The oldest museum of the Netherlands is Teylers Museum in Haarlem. It breaths the 19th century and boasts a beautiful collection of natural history, technical apparatus and art (read more about that in our post Teylers Museum Haarlem). Few people know it also has a vast library with historical books. It’s usually closed to the public, but Museologue got a peek inside this 19th century internet.
Spotify tip while reading: Sun song by Laura Veirs
Amazing. It smells like old leather and aged paper. The library’s only light supply comes through the roof windows, like in the rest of the museum. Only natural light (except four tiny lights in the darkest corners), just like it was in the 19th century. We are lucky it is sunny today, because on rainy days it can get quite shady in here. In the half dark, rows and rows of books show off in their wooden cabinets. They are protected with some kind of chicken netting, probably against curious children’s hands. Each section is neatly indicated with hand-written signs with impossible words like Ichtyologie (study of fishes) and Ornithologie (studies of birds). This library was the internet of the 19th century, says the museum’s public relations lady. A Wikipedia for the scholarly persons who had the luxury of reading these books. Sigh.
“Library Teylers Museums was internet of the 19th century”
Two things are impressive about this library. Once you get up the stairs from the oval room, you have a nice view over it and the large cabinet holding the mineral stones. This part is the first and oldest of the library. It has encyclopedias and works about France and it soon became too small for the ever expanding collection. And gosh, once you enter the doors into the part built a few years after, you enter a realm spanning all over the technical innovations room. It is huge and it even has a double layer!
How to get there
So, why does Museologue have a chance of peeking inside the library and you don’t? Wait, not necessarily! You can visit it on three occasions. One, you carry out a serious research. Knowledge that you need the books for. Hmm, quite hard right? Well you have a bigger chance if you visit lectures. Those are not in the library, obviously, but in the grand, classical auditorium next door. You might have a look into the library. Maybe. Or else you will have to wait for special days, like tours. For that you need to keep an eye on the website for updates. Until then, you will have to do with these photos so that at least you know what is hiding up there above the treasures in the museum itself.