Museum Het Grachtenhuis

(Image source: Wikipedia)

The canals of Amsterdam dominate and define the city. The whole district is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its unique cultural and historical value. Museum Het Grachtenhuis, the Museum of the canals, located in a large, double width canal house at  Herengracht 386 is a relatively new museum that tells the story of the development of the canals using multimedia.

We visited the museum just after we’d been to the Museum Van Loon and it complemented that visit by explaining some of the things we’d seen and putting some them into context. Donning headsets, a group of us was escorted into a room where we were shown a short video about the history of the city. Then into the Map room, decorated with old maps on the walls,with a table an chairs in the centre of the room. Images were projected on to the table while a soundtrack was played through our headphones with actors speaking the parts of various city officials debating on how the city should be developed. We learned about how the three main canals in the western canal ring – the Herengracht, Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht – were constructed as part of an expansion of the city in the 17th Century as new housing was needed to accommodate the massive expansion of the city’s population due to it’s economic development. These three canals were constructed in two phases – the northern stretch first and the southern section, bending round to the Amstel river, came later. This can be seen on this old map – the lighter areas being the second phase of he development.

(Image source: Wikipedia)

In the next room, we learned about how the canal houses were constructed building on piles driven through the wet ground via a scale model and animations showing the builders at work. This was followed by a short presentation by one of the staff. moving on into the adjacent room we were able to peer inside a model house spying on holograms of their residents from different periods and then peer through spy holes to see internal features into a large number of canal houses. The final room had a very detailed scale model of the canal zone and showed films of scenes from the canal zone over the ages.

Afterwards we went down back to the ground floor where three of the rooms were furnished in 18th Century style. Technology was used again with ipads positioned in various locations which provided information on how the rooms would have been used, their decor and how the latter would have changed during different periods. The ipads would also allow you you to take selfies in the rooms which could then be sent off by email.

I thought it was an excellent museum and the technology was cutting edge and exceptionally well done. Highly recommended.

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