Frequently asked questions about Teylers Museum
Where does the name ‘Teylers Museum'
come from? Who was Teyler?
Pieter Teyler was a rich silk merchant from Haarlem who later became a banker. It is sometimes claimed that the name ‘Teyler' was derived from the English word, ‘taylor'. Teyler lived in the Fundatiehuis (literally ‘Foundation House'), next door to what is now Teylers Museum. A strong supporter of 18th-century Enlightenment ideals, he believed that it was it important for people to improve their knowledge, for ‘knowledge is power, bringing them independence and greater happiness.' When he died, he left a huge legacy - equivalent in today's terms to some EUR 80 million. He also stated in his will that he wished to set up a place where everyone would be able to gain knowledge. Five of his friends decided that a museum should be established: Teylers Museum. In the garden of Teyler's house, an Oval Room was built. At first, it was reached through Teyler's old house, using the front door on Damstraat. Teyler did not leave a noteworthy collection of his own. Instead, exhibits for the new museum - art works and scientific objects - had to be purchased.
What are the museum's opening times?
For details on opening times and admission charges, click here.
Why are some of the museum's rooms so dark?
Teylers Museum was first opened in 1784, long before the invention of electric light. The Oval Room - the first room to be built - was lit by the daylight that entered its high windows. Later, other rooms were added; later still, gas lighting was installed. But even today, the permanent collection is still a little dark, especially on a winter's day. As the Netherlands' first and oldest museum, Teylers should be seen in the most authentic possible state. Thus, even today, it is still lit by the daylight that enters through the windows and, in the Paintings Galleries, through the glass ceilings. Lights in the Prints and Drawings Room are deliberately kept dim, to protect its works against fading and discoloration. If the museum is open in the evening, it is of course lit by electricity throughout. Sometimes, however, special tours of the permanent collections are given by torchlight. These are announced in the calendar. Finally there's our Exhibition Gallery, which was built in 1996. This uses the very latest types of lighting.
What do fossils have to do with paintings, or scientific instruments with coins?
In Pieter Teyler's opinion, art and science both provided means of learning - a view very characteristic of the Enlightenment, a key period in the 18th century. So even though the collections are very different (featuring paleontology, mineralogy, instruments, medals, coins, paintings and prints), they create a single entity that, somewhat like an encyclopedia, helps you understand the world.
What is the oldest part of museum?
The Oval Room, now at the heart of the museum buildings. The very first museum room in the Netherlands, it adds to the uniqueness of the museum as a whole. Today, visitors use it to view the exhibits - prints, books, minerals and physics instruments - but in earlier days it was a forum for experiments, such as those that used the large electrostatic generator. There were also lively debates between scholars and people of learning. The two hundred and twentieth anniversary of the Oval Room falls in December 2009. This will be celebrated with a programme of activities and the opening of a digital archive.
Where are the drawings by Rembrandt and Michelangelo?
Teylers Museum has an impressive collection of drawings and prints by Rembrandt and Michelangelo. In fact, no other museum in the Netherlands has so many drawings by Michelangelo - 26 in all. Unfortunately, because they're so fragile, it's impossible to show them in the permanent collection, as they would be damaged by too much light. To enable our visitors to get a glimpse into such riches, we have therefore made replicas that can be examined in Paintings Gallery I.
In 2005, Teylers Museum devoted a large exhibition to work by Michelangelo; it attracted nearly 100,000 visitors. A dedicated website was also made for the exhibition. International museums often approach Teylers to loan works from its collection.
What was the building used for before it became a museum?
What makes Teylers Museum so special is that it was always a museum. It is not a palace where royal collections are shown: it was built specifically for the purpose - well over two centuries ago. The Oval Room was designed at the end of the 18th century by architect Leendert Viervant as a boek- en konstzaal - an ‘art and book room'. Visitors not only looked around it, but were also present when physics experiments were conducted and when debates took place. For people wanted to know how the world worked.
They reached the Oval Room through Pieter Teyler's residence, the Fundatiehuis. Later in the 19th century, the Oval Room was extended, for example by the addition of the Instrument Room, the Fossil Room and the entrance hall. Later still, the Paintings Galleries were built. At the end of the 20th century a modern Exhibition Gallery was added, as were a Prints and Drawings Room, Rare Book Room, a large, light Museum Café, and an Educational Centre. This century, other facilities have followed, such as a Museum Shop and Multimedia Room. The latter were designed by Hubert-Jan Henket.
Why can't I operate the instruments myself? Does the museum ever show them in action?
The instruments in Teylers Museum's collections are fragile. In some case they are historically unique. Although it might be very educative to see them in action, demonstrations would put their survival at risk. The museum tries to compensate for this by ensuring that guides give very lively explanations of how they worked. However, there is also a special website on these instruments that allows you to see them from all angles. From / since the autumn of 2009 a new audiotour on this part of the collection will be available free of charge. And the recent addition of the Beta Lab for educational purpose now makes it possible to bring school students almost literally into contact with phenomena such as light, energy, power and sound - and also to experiment with them.
Why are there so many different signs - and why are some of them confusing or illegible?
Teylers Museum is the oldest museum in the Netherlands - the museum of all museums, where the history of collecting is itself exhibited. For this reason, it has been decided to give visitors the most authentic possible experience of the history of the building and its collections. That's why you will encounter signs and information media from very different times - handwritten or typewritten signs, for example, but also our audiotour. This website provides information in detail, and you can also download a museum tour. When buying their tickets, all visitors receive a Compact Guide to Teylers Museum. This contains background information on the various parts of the collection.
What's the purpose of those iron gratings in the floors?
When Teyers Museum opened in 1784, it was heated by the latest, most advance technology: under-floor heating. Even today, artists are inspired by the wonderful decorative patterns on the iron gratings.
Where's the café? And the toilets? The exhibition? The shop? The Prints and Drawings Room?
There's a map of the museum on the website, and also in the Compact Guide to Teylers Museum which visitors receive with their ticket. To ensure that the Netherlands' oldest museum maintains its authentic appearance, the signage in the rooms has been kept very modest.
Can I visit the library and the other historical rooms on the first floor?
The Upper Room in the Library is one of the most attractive rooms in the museum. Built in 1885 as part of the ‘new museum', it is on the first floor. While, unfortunately, it is not open to the general public, it is included in an exclusive guided tour, for which appointments can be made. This tour also includes the museum's historical Auditorium.
The walls of the Upper Room are completely lined with bookshelves. More bookcases stand at right-angles, forming alcoves in which there are tables for study. As in the Oval Room, a gallery with a richly decorated wrought-iron balustrade runs across it. It is reached by a staircase, and contains part of the museum's collection of scientific journals, including the famous Philosophical Transactions published by the Royal Society in London. In the centre of the room is a large reading table; under which there are cupboards containing folios. The room is lit by daylight that enters from overhead. No other library in the Netherlands has such a full collection of fine 18th and 19th-century books on botany, zoology and earth sciences. Altogether, it contains over 125,000 volumes of books and journals. Major works were still acquired until about 1940. Since then, the museum has not kept pace with the sciences, and its scope has become a historical one.