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Journey to the past

17 November 2021 - Kim Tol

Journey to the past in the Volendam museum


The Museum of Volendam is situated in the middle of the vibrant center of Volendam, next to the VVV building. The windmills, paintings, and the old-fashioned folding windows at the outside show that this is the museum of Volendam. Behind the façade you can discover an entire world that you have certainly not seen before.


Writing about this museum gives me nostalgic feelings. As a little girl I came here every Saturday with my father and my brother. My grandmother worked in this museum as a volunteer. The people present, including my grandmother, were always dressed in traditional costumes. Often, I was allowed to fill a candy bag with old Dutch sweets that are for sale in the museum. With that bag under my arm, I explored the entire museum every Saturday and often we were allowed to stick cigar bands ourselves.


In the museum of Volendam you can find a cigar band house. This is a room decorated around and inside with works of art that only consist of cigar bands. There are eleven million cigar bands on those walls. At a long table on a white stone plate, I was allowed to stick cigar bands myself. My grandmother often said, "don't stick everything on it, soon we won't have any cigar bands left". I studied the straps extensively, both those with which I was allowed to stick and those in the house. I never understood that these beautiful, detailed wrappers were used for a cigar.


In the Volendam museum you will see rooms and boxes of glass in which life-size dolls are placed. These dolls and the traditional clothing they wear take you into the daily life of the past and give a glimpse into the change of the traditional costumes. There is a school with old lecterns and ink pots, a candy store, a dining room, a pub, a kitchen, where shrimps were peeled and a living space. The living space is the room that has astonished me the most. In that room there are always a lot of dolls sitting at the table. One of the drawers of the closet is open and there is a child in it. This is a reflection of the poor life of the Volendammers at that time. Families sometimes lived with 8 to 12 or 14 family members in a small house in the center of Volendam with only one bedroom. There was no room for the smallest children, so they were placed in drawers of a closet. Of course, this drawer did not close. As a little girl I thought that the drawers were closed in the evening and the child could no longer breathe. Fortunately, that turned out not to be the case.


The most beautiful exhibition for me has always remained that one of the botter. A botter is a boat with which fish used to be caught in Volendam. In the museum, one of these botters has been recreated and can be viewed from the inside. You can see exactly where the botter men (the fish catchers) slept, ate, and worked. The profession of fisherman at that time meant heavy and dangerous work. If fish had to be caught, the men were gone for a week. It is said that the Volendam dialect originated from the communication between the fishermen. At sea there is a lot of wind and boats sail quickly past each other. In order to communicate with another botter, the crew had to communicate quickly and clearly. Likely, a lot of abbreviations and words were born on those botters that we as Volendammers still use today.


In the cinema, images of old Volendam scenes are played. Take a seat on one of the benches and let yourself be carried away to earlier times. As a little girl I often sat in that room for hours and watched the videos four times in a row. History has always interested me and the one of my own village of course the most.


There are also various paintings to view in the museum. These are paintings made by artists who used to visit the village for a short or longer period. They sold many of these paintings to hotel Spaander in exchange for a stay at the hotel. Of course, there are also many paintings and drawings scattered around the world.


If you thought you had already seen everything, you are wrong. In the Volendam museum there are also exhibitions of traditional jewelry, sculptures, earthenware, photos postcards and drawings. There is even a collection of literary and musical art forms.


A visit to Volendam is not complete without a visit to this beautiful museum maintained by volunteers. If you ask me, you will get to know the norms and values of the local people very well here. For example, the dolls that are depicted in the museum in traditional costume behind the shrimp table stand for not talking but work hard. “No one has ever died of work,” my grandmother would say. This mentality and norm can still be found in the Volendam population. After a tour through the museum, you will know everything about the Volendam traditions and history.


The Volendam museum always has a place in my heart, because I spent almost every weekend there in my younger years. Did you know that it is also possible to give a children's party in the museum? Or that during the school holidays, craft days are often held in the museum for children? It is then possible to crochet traditional Volendam ties or to cut out wooden toys.


For more information about this fun and educational museum, I refer you to the website.