Haarlem is one of Holland’s gems. A historical Dutch town with typical architecture, where even the H&M and fast food chains have mahogany counters and color stained glass. As a historian, I LOVE it. And when visiting Haarlem you just can’t skip the Teylers Museum to top it all off. The oldest museum of the Netherlands is still breathing the 19th century zeitgeist of discoveries, exciting tech innovations, and art. And all of that in beautiful architecture, of course.
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Oldest museum of the Netherlands
Teylers Museum in Haarlem was the first museum ever known in the Netherlands. It opened in 1778, after the death of the building’s owner: Pieter Teyler. The guy appointed a bunch of directors in his testament, whom he asked to use his capital for acquiring a collection. The directors built a large oval-shaped room behind Pieter’s home to fill with a permanent exhibition. Together with a series of adjacent rooms it still hosts the current museum today. And that museum submerges you in the exciting 19th century, when so much was discovered of and in the world and the stream of innovations seemed endless.
Fossils, techniques and art
The sweet world was still so CLEAR in the 19th century. As a scientist you could be specialized in both physics, history, geography, and a bunch of other fields. No problem. There was no surge of information spreading everyone’s brain yet, like today. Pieter Teyler himself researched several fields of study, quite a popular hobby in those days. His areas were first natural history, including fossils and minerals. Second, physics and technique like electricity, magnetism, sound, color, and much more. And third: coins and art. A vast collection formed in every of these topics. But only after Pieter’s death.
Teylers Museum has plenty of highlights to discover. In the area of natural history there are some impressive fossils of extinct animals. You can also marvel at the gigantic mineral stones like quartz and amethysts, and fluorescent stones. In the field of innovations there’s an immense electricity maker. Furthermore an endless number of mahogany and glass instruments, one of which is the light bulb! In the art rooms there are some amazing paintings by Israëls, Koekoek, Jongkind, and Breitner. All Dutch masters of the 19th and early 20th century. And for the lovers, some crazily old coins found in the Netherlands.
Haarlem is only 20 minutes away by train from Amsterdam Central Station. You can walk to the museum from the Haarlem station in about 15 minutes.