Bijbels Museum

Entertainment & Arts

Europe, Netherlands, Amsterdam

The Bijbels Museum ("Biblical Museum"), originally founded in 1852, is housed since 1975 in two imposing canalside buildings, known as the Cromhout houses, on Amsterdam's stately Herengracht canal. The buildings are famed also for the ceiling paintings by Jacob de Wit, which were restored in 1999-2000. In 2002 it celebrated its 150th anniversary in the presence of Queen Beatrix. The Bijbels Museum houses a collection of Bibles, including the oldest Bible printed in the Netherlands (the 1477 Delftse Bijbel,) and a first edition of the 1637 Dutch Authorised Version. There is also a fascimile copy of a Dead Sea scroll from Qumran containing the Book of Isaiah. The museum houses some archaeological discoveries, artifacts from ancient Egypt collected by Leendert Schouten in the 19th century: oil lamps, clay tablets, earthenware, shards of pottery and coins. They give an impression of the religious life of the ancient Egyptians. There are also some notable replicas of the ancient Jewish Temple, including models of Solomon's Temple and Herod's Temple as well as a famous 19th-century model of the Tabernacle: a reconstruction of the sacred shrine housing the Ark of the Covenant described in the Hebrew Bible, which the Israelites carried with them during their exile in the desert under the leadership of Moses. The museum also has a collection of religious objects from the Judeo-Christian tradition. The buildings harbor a wealth of architectural and historical treasures, including two of the best-preserved antique kitchens in the Netherlands, dating from the 17th century. A truly modern part of the exhibit is called the "story attic for children," which with light and sound retells biblical stories in three different settings: Egypt, Jerusalem, and the desert. The exhibit was designed by Abbie Steinhauser and Saskia van de Zanden, both graduates of the Gerrit Rietveld Academie. Recently, the museum, with financial support from a Dutch lottery, was able to acquire the so-called "Noordwijk Collection," a collection of religious books with silver coverings. Though it is one of the smaller museums in the Netherlands, thanks in part to popular temporary exhibitions and extensive renovations its number of visitors increased by 40% between 2001 and 2002, and it drew a record number of visitors, more than 47,000, in 2006. The museum continues to receive government subsidies for its operating budget, even though, according to the Dutch governmental council which decides on these matters, it has not done enough to attract a more diverse (i.e., non-denominational) audience.