Het Fries Museum: The pride of Friesland

Walking towards the Frisian Museum, its majestic building is prominent to the visitor’s eye. With its big glass windows and its modern form, the unique building stands out without deviating from the architecture of the rest of the Wilhelminaplein buildings. Located in the center of Leeuwarden, the capital of the Friesland province, the museum is considered to be the personification of real Frisian pride! In its three floors you can explore parts of the history, art and culture of Friesland.

When entering the first part of the museum, sounds of farming life dominate the space. Church bells, sheep, tractors, thunder. In combination with the enormous landscape pictures on the wall, the first impression is totally…Frisian! The first floor is dedicated to history, geography and the Frisian culture, while it offers detailed information over why Friesland is the way it is. You can learn more about the sword of the famous Frisian hero Grutte Pier or the mysterious life and death of the dancer Mata Hari and discover the creation and development of the dikes in Friesland for the last 2000 years, probably the most interesting section of this floor. Explore 19th century paintings, pottery items, costumes, ancient findings and even a replica of the famous Hindeloopen room where you can discover the multicultural decoration style of this iconic Frisian city. There is so much diversity in this section that sometimes the desirable balance is lost and you find yourself struggling with all this information. Perhaps a second visit would be necessary.

The second floor offers a detailed account of the impact the Second World War had in Friesland. From a video installation that shows shortly the course of the war in the Netherlands with archival footage to the fascinating room full of stories from people who survived, this section will cause mixed feelings and force you to spend a considerable time exploring the video interviews of the survivors. There is also a database of every Jewish Frisian who either was killed or survived the war. Other sections of this floor introduce you to the Leeuwarden resistance, but also to other war exhibits. Treated with respect and care, this part can stand on its own, while it takes some distance from the rest of the museum exhibitions.

The entire third floor is dedicated to the fascinating textile work of contemporary artist Claudy Jongstra. You can discover her process and inspiration, but also her newest work: square, carpet-looking textiles that hang prominently from the ceiling. This part of the museum changes frequently, so there is always something new to explore (Alma Tadema’s exhibition is available from the 1st of October).

The personal exhibition of photographer Tjibbe Hooghiemstra, who creates dreamy and poetic photographic sequences, offers more diversity to the museum. Till the 30th of next month you can observe his view on our world via extreme close-ups of nature and multiple photographs of our universe. Repetition and deep blue colors dominate this beautiful exhibition.

Modern and full of pride, this museum aims also for an international audience, not only Frisian or Dutch. Every exhibit is described in Dutch or in Frisian and the portable English catalogs available in every floor prove priceless for internationals. Perhaps a more elaborate section for the Frisian language is what is missing. However, this museum is already a valuable Frisian cultural experience.

(This article was written on September 2016. Repost from the ExoDutch blog. )

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