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Another Amsterdam Museum: Handbags!

This entry is part 8 of 18 in the series Amsterdam Museums

I know some people are really into handbags. They have huge collections of handbags, preferably designer, and they coordinate their bag with whatever they’re wearing each day. I don’t.

I carry one bag. Occasionally I change handbags when the one I have wears out (This takes years.) or I find one that suits my needs better.

I bought my current handbag for two reasons. Like my old one, it looks like a respectable handbag when I need it to, but converts very easily to a backpack, which is useful going to or from work on my bike. I had another one that did that too, but was not big enough to hold my tablet. So I bought this one. I paid something like 160 euros (it was a half-price sale) which was more than I’d ever spent for a bag. I’ll probably use it till it breaks, and given the high quality materials, that’ll take a long time.

The handbag museum is housed in a lovely 17th century patricians house.

The handbag museum is housed in a lovely 17th century patrician’s house.

Having said all of that, I thought the Tassenmuseum Hendrikje, the Museum of Bags and Purses, might be worth a look, if only for the ridiculousness of a whole museum devoted to purses.

It was indeed ridiculous, in my view. But that wasn’t enough to save me from the boredom of the exhibits.

This seriously ugly bag, made from goats leather, was worn on the belt and had 18 pockets. It dates to 16th century France.

This seriously ugly bag, made from goat’s leather, was worn on the belt and had 18 pockets. It dates to 16th century France.

I have to say they were very well-presented: dramatically lit, not too crowded, with signs in both Dutch and English explaining the materials, purposes and so on of the bags on display.

I freely admit that many of the bags were very pretty, and some of the historical information was quite interesting, about how bags changed as fashions forced them to change: hip bags, for example, that were worn under very full skirts.

Exhibits displayed all sorts of different kinds of bags: leather, beaded, metal, leather, tortoiseshell, ivory and so on. A few display cases contained men’s bags. Some showed accessories of various sorts, as well as wallets and purses, doctor’s bags, school bags and picnic bags, reticules and stocking purses.

One section held a special temporary exhibit called “Black and White: the dresscode of a lifetime.” I suspect that the museum staff just plucked whatever bags they had that were black or white or both and moved them to their temporary exhibit rooms.

A lot of the bags were very pretty, like this art nouveau clutch.

A lot of the bags were very pretty, like this art nouveau clutch.

I didn’t stay long.

I just got bored, and regretted the €12.50 I’d spent on admission. At the same time, I know that some of my friends would absolutely adore this museum.

To me, the best part of the museum was the two period rooms downstairs. The museum is housed in a lovely 17th century home on the Herengracht, and the period rooms are part of the museum café, so you can stop and have a snack and enjoy the opulent surroundings. It would be a great spot to enjoy a high tea.

inside the rather grand cafe of the handbag museum in Amsterdam

inside the rather grand cafe of the handbag museum

I didn’t spend any time in the shop on the ground floor after looking at just a few bags: 500 euros each? Really? Do people pay that kind of money for a handbag? Why?

Are you into handbags? If so, please explain why!

This is one of my on-going series on small museums in Amsterdam. Here’s the whole list:

Series Navigation<< The Houseboat Museum in AmsterdamThe Brilmuseum in Amsterdam >>

14 Comments

  • budget jan

    October 19, 2015 at 2:59 am

    Wow 160 euro at half price that is amazing, but as you say you will use it forever. I can’t say the Museum impressed me either, but I am not a Museum person although I do love handbags. 🙂

    Reply
  • Rachel

    October 19, 2015 at 7:21 am

    I know! But I’d been looking for a bag that converted the way I wanted in the size I wanted for literally years. It’s a Dutch brand called Smaak: very solid, heavy leather. It’s bright green, which I’m sure is why it was on sale. Even full price it would have been cheaper than at the museum!

    Reply
  • Anita @ No Particular Place To Go

    October 19, 2015 at 4:32 pm

    We love museums of all kinds but I think my male counterpart might balk at being dragged into the Tassenmuseum Hendrikje bag and purse museum. I however think I’d really enjoy the historical displays and I have to agree that finding the perfect utilitarian handbag/backpack is worth the price, especially when traveling!

    Reply
    • Rachel

      October 19, 2015 at 5:53 pm

      There’s no way I’d be able to get my husband into that museum! Maybe for a cuppa in those wonderful period rooms, but that would be it! But then, I wouldn’t ask him to…

      Reply
  • Kristin Henning

    October 19, 2015 at 6:45 pm

    It sounds like the period rooms were slightly more interesting than the handbags in the Tassenmuseum Hendrikje. I do enjoy how fashion and necessity influence personal items, so this sounds like fun to me. How many centuries of bags were included?

    Reply
    • Rachel

      October 19, 2015 at 6:55 pm

      I’m not sure; there were some from the 1600’s and the pre-revolutionary French court, and I think I remember some medieval era accessories (not exactly handbags, but more like keychains). It’s all a bit of a blur, to be honest! It was occasionally interesting where it explained why a particular style of bag was shaped the way it was, like those hip bags I mentioned.

      Reply
  • Carole Terwilliger Meyers

    October 20, 2015 at 4:58 am

    I also carry just one handbag and rarely change it out. Mine is a cross-body model. I paid more for it than I have ever paid before–because it is a designer bag–but I do love it and it looks like it will last a long, long time. I will heed your advice and save my admission money to this museum and instead go for tea! Love the look of that tea room.

    Reply
    • Rachel

      October 20, 2015 at 7:38 am

      The cross-body kind or shoulder kind give me back and neck aches after a while. That’s why I like a convertible one rather than a backpack. I need it to look like a handbag sometimes but mostly I carry it on my back.

      Reply
  • Victoria@ The British Berliner

    October 20, 2015 at 6:34 am

    ‘Love the post! I’m more a shoe person but I can understand why you paid so much for your handbag. The little red handbag that I carry around is probably that price. It’s leather and from a little designer. My husband bought it for me so I’m quite alright with it LOL!

    I’m very much into museums especially quirky ones or museums that have a little more insight into the way people used to live. I happened to be in Amsterdam at the beginning of the year and I had planned to visit the Museum of Bags and Purses as I had the Amsterdam City Card , but I ran out of time! I did however, managed to visit the Cheese Inn Museum, The House of Bols Cocktails & Genever Experience, The Van Gogh Museum and Micropia (a museum about miocrobes and germs and the 1st of it’s kind in the world). Disturbing, but absolutely fantastic!

    Reply
    • Rachel

      October 20, 2015 at 8:24 am

      My plan is to gradually work my way through all the small museums in Amsterdam, so whenever I go there I visit one or more. The only one of those you list that I’ve been to is the van Gogh, but that one doesn’t fit my definition of small! The Cheese Inn Museum, the House of Bols and Micropia are all on the list to visit at some point. I have two more posts (the Hash, Marijuana and Hemp Museum and the Prostitution Museum) coming up in the next couple weeks. And I’m hoping to fit in one or two more when I’m in Amsterdam again mid-November.

      Reply

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