Amsterdam's National Museum's latest temporary exhibition chronicles 80 years of almost uninterrupted civil war in the Lowlands. More actual than ever, this brilliant show walks the visitor through a veritable timeline of triumphs and losses, and works as the perfect warning sign: those who plead warmongering, fear whoever's different, and are ready to fight and die for god and country should - then like now - be careful of what they wish for.
The exhibit is on the second floor of the museum's west wing, and is beautifully curated - with a small number of items, paintings and stories carrying the weight of history without ever overwhelming the visitor along the ten or so themed rooms.
The exhibit contains a number of highly visual items that are rarely on display. Some pieces, like the map shown here, are incredibly impressive in person, and just feel like you're not just stepping into history, but feeling the weight of it and the suffering and triumphs of all people involved.
Each room has a different theme, and the spaces are arranged chronologically. Walking through the exhibit carries you from the aggressive propaganda and early triumphs of the first few decades, to the progressive weariness that the people of the Lowlands must undoubtedly have felt after almost a century of continuous war.
The graphic and typographic design of the exhibition is absolutely spot on; incredibly readable and brilliantly curated; it is one of the most impressive pieces of museum copywriting I've ever seen.
A big applause for the light descriptions and cool trivia that are peppered through the show. A museum should not be boring - and all the people I saw visiting, children included, were actually loving the stories on display and rushing to the next piece of text. Absolutely brilliant.
In an age of interactive, round-the-clock entertainment, it seems like most museums are struggling to stay relevant. But '80 years' war' actually manages to combine online and offline experiences, thanks to some wise collaborations, and offer an amazing, byte-sized experience for people of all ages.
I fully believe there's no substitute for living and breathing history than going to a real museum; and both the Rijksmuseum and the 80 years' war exhibition manage to deliver a full-fledged experience without overstaying their welcome. If those who forget history are condemned to repeat it, then we definitely need more places and experiences like this one. An absolute triumph, and a definite recommendation for anyone visiting Amsterdam in the next few months.
How to visit: Take tram 2 or 12 from Central Station, or just walk through Amsterdam's beautiful historical center.