I first spotted it while we were cruising the canals in Amsterdam. Right there, alongside the other elegant 17th-century red brick homes was the sign Tassen Museum, a museum for handbags. As a lover of all things purse and totebag-related, I immediately began scheming how I could make it back there. We were only in Amsterdam for two days at the end of a riverboat cruise and I was with my son. There’s no way I could spin the notion that he would enjoy spending even stepping foot in a place devoted to women’s accessories. This is a young man who once cried outside the dressing room in Target when we were shopping with my daughter over the agony of it all. His tolerance for girly items of any kind was quite low.
But opportunity presented itself. We set off on bikes to explore the city but the combination of my huge bulky coat and equally cumbersome handbag in the front basket combined with my general fear of getting squashed by a truck caused me to beg off on a citywide ride. He was more than thrilled to set out on his own at a much faster pace. We arranged to meet up later, freeing me up for two blissful hours in the Tassen Museum of Bags and Purses.
More than 4,000 handbags are displayed in a canal home that was the former residence of the mayor in 1664. It all started when founder Hendrikje Ivo found one tortoiseshell plate bag in an English country village antique shop and her passion for collecting was sparked. The museum covers 500 years of history of the handbag, with beautiful examples from every era, some of them exquisite works of art.
Handbags are made of just about every material from ivory, leather and plastic to lizards, armadillos, ostriches and even fish leather and in shapes ranging from a cupcake to a champagne bucket to a leather clutch in the shape of the cruise ship Normandie from 1935. If you love handbags like I do, you won’t want to miss this charming museum.