TASSENMUSEUM – Amsterdam’s Museum of Bags and Purses

Not the sort of thing I normally carry on the street.

I can’t believe I’m writing about handbags. Anybody who knows me knows I’m not exactly a fashionista.

My day often begins with Mevrouw T telling me that I’m wearing the wrong coloured socks, me telling her the socks are very comfortable and that my trousers will cover them anyway, her suggesting that while I have my shoes off I may as well change the disgusting trousers too, and me bowing to her superior judgement in all matters of dress.

So you can imagine I’m not the ideal person to be reviewing a museum dedicated entirely to fashion accessories.

I do however like art, design and social history, and this remarkable small museum in a lovely Amsterdam canal house has all of these in spades.

Some thirty-five years ago antiquarian Hendrikje Ivo found an 1820s handbag near Norwich. She liked it. She bought it. She looked around for more.

By 1996 she had a collection of 3000 bags and purses and with her (possibly long-suffering though supportive) husband opened the Tassenmuseum ‘Handbag Museum’ Hendrikje in a villa in Amstelveen, just outside Amsterdam.

Once she starts buying handbags,  matching hats and shoes will be sure to follow.

That was just the beginning  for Mevrouw Ivo. Over the next decade her collection continued to grow and in 2007 it was moved to its present location, the beautifully restored canal house on Amsterdam’s Herengracht, the Gentlemen’s Canal.

The museum now claims to have over 4000 tassen (‘bags’), the world’s largest collection.

Highlights are the 16th century goatskin man-bag, the Versace purse Madonna carried to the premiere of Evita  and a 19th century German bag made from the shell of an unfortunate tortoise. Turning unusual animals into ladies’ accessories has entertained bag-makers for centuries, it seems.

There are also modern masterpieces by world famous fashion designers whose names I’d never heard before.

I did like the art deco work very much.

First came the trains, then came train luggage.

My eye was also taken by the section devoted to railway luggage.

The advent of the railways in the 19th century brought long distance travel into the lives of the common people for the first time.

Picnics in the country required picnic hampers, travelling longer distances required vanity sets and hat boxes. For reasons best known to those who like hats and vanity sets, they’ve gone out of fashion now.

Perhaps some time in the future the Tassenmuseum will display green supermarket bags, Tellytubbies backpacks and pull-along Samsonite hand luggage to give visitors a nostalgic laugh.

As well as the displays themselves, the house, built in 1664 for Pieter de Graeff, the son of Amsterdam mayor Cornelis de Graeff, is worth visiting for its restored rooms, neat French-style garden and its cafe.

If you’re not into handbags, take a long book. Your companion may be some time.

Oh, and you may need to strategically position yourself between partner and gift shop.

Tassenmuseum Hendrikje/Museum of Bags and Purses 
Herengracht 573
1017 CD Amsterdam
telephone:             +31 20 524 64 52
email: info@tassenmuseum.nl

Museum and shop: daily 10.00-17.00.

Admission: Adults: € 8.50, groups (over 10 persons), students, and 65+: € 7,-; school children (13- 18 years): € 5,- ; children up to 12 years (inclusive),MuseumcardI Amsterdam card: free


Filed under Art, Holland

10 responses to “TASSENMUSEUM – Amsterdam’s Museum of Bags and Purses

  1. I am not into handbags and fashion accessories either, but this was most intriguing. I particularly enjoyed the wry humour! 🙂 Reading your comment at the end, I’m not sure whether you DID manage to prevent a visit to the gift shop, or whether you wish you had and are thus advising other husbands/reluctant companions to do so? Surreptitiously, of course… never get between a woman and a new handbag! 😉

    • With our (highly recommended, excellent value) Dutch museum cards we are able to visit the Tassenmuseum and most other museums in the country as often as we like, for no extra charge. This was not my first visit and it surely won’t be my last.

      The gift shop is one part of the museum that it not ‘gratis’ for us, so we sometimes skip it.

  2. Seriously? Museum for the handbags! Pretty interesting i must say. I kinda like the way you put to humour.

  3. I saw this museum and would have gone, but we ran out of time….next time.

  4. I’m not an accessories type person, either, but sometimes you just have to see what all the fuss is about. I have a feeling I’d need a thick book if my daughter walked through those doors. Purses and shoes…she’d be there all day.

  5. Ana is glad to hear that Mevrouw T is still trying to match your socks and trousers to make a fashion understatement. Now Ana will be shopping for a new handbag once she has found the car keys. But which handbag did she leave them in ?

  6. Pingback: Museum of Bags and Purses – Amsterdam (Netherlands) | World for Travel

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