A new Dutch museum celebrates an object which has driven women through the ages to extravagant expense and irrational desire — the handbag.
So writes Susan Yacel in a recent Reuters report.
Technically, the Museum of Bags and Purses is not a new museum. It first opened in April 1996 in Amstelveen, a suburb of Amsterdam.
This location had become much too small for the growing collection and the steadily increasing number of visitors.
In June, 2007, the museum moved to a beautiful, 17th century canalside building — an appropriate setting for its fine collection.
Leather bag with iron frame, Europe, 16th century
The Amsterdam Tassen Museum’s collection of 3,500 bags, suitcases and purses ranges from a simple seventeenth-century pouch, worn by a noblewoman buried beneath her cloak, to a startling armadillo-skin handbag complete with the beast’s head and paws.
Museum manager Sigrid Ivo says it is one of only three such museums in the world, and it is the largest.
Housed in an imposing seventeenth-century canalside residence, the museum traces the history of handbags in the Western world, beginning with the Middle Ages and continuing to today’s luxury designer clutches.
The majority of visitors to the museum are women but Ivo says there is plenty for men too.
“Men usually come with their wives and find the history of the bag and its social aspects interesting.”
In fact the museum’s oldest and most valuable exhibit is a man’s bag — a sixteenth-century goat-skin belt pouch with iron clasps on its 18 little pockets.
Ivo’s favorite is among the most exclusive of the museum’s bags — a 1920s snakeskin evening bag with a carved ivory panel depicting Eve in the Garden of Eden about to pick the apple.
– Source: Reuters, May 15, 2008
Besides the historical collection, visitors will also see themed exhibitions.
The museum’s collection has been praised in the Netherlands and abroad for its range and variety. The
museum contributes to and cooperates with national and international exhibitions, and is
recognized as one of the eight most important fashion museums in the world.
The museum also plays a role in stimulating Dutch and international designers by organising
exhibitions of their work, and by selling their work in the museum shop and at the web shop.
The museum is known in Dutch as Tassenmuseum Hendrikje, after its founder, Hendrikje Ivo:
Hendrikje Ivo (1936) is a true collector. She has always gathered various collections, both small and large. Her interest and love for bags was born when, as an antique dealer searching for merchandise in the vicinity of Norwich (England), she found a splendid leather handbag with a tortoiseshell cover plate. Her interest was so great that she decided to find out all she could about the bag and its history.
Over the next 30 years her personal fascination for this bag grew from a collectorâ€™s passion into the Museum of Bags and Purses.
A collection which now amounts to more than 3500 bags, pouches, purses, luggage and other accessories, from the 15th century until the present day, and has been praised both nationally and internationally for its diversity and quality.Hendrikjeâ€™s favourite bag. Handbag made of snake skin with â€˜Eve plucking the appleâ€™ carved in ivory. Germany, ca. 1925
â€œIt is the history of the bag, the variation in material, shape and decorative technique, and the trends in art history that transform an everyday object like the bag into a prized collectors item that will continue to grow in interest and valueâ€, says Hendrikje Ivo. – Source: Hendrikje Ivo, Tassenmuseum Hendrikje Ivo
As an added bonus, the museum is located in a historical building dating to 1664. The building has
two fine period rooms used for receptions, with original ceiling paintings and mantelpieces
dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries.
The ceiling paintings represent amongst others a female allegory of the City of Amsterdam and allegories of the four continents: Europe, Asia, Africa and America.
The elegant museum cafÃ© is situated at the rear of the building with a view onto the museumâ€™s historical garden.
Address & Information
The Museum of Bags and Purses is situated on Herengracht 573 between Utrechtsestraat and Thorbeckeplein, directly behind Rembrandtplein and at a short distance (around 5 minutes walk) from Waterlooplein (at Waterlooplein there is an underground parking garage and metro stop).
Museum and shop: Daily 10.00-17.00
Museum CafÃ©: Daily 10.00-16.30
Closed: January 1, April 30, December 25.
– Always double-check with the museum itself.
Adults: â‚¬ 6.50
Groups (over 10 persons), students, and 65+: â‚¬ 5,00
School children (13- 18 years): â‚¬ 2,50
Children up to 12 years (inclusive): Free
– Last checked, May 29, 2008
The museum premises and the museum cafÃ© are completely accessible for wheelchair users. Only the museum shop has limited access (two steps); museum staff is more than happy to assist.