I must be fair: when it comes to museums I’m nothing more than a spoiled brat. My parents sort of being culture addicts, I spent most of my childhood summer vacations sauntering through Italian museums, Greek ruins or French hamlets. I did learn from this, because for quite some years my only dream in life was to study history and share my knowledge to high school students. I still sometimes wonder where that would have got me now and what would it have taught me in the end.
Even though I made quite the drastic career change (I’m now an international business student), and all of those past future prospects seem to have left me, my interest in culture however did not. One of my future goals nowadays is to visit all 500 of the Lonely Planet ultimate travelist destinations, and why not start in my own country?, I thought.
Feeling slightly ashamed that I had never been in het Rijks, what we Dutchies tend to call the Rijksmuseum, I planned to visit it when I went to a concert in Amsterdam this September. Because I don’t really live at the Dam’s doorstep, I made it kind of a weekendtrip and had plenty of time to explore the museum I had always heard so much about.
A wiseman once wrote about the museums collection in his book:
“If you go to the Rijksmuseum, which I really wanted to do- but who are we kidding, neither of us can walk through a museum. But anyway, I looked at the collection online before we left. If you were to go, and hopefully someday you will, you would see a lot of paintings of dead people. You’d see Jesus on the cross, and you’d see a dude getting stabbed in the neck, and you’d see people dying at sea and in battle and a parade of martyrs. But Not. One. Single. Cancer. Kid. Nobody biting it from the plague or smallpox or yellow fever or whatever, because there’s no gory in illness. There is no meaning to it. There is no honour of dying of” – John Green, The fault in our stars
And it’s true. The Rijksmuseums collection consists mainly of paintings from the Dutch golden age like Rembrandt, Jan Steen and Johannes Vermeer. Also van Gogh is represented here but I reckon it would be better to go to the van Gogh museum (Amsterdam) if you want to see more of this painter since there are literally just three paintings of him in the Rijks.
I guess we spent about five hours before having seen everything, including our lunchbreak which we did outside the museum. You can easily buy tickets online for around €17,- and they will scan your ticket from your phone. The museum was actually a bit confusing, us walking out without even knowing it twice, it’s a bit of a labyrinth.
I must say I was impressed with the collection of paintings, but expected the Rijksmuseum to be bigger (I guess that’s what happens to you when you have kind of become used to strolling around the Louvre ). I really enjoyed the dollhouses and they have an amazing collection of old music instruments. I also saw that there is supposed to be a collection of fashion from around the 1800, but I guess they had lend it out since I couldn’t find it and there was something else in its place.
Would I recommend the Rijksmuseum to anyone? Yes. If you are interested in history or the Dutch culture, this museum is a must see. I believe it’s slightly expensive for a museum but within a few hours you will walk through history and learn a lot about the Netherlands between 1500 – 1800, as well as the colonies and they have a nice wing about Asian gods (a bit random, I know).
Did the Rijksmuseum meet my expectations? No, it did not. For a national museum, I believe they could have made it more interactive and I guess that if propaganda is still a thing in our culture, and I believe it is, the Rijksmuseum is quite a fine example of it. The part about colonisation could have been less black-and-white. It is, of course, really factual but doesn’t really stand still with the fact that we, Dutch people, transported and held slaves. It kind of felt like going to a World War II museum in Germany and no where being able to conclude that Germany was in the wrong.
I also had the feeling that we did more than just painting during the golden age, but the Rijksmuseum is really a museum focussed on paintings. Don’t expect a lot of sculptures or personal items from back in history.