Rijksmuseum by Anton Havelaar /

by • 29 Oct, 2015 • Thoughts about museumsComments (1)9211

The toddler-friendly museum

I visited the Rijksmuseum with my son last Monday. His verdict: “Mooi”, which is Dutch for beautiful and toddler speak for everything that stands out in a good or fun way. My verdict: I’ve been to the Rijksmuseum many times, mostly in (semi-)professional capacity. Only two weeks ago I ran a workshop in one of their wonderful rooms. I’ve interviewed countless of their staff to understand the organisation, taken foreign friends, hung out in their garden (also with my son), and whenever possible cycled through their building. It’s one of my all-time favourite institutions and they keep amazing me. Obviously, they also did when I visited with my son.

An almost two-year old isn’t especially the classical museum audience. They don’t read labels, barge from room to room until they see something they like, are rather small and noisy and like to touch things. In many ways, toddlers are the ideal museum visitor, genuinely touched by everything they see and all the effort that’s been put into making the museum a special place. The guards at the Rijksmuseum seemed to understand this and encouraged my son’s behaviour, and he encouraged me to behave in the same way. I never had so much fun in a museum.

We went to see Dick Bruna’s work, the Asian pavilion, the stairs leading to the Philips Wing and a wonderful lamp hanging on the second floor, Vermeer’s Milkmaid (“mooi”), the people looking at the Night Watch and a phone charge station. We played “I don’t want to wear my jacket” in the central hall. Then we left to play with autumn leaves in the garden. Staff of the museum smiled at us and openly encouraged my son all the way along.

As a visitor, I’ve felt many ways in museums. From a bystander to history (Vasa Museum), to a creative genius (Abba Museum), to an unwanted element (The Garage). Until this Monday, I’ve never felt a museum has been built for me and the explicit purpose of providing me with a memorable experience. It was in the building, the collection, the public spaces, but most of all in staff going out of their way to make this happen.

My verdict about the Rijksmuseum: We had a spectacular time, thanks so much. Or, to use my son’s words: mooi!

Photo: Anton Havelaar /

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