small, but fairly steep ramp to access the main level, ticket desk and museum. There had previously been a stair lift, but it has been taken out of service, at least temporarily. This is the steepest ramp in the museum. Power through it, or ask for assistance from the museum staff - they'll be happy to assist you.
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The first part of the museum tour is the Amsterdam DNA exhibit. This area provides an interesting look at the city's history, from the Middle Ages to the 21st Century.
By using the "passport" you collected at the beginning of the DNA tour, you'll proceed through an innovative series of exhibits which describe the city's history and development through a wide array of mediums. Here, I am listening to an audio recording of the church bells. The Oude Kerk, or "Old Church," is the oldest building still standing in the city. Its bells are one of the three that can be heard through this display.
On the walls of the DNA exhibit is a timeline that traces the city's growth and provides an interesting collection of facts and figures. This information supplements the audio, video and textual displays at the center of the exhibit hall. From the segment pictured above, we learn that the population of Amsterdam was just 1,000 in the year 1250. At the top of the image is a diagram of important local buildings and their relation to sea level. The runways at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol are 3.9 meters (12 feet) below sea level!
This artwork, protected behind glass, is representative of the communist movement which took place in Amsterdam and the Netherlands as a whole. The magazine depicted here, De Tribune, was launched in 1907 to criticize the Social Democratic Workers' Party (SDAP) and advocate for more extreme Marxist views. In 1909, through its growing influence, the magazine caused a split in the SDAP. Its supporters formed the new Social-Democratic Party (SDP).
One artifact I found particularly interesting were these Keys to the City of Amsterdam, presented to Napoleon during his visit in October 1811. The city was then under French control.
The painting photographed above, Portrait of the regents of the Amsterdam city orphanage in 1633, by Abraham de Vries, is one of the museum's most important pieces. Painted with oil on canvas in 1633, it hangs in the Regents' Room, where it was first placed the year of its production.
The Regents' Room is wheelchair accessible, as are the vast majority of the museum's exhibits. Three rooms/exhibits cannot be reached by wheelchair: the Governors' Room, a portion of the Golden Age exhibit, and The Little Orphanage family presentation.
Pictured above is a 40-meter long textile display in the Schuttersgalerij, a freely accessible gallery of the Amsterdam Museum, located next to the main entrance. The piece, titled "My Town: A Celebration of Diversity," highlights the 179 nationalities of the people who live in Amsterdam. It seeks to challenge the "Us vs. Them" mentality of society, by showing that people are united in spite of their uniqueness. "My Town" is the work of Dutch artist Barbara Broekman.
I am a history buff (an understatement), so I don't mind spending hours reading the displays that are often placed in historical museums. The Amsterdam Museum, though, has been designed to appeal to everyone. The DNA exhibit allows you to see, hear and touch your way through the city's history. The rest of the museum offers visitors an opportunity to dig deeper, into layers of art, culture, industry, politics and society.
Bottom line: This museum is unmatched in innovation. It entertained me and my friends who joined me for the visit. Everyone loved the 2-3 hours we spent there. The Amsterdam Museum might just change the way you think about history.
Tickets: Tickets for adults are €12,-. There is no discount for seniors or visitors with disabilities. Guided, one-hour tours for up to 15 people can be arranged for €75,-. Contact the museum for more information.
Restrooms: There are three very large wheelchair accessible bathrooms inside the museum. They are designed consistent with the ADA standards of the United States.
Nearest Accessible Metro: The museum is a 1 km (0.6 mile) walk from both the Waterlooplein and Nieuwmarkt metro stations. Both stations wheelchair accessible via elevators and are served by lines 51, 53, and 54.