Saturday, December 31, 2016

Rijksmuseum Library in Amsterdam

Does it still count as a library visit if it’s a library inside a museum?

Now, it’s not secret that art museum have some of the best libraries in the world. Most of them are pretty small. Most of them have limited hours, or limit their attendees to art students or museum  members. I have gazed in the windows and behind the gates of many such museum libraries, but I have never seen a library that was an exhibit of its own.

When Pierre Cuypers build the museum in 1885 he designed it with the library in mind, and to this day it is the largest library of art history in the Netherlands. Indeed the library was a very deliberate part of the museum, and was always intended for use my individuals eager to learn.  For a long time, the library was inaccessible to the public while it was being restored, but since 2004 it has returned to it’s original purpose, and the public may come in, browse, read, and study…sort of.

The first floor of the library allows visitors, albeit incredible quiet ones. The books on the first floor are modern and able to be picked up and read.  No photographs are allowed on that floor and you are being watched the entire time.

But the second floor is where the real beauty is. This is were visitors are allowed to photograph to their hearts’ delight. But you can’t go beyond the small balcony, walk down the aisles, browse the centuries-old books. You can just look and photograph. So this isn’t a true library in that sense. But it is a remarkable piece of architecture and design.

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