“ Address: Museumeiland 1, 9711 ME Groningen / Tel: 050 3 666 555 „
The Groninger museum is a surprising experience. Most people have probably never even heard of Groningen never mind its museum and visitors to the city may be surprised to find that the museum is a world class attraction that can more than hold its own against similar museums in much larger cities.
It is located near the main train station and as soon as you leave the station you see the museum which is actually built into the river and appears to be floating on the water. It is a really special looking building and is as much a work of art as the exhibits it holds. You get to the museum by a bridge which is also the main connection to the centre of town and this can get really busy especially with bikes and in summer when there are a lot of boats you can be waiting for ages whilst the bridge is open before you can actually reach the museum.
When you enter the museum you come into a large room with the desk to pay is and also a small shop. The room is light and bright with floor to ceiling windows looking out over the river.
Once you have paid your money you need to check in any bags you have as anything larger than A4 size is not allowed into where the exhibits are. You can also check in your coats as the museum can get warm but it is free to use the cloakroom and it is manned so your possessions will be safe.
The desk is also where you will get liteture on the exhibts and although they used to only have information on Dutch the last time I visited the brochure was also available in English which was much better as it meant I could actually find out more about the artwork on display.
Once you have your ticket you go down the impressive mosaic spiral staircase into the museum proper.
At the bottom of the staircase is a room leading off into different parts of the museum and also an information desk where they are always more than willing to help out a poor foreigner who can't speak Dutch and tell you what exhibits are where.
Although the museum isn't really all that large there isn't really any indication of what is where so it's best to ask for a map so you will know what space you are entering. The highlight of the museum is it's temporary exhibits that it houses on a regular basis every few months. The museum might be in a far off town not generally on the tourist trail but it manages to get together some impressive exhibits that other larger museums would be jealous of.
Currently it is housing an exhibit that focuses on Russia's hidden orient and the temporary exhibit space is taken up with art work from the less well known Asian parts of Russia and it's neighbours.
For me personally this wasn't my favourite exhibit solely because it is not really an area that I have much interest in but the collection on display is impressive and for someone who has interest in that area then I imagine they would get a lot more out of it.
In the past when I have visited the museum the temporary exhibits have included extensive works from modern Asian artists and also from egypt which was much more interesting for me personally and something which I thoroughly enjoyed.
Along with the temporary exhibits the museum also houses a rotating art installation in a specially built part of the museum. This time the installation was by the artist Othilia Verdurmen and was an installation based on the myth of the firebird. The installation started with music, sound and light projected onto a wall which was supposed to represent the birth and death of the firebird and then you could enter a room and see a huge mechanical firebird the artist had created and watch the light show. Now I can't pretent that I completely understood what was going on but it was an impressive show and I did enjoy it.
In the past when I have visited other installations included a large pod shaped like a spaceship where you entered and had wires attached to your head and your own brain waves controlled the light show in the pod. This was amazing and right up in my top 5 of museum experiences but all the installations are a unique experience and I have never seen anything like them in the other museums that I have visited.
After visiting the temporary exhibits you can then go and see the museums own collection. Even though I have now seen it a few times I still always go back as there is always something new to see.
The museum doesn't try to compete with the one's in Amsterdam by having exhibits on the Dutch masters because it simply wouldn't be able to compete and instead focuses on a few other areas.
It has some rooms dedicated specifically to artists from Groningen and the surrounding area but the real highlight for me is it's modern art collection which is impressive and gives me a chance to see some works by atists that I am not familiar with.
There are the usual artists you might expect to see such as Andy Warhol but there are also some unusual pieces by some more obscure artists. Once thing that I really like about the museum is that it isn't afraid to dedicate one room to a single piece and there are a few rooms where you can see large sculptures and installations on their own without them fighting for attention with other works.
The other part of the museums own collection that is always on display is it's range of silver objects from the area. These objects are nice but not really anything you can't see in a million other museums but what makes it a more memorable experience is the room it is housed in. The space is draped with voile hanging from the ceiling and surrounding the display cases and reminds me of a dream sequence from a movie. It is quite bizare but very effective.
In fact all the rooms in the museum manage to effectively display the art works to their best. The rooms where the contempory art works are displayed are all bright and light whereas any art that is more traditional is housed in darker more subded rooms. Even the interactive installations are housed in a large industial room which really compliments it. Whoever was in charge of designing the mueseum has put a lot of thought and effort into thinking about what is going to go where and in my opinion a lot of the more famous museums could take a leaf out of it's book.
The museum also has a state of the art learning library where you can go and find out more about the collections or a specific piece that takes your fancy. The good thing about this is that the library caterers for different languages which is great because the one complaint that I have abouthe museum is it's lack of descriptions on the art they have. Usually all that is next to it is the artists name and the year of completion and I do enjoy learning more about works that catch my eye.
A new thing which they had when I visited recently was when giving me my ticket they also handed me a small card which I could electronically swipe over certain works which collected information on the piece and then later when I was home I could download this information to my computer or smarphone but unfortunately this was all in Dutch but apparently they are going to be doing it in English and German as well soon.
The museum is not large and can easily be completed in a couple of hours but for me it is the perfect size as it allows me to visit every exhibit in a reasonable space of time without getting museum fatigue which is a problem I have when visiting large museums. Even the hallways are interesting to walk through as inside the museum you can forget you are actually on the water but in the hallways the water from the river is actually level with the windows and it is a bit startling to see.
For a regional museum the collections it houses are impressive and easily up there with a lot of other museums in bigger cities. The attention to detail is everwhere to see and even the staff are pleasant and extremely helpful. It is usually quite busy but never so much that you can't get close to the art and view it which is another bonus of visiting a museum that isn't on a lot of people's lists.
Once you have wandered round the museum and gotten your fill of culture you can also visit the cafe which is lovely and overlooks the water. It serves the usual coffee and sandwiches but they are of a high qulity and surprisingly reasonably priced especially considering this is Holland we're talking about.
The museum is opened all year round from 10am until 6pm with the exception of mondays when it is closed.
Prices are relitavely reasonably at 12 Euros for adults and 11 Euros for pensioners. Students can go for 10 Euros and it is free for children.
The entire museum is disabled friendly and you can even borrow a wheelchair if you have trouble walking.
I really rate the Groninger museum as it is a real antidote to some other stuffy and pretentious museums out there and the art that is on display is there to be enjoyed and appreciated not hidden away behind cordons and in dark dank rooms where it is difficult to even make it out.
The museum is both fun and interesting and shows that the two can be combined effectively and if you ever find yourself in this part of the world then I highly recommend the museum and think you should definately visit it.