Amsterdam is its best self in spring. The tulips are blooming and the sun peeks out at least a little nearly every day. Like most places, though, in Amsterdam the weather in spring is wildly unpredictable. Trenton and I had cycled into the city center the other day to do some shopping and just as we were preparing to go home, a nasty wind blew in and it started to rain.
Usually when it rains in Amsterdam (something like 360 days out of the year), you just suck it up and deal with it, but I wasn’t feeling up for a soggy battle through the gale, so we took shelter nearby in the Allard Pierson Museum.
The Allard Pierson Museum is easy to miss and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the more recent arrivals didn’t even know it exists. It sits on the wrong side of Rokin, tucked in behind that dreadful intersection where the Bloemenmarkt, Kalverstraat and Amstel smash into each other.
In a city lousy with museums, you get a pretty astonishing variety of spaces and exhibits. Based on its location, I wasn’t expecting the Allard Pierson Museum to be as expansive as it is. Trenton and I had darted in with our museumkaartjes to take shelter from the rain, and we hadn’t even seen half of the museum’s treasures before our stomachs started growling and we had to force ourselves to leave, promising each other that we’d be back soon.
Honestly, I’m really looking forward to our return. Not just to check out the stuff that I didn’t have a chance to see, but also to take an even closer look at the amazing pieces that I caught a glimpse of. As far as I can tell (as I said, our visit was a short one and, unfortunately, the website for the museum isn’t helpful), the museum has a few permanent exhibits centered around Egypt, Rome, Asia and Greece. We wandered around aimlessly, but spent most of our time exploring the temporary exhibits.
Some of my favorites included hilarious modern sculptures and photos of food and genitals, cool and creepy vintage scientific equipment, Grayson Perry’s The Walthamstow Tapestry, and the restored pieces of armor, pottery, jewelry and weapons brought up from the bottom of the ocean.
The temporary exhibit Sicily and the Sea does a neat job of describing the work of underwater archeologists (an occupation I wish I’d known about as a kid) and displaying some of the cooler treasures found from shipwrecks off the coast of Sicily. There are some great pieces on display and the museum puts them into context really well, painting a vivid portrait of life during the various invasions and sea battles that left so many artifacts on the ocean floor.
The other temporary exhibit that we saw was the second installment of the DWDD Pop-Up Museum. I remember hearing about the first edition last year, but I’d wrongly thought it was a display of pieces from the show (DWDD stands for De Wereld Draait Door and is a Dutch chat show) and wasn’t interested. We nearly skipped it again this time around, but by chance stumbled into a section of the Pop-Up Museum and got drawn in.
The DWDD Pop-Up Museum is a brilliant concept all around guest curation. The Allard Pierson Museum invited various Dutch celebrities that have appeared on the show to select their favorite “hidden gems” from a specific museum. Those chosen pieces are displayed together, along with some explanation from the guest curator. It’s a great way to see pieces put together in unique and unexpected ways, as well as to highlight other museums around the Netherlands that you might not have heard of. The concept of the guest curator is fascinating to me; it removes some of the elitism that can be a barrier to museum attendance and presents old material in a new light.
If you haven’t yet visited the Allard Pierson Museum yet, I’d highly recommend it. And if you have, who knows what treasures you might have missed? Sicily and the Sea closes soon, on 17 April 2016. DWDD Pop-Up Museum runs until 22 May 2016. Barring holidays, the museum is open every day of the week from 10:00 until 17:00. Tickets are €10.00 for adults and €5.00 for children 4-16. Children under 4, University of Amsterdam Students and Museumkaart-holders get in free.