The Museum of Bags and Purses located in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, is a unique museum devoted to historic handbags, purses and suitcases that ranges from the Middle Ages through to the present. The museum houses an impressive collection of more than 4,000 bags, making it the largest museum of bags in the world, and one of only three museums across the globe specialized in the field.
The museum is the result of the unique collection of Hendrikje Ivo, who has collected bags for more than 35 years. Ivo’s lifelong fascination with bags started when she came across an ancient green tortoiseshell purse dating back to 1820. Hendrikje's interest in discovering the history of this first bag triggered a passion for collecting handbags. Before too long she had collected more than 3,000 bags. She soon decided to show part of the collection to the public. At first, the museum existed in two rooms of a villa in Amstelveen, but as the collection grew, the couple looked for a new location. Since June 2007, the museum is located in a 17th Century patrician house at the Herengracht, Amsterdam's most prestigious canal.
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The earliest handbags in the museum's collection are typically small, used to carry coins, keys and sewing kits. Such bags were carried, by both men and women, under clothing to avoid drawing the attention of thieves. The development of pants with pockets for men, and the change from billowing skirts to more form-fitting dresses, led to handbags becoming an item for women, often with elaborate adornment.
With the coming of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, technology and the growth of rail travel accessible to the middle class led to larger handbags, often made of durable leather. Brand name bags came to the fore in the 1950s, epitomized by items in the collection including a quilted Chanel purse and the Hermès Kelly bag. Among the exhibits one would find Gucci, Chanel, Dolce and Gabbana, Vuitton, Alexander McQueen, Issey Miyake and Stella McCartney.
Aside from the permanent historical collection, the museum holds temporary themed exhibitions. These exhibitions present bags of national and international contemporary designers and give young designers a chance to show their work to a larger audience at the same time. Besides viewing all these treasures, visitors can participate in workshops and join tours in the museum.
Today, the Museum of Bags and Purses is a serious institution and must visit for anybody with fetish for bags.
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