The Museum of Bags and Purses in the centre of Amsterdam is the biggest museum of its kind in the world. It documents a 500 year history of bags in all forms, shapes and sizes and from pretty much all over the globe. To give you an idea of the extremity on display; the collection includes both a rough and ready goat leather purse from the 16th Century and a Versace bag famously touted by Madonna.
Every bag has a story attached to it, the museum curators believe. And of course that’s true. Bags tell you so much about a person or even groups of people, generations, societies. Why for instance is the Kelly bag by Hermès considered timeless? And what do you make of the modern assumption that bags and outfits don’t necessarily have to match anymore? Why have we taken such a shine to hair-on-calf so much this season? Questions that beg very telling answers. Maybe we all have become somewhat more adventurous. We’re definitely evolving, that’s for sure.
Aside from the various functions bags have had over the years, the museum documents societal issues revolving around the emancipation of women and the discovery of new materials and processing techniques. There are also temporary exhibitions by contemporary bag designers from all over the world.
The museum is housed in a canal house and you could say that the bags on display are themselves kind of bagged by their surroundings; the elegant period rooms in which the permanent exhibition is situated have wonderful painted ceilings and mantelpieces dating from the 17th and 18th centuries. And as if that’s not inspiring enough, there’s also a stylish museum café and a stunning courtyard garden offering fashion inspired high tea. I kid you not, the cakes look like handbags; you can munch on a Chanel 2.55 vanilla cake made of soft yellow marsepain, a Moschino bonbon filled with passion fruit, or devour a fruitcake with Dior pink raspberries with cranberry juice. Even if you do not visit the museum but are staying in one of our Amsterdam Apartment rentals and are looking to do something romantic or spectacular, you can have high tea in this café, so long as you book
For information about the museum opening times and shows, visit its website, which is available in many languages. The museum is also available for childrens parties, business lunches or meetings and organises regular workshops. A final word about Hendrikje, after whom the museum is named; she was the lady who started out the museum in 1996 from her home in Amstelveen.