When in Amsterdam.... the city was the wealthiest in Europe at the beginning of the 1600s. The Amsterdam Museum is currently holding an exhibition of the Dutch Golden Age, the seventeenth century. This exhibition explores a period of history when the Netherlands influenced the world. This influence still shapes the country and how the world sees the Netherlands today.
The period was an age of economic, social, religious and engineering development. Names such as the Dutch East India Company, Rembrandt, Spinoza rose to fame. These names are still household names today. The exhibition does well to delve into a period rich with content.
The curators have used traditional and contemporary techniques. Paintings and artifacts transport guests back to an age of enormous wealth in Amsterdam. These elements are enhanced by documentary segments hosted on television screens. Interactive touch screens enable guests to explore details of paintings and maps of the Netherlands and Amsterdam. In a year when Amsterdam celebrates the 400th anniversary of the city's world heritage listed canals this exhibition brings to life the period.
The limitations of the exhibition is that Amsterdam as a focus is often lost. The display is almost worthy of a Holland exhibition of the period belonging in the national museum. Everyday life in Amsterdam during the period is segued and focuses on the elite, the riches and the celebrated achievements. How people went about their daily lives such as getting water, disposing of waste, schooling and education for all segments of Amsterdam is the depth missing from the exhibition. There is often a feeling there is no new Amsterdam insights, old displays rearranged and slightly expanded. Limitations aside there is much to learn and appreciate.
The most appreciated part of the exhibition is the recognition of a small country glorifying a Golden Age long past. The 17th Century was a period of war and slavery. The Dutch often encouraged and stimulated violence to enhance financial benefit, the VOC mentality. For centuries this period of influence and power was glorified and taught as the Dutch in their finest hour. This is recognized in the final room of the exhibition.
Another positive to the exhibition is the links of the Golden Age to the present day Netherlands. Female independence and childhood education today are connected to Golden Age developments. Land reclamation projects of the Golden Age surrounding Amsterdam also demonstrate the period's influence on today's geography.
For those interested in more depth the book(of the same name) published in associated with the exhibition is very well done. Normally, exhibition books are a catalog of artifacts and the small descriptions guests have just experienced. The book adds to the exhibition in a way few exhibitions do.
The Amsterdam Museum's Golden Age Exhibition is a wonderful mix of riches of the period mixed with documentary insights when Amsterdam was the centre of European development. It is well worth a visit in a year when much is celebrated in Amsterdam.
When in Amsterdam....enjoy!
The Golden Age Exhibition runs until the end of August 2013. Admission is 10 euro and 5 euro for children.