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The National Maritime Museum in Amsterdam (Het Scheepvaartmuseum) will open two brand new semi-permanent displays of its collection on 10 May 2019: Republic at Sea and Maps & Marvels. The Main Gallery, located in the north wing of the museum, will host Republic at Sea and acts as a new starting point for museum visits. Displaying fifty masterpieces from the museum’s collection, Republic at Sea tells the remarkable story of the origins of the Netherlands as a maritime nation in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
In Maps & Marvels, visitors learn how Dutch ships sailing from Amsterdam came into contact with different parts of the world for the first time. On their return, they brought the knowledge of the wider world back to Amsterdam and, Europe. Both exhibitions are the first to be developed under the museum's new motto: water connects worlds.
The Main Gallery, which shows the semi-permanent exhibition Republic at Sea, will form the starting point for visits to the museum. Through paintings, ship models, instruments, and weapons, the exhibition shows how intimately Dutch society has been connected with the maritime world throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The sea has shaped the history of the Netherlands and has determined its role and position in the world. Visitors will see how naval battles, trading companies, and art in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries represent this close relationship.
The new exhibition Maps & Marvels brings together maps by Dutch cartographers from the National Maritime Museum’s world-leading collection. This exhibition shows how the ships found their way at sea in the Dutch Golden Age, and how these voyages defined the way we see the world. Using rare and early maps, visitors travel to the locations that played an important role in the Dutch history: South Africa, Indonesia, Japan, Australia, and Brazil. The spectacular wall map of Amsterdam by Pieter Bast, dating from 1597, forms the starting point of the exhibition.
The second part of this exhibition, titled Marvels, presents a treasure room filled with beautiful and eye-catching objects, through which the whole world was brought into wealthy Dutch homes in the Dutch Golden Age. Here visitors will find wall maps, globes, atlases, and travel reports as well as souvenirs, trinkets, works of art, all of which reflect the journeys that make up the first part of the exhibition.
In these new exhibitions, the National Maritime Museum also shows the down sides of the so-called Golden Age, including colonial domination, violence, and slavery. To help tell these stories, the National Maritime Museum acquired two important new objects in 2018: a portrait of Admiral Cornelis Tromp by Ferdinand Bol and a Chinese famille noire porcelain statuette of a standing figure. The display of these objects shows the presence of African people in Dutch society and enables the frequently-told success stories of Dutch maritime history to be placed in a more balanced perspective.
One important aspect of the redesign of the exhibition spaces, was to increase the visibility and prominence of the original architectural features of the museum’s monumental building, dating from 1656. It was built as ‘s Lands Zeemagazijn, the arsenal of the Admiralty of Amsterdam. It remained a naval building until the 1970s when it was converted into today’s National Maritime Museum. The new Main Gallery is located on the ground floor of the North side From here, visitors have a panoramic view over the museum’s jetty with the replica of the East Indiaman Amsterdam, and the nearby Navy yard. This highlights the historic relationship between the collection and the building that houses it.
The National Maritime Museum in Amsterdam demonstrates through its collection how water connects worlds. The museum displays a wide range of masterpieces and impressive artefacts from one of the world's finest maritime collections. In addition to exhibitions with a more historical profile, the museum also exhibits works by contemporary (international) artists and designers. Drawing 350,000 visitors per year, the National Maritime Museum is one of the five most popular and educational days out in the Netherlands, making it a major attraction for both domestic and foreign tourism.
Opening of the renewed National Maritime Museum to the public: 10 May 2019