For our kids, the 1900s seem like ancient history - and it's fun for us to reminisce too. Amanda van Mulligen found that the Museum of the 20th Century in Hoorn has something for everyone and makes a brilliant day out for the family.
A Step Back in Time
“Mama, why is everything in this room brown?” my son asked as we stood in front of an example of a 1950s living room.
“You want colour?” I asked whilst dragging him towards the 1980s.
And that, in a nutshell, is what the Museum van de Twintigste Eeuw (Museum of the Twentieth Century) in Hoorn is – a walk through the decades of the last century by means of interiors and household items. Just in case you weren’t already feeling old, that includes the 1980s and 1990s....
From oma’s front room to a 1960s kitchen, from televisions your parent may have watched, radios that are now sold as retro items, telephones that you couldn’t carry around with you, and – my favourite – the computer game Pong (reminding us of a more innocent time when table tennis balls were square and computer games were two-dimensional and took an age to load from a cassette), this museum is one long trip down memory lane. As the Dutch say “een feest van herkenning”!
The Museum van de Twintigste Eeuw is packed from floor to ceiling with reminders of the not-so-distant past, everyday items that you grew up with, or saw regularly in your grandparent’s home.
Along with typical rooms throughout the decades there is a shopping street, a schoolroom, toys (including a large collection of Barbie dolls), children’s books, a room highlighting how computers and gaming systems have developed over the years, a communications collection and an Open Depot that stores literally thousands of items from the past.
Why It’s Great for Children
My three sons (9, 6, and 5) were kept interested around the entire museum as they moved from room to room. We were there for around two and a half hours and heard nothing but enthusiasm.
“Mama, what’s a Walkman?” my eldest asked as I pointed out a model similar to one I owned during the 1980s (before it died a watery death whilst listening to it in the bath one day).
“Cassette? What’s a cassette?”
For children, this museum is a fantastic visual history lesson. It gives them a glimpse into your youth, and how their grandparents once lived.
There’s so much to see and learn: that the Dutch resorted to eating tulip bulbs during the war, which fascinated and disgusted my eldest son in equal measures, how tough (and colourless) the post-war years were, that women were once seen as only housewives, that TVs were once small and simple and that Pac-Man is an incredibly frustrating game to play.
There’s a free audio tour for children (as well as for adults in various languages), a speurtocht, a quiz, and special craft afternoons.
The museum is housed in the former prison on the Oostereiland in Hoorn, overlooking the pretty harbour. We drove but did have to drive around a bit to find parking valid for longer than two hours. There are buses from the station to the museum.
Krententuin 24 (Oostereiland), 1621 DG, Hoorn
The museum has a little café selling drinks and snacks. There is also a brasserie on site, where we had an excellent lunch (and there’s a cinema and a hotel too).
There’s a lift for those of you with prams.
Monday to Friday 10:00-17:00, Saturday and Sunday 12:00-17:00.
The museum does have a small café, but as the museum overlooks the harbour and is near the Zuiderzee, taking a picnic would be a great idea in warmer weather.
The Museumkaart is accepted.
There are often special activities so it is worth checking the website to plan your visit.
My father-in-law summed it up perfectly when he said,
“Every few steps it’s ‘oh yes, I remember that!’ or ‘we had one of those!’”
And my eldest son declared,
“That was so leerzaam!” Adding, “I’m glad I live in the nowadays…”
There are temporary exhibitions running in the museum. At the moment, it is ‘Store Wars – 40 years of Star Wars Merchandise’ which my kids absolutely loved. It runs until 29 October 2017 and covers three rooms of Star Wars-related items including a display of Lego items and an area to build with Lego. You can sit in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon, dress up as a Star Wars character or take a photo with a life-size model of Chewbacca, a Stormtrooper or Princess Leia.
Lust voor Oog en Oor - The Edison Room (semi-permanent exhibition)
This is a room full of gramophones, phonographs and record players (a private collection built up over 40 years) from the era of the Charleston and black and white television viewing.
(There is also a small collection of talking dolls which freaked me and my son out and which my husband beautifully summarised by uttering “Hi I’m Chucky, wanna play?”)
Amanda van Mulligen is a mother, writer, and expat. In that order. She is British-born but has called the Netherlands home since 2000. She is ‘mama’ to three boys and blogs about her expat way of living, loving, and parenting over at Turning Dutch. You can find out more on her Facebook Page or follow her on Twitter.
photo credits: Header: Commons.Wikimedia, all others Amanda van Mulligen