Jamie Jenkins: Museums That Should Not Be


I just returned from a trip to The Netherlands and Belgium and I saw more museums than you can shake a stick at.

Of course there was the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam that contains more than 8,000 items of history and art, including Rembrant's famous painting The Night Watch. Nearby is the Van Gogh Museum that houses the works of that Dutch artist.

A different kind of museum in the beautiful city of canals is the Anne Frank House. This is the place where this young girl and her family hid during the Nazi persecution of the Jews during World War II. During the two years they were in hiding, Anne kept a diary that was later published by her father, the only family member that survived the Holocaust.

As we walked the streets of Amsterdam and marveled at the architecture and the restaurants and shops lining the many canals, we passed a Museum of the Bible which we did not explore.

Throughout our journey museums seemed to be everywhere. Every town and city had its museum of local history and culture. There was the Maritime Museum and more than one museum of cheese making.

Waffles and beer were the boasts of Belgium. It is reported that there are more than 1,000 types of Belgium beer, many of which have their own unique glass. In one of the town squares there was the Belgium Museum of Beer which we did not visit.

In the lobby of our hotel in Amsterdam there was a brochure advertising one of the most unusual museums, the Museum of Prostitution. We passed on that one for sure!

In Arnheim, Belgium there is a museum that commemorated the World War II Battle of Arnheim Bridge. The museum houses many historical documents and artifacts of this disastrous battle for the Allied Troops during Operation Market Garden in September 1944. This event is the story told in the movie "A Bridge Too Far."

We also visited several churches that contained museum type works of art and beauty. The Antwerp Cathedral was an architectural masterpiece where two of Peter Paul Rubens most important works, the Elevation of the Cross and the Descent from the Cross, were displayed. This church built over the site of a 9th century chapel also had a 14th century marble statue of the Madonna.

Bruges, Belgium is a beautiful city but I was a bit disappointed in cathedral. It was undergoing complete restoration and as a result, much of the interior was inaccessible and almost all the rest was engulfed in scaffolding. However, the highlight of that visit was to view Michangelo's statue of the Virgin and Child.

Ghent is third largest city in Belgium, located where the Scheldt and Leie rivers merge. In the Cathedral of Ghent we saw the 15th century altar piece, the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, which was one of the stolen pieces of art recovered from the Nazis before they destoyed it during the Second World War. This and the Virgin and Child were featured in the recent movie, Monuments Men.

I enjoyed all of the museums we visited but I was a bit saddened by the cathedrals. The architecture of each of them was awesome. The stained glass windows were truly works of art and the many statues and paintings were amazing. I am glad they exist and have protected these wonderful works of human hands. But they seemed more like museums than churches.

Maybe I am being too harsh in my criticism. Maybe if I had been there last Sunday I would see throngs of people amidst all those wonderful works of art celebrating Easter. Maybe. I hope so.

From Jamie's blog, Thoughts for Thursday.