FAQ — Teylers Museum


Frequently Asked Questions about Teylers Museum

Frequently Asked Questions about Teylers Museum

Please, read the COVID-19 safety measures we've taken for a pleasant and safe visit. 

What is the origin of the name 'Teylers Museum'? Who was Teyler?

Pieter Teyler was a wealthy Haarlem silk merchant, who later became a banker. Some people maintain that the name 'Teyler' is related to the English name ‘Taylor' and the word tailor. Pieter Teyler lived in what is now called the Foundation House, and the museum was built adjoining this house. He found it important for people to expand their knowledge, and believed in the 18th-century Enlightenment ideal: ‘knowledge is power, knowledge makes people independent and happier'.

When Pieter Teyler died, he left a vast fortune of two million guilders (today, this would be roughly equivalent to 80 million euros). His will made it clear that he wanted the money to be used to create a place where everyone would be able to expand their knowledge. Five of his friends decided that what was needed was a museum: Teylers Museum. A structure was built in the garden. This became the Oval Room, which could initially be accessed only by passing through Pieter Teyler's residence on Damstraat. Pieter Teyler himself did not own a very substantial collection; all the scientific and art objects for the new museum had to be acquired.

What are the museum's opening hours?
For questions about opening hours and admission fees, click here.

Is Teylers Museum really the first and oldest museum in the Netherlands?
A number of museum-like institutions were established in the 18th century, most of which were relatively short-lived. Examples include the Natural History Collection of the Holland Society of Sciences in Haarlem (opened in 1772, closed in 1866) and the art and nature cabinet of Stadholder Willem V in The Hague (opened in 1774, closed in 1795). The Willem V Picture Gallery in The Hague, though also founded in the 18th century, has been closed several times for alterations and renovation.

Teylers Museum is the only museum in the Netherlands that has been open to the public continuously since 1784. Its authentic interior, containing the original objects, has remained the same since then. So Teylers can justly lay claim to the title of being the first and oldest museum in the Netherlands.

Why is it so dark in some of the museum rooms?
When Teylers Museum opened its doors in 1784, electric lights did not yet exist. Daylight shone in through the high windows of the Oval Room, which was the first part to be built. More rooms were added later. Gaslight was introduced. Even so, it can sometimes be quite dark in the permanent exhibition galleries on a winter's day.

As the oldest and first museum of the Netherlands, Teylers Museum wishes to preserve the building's authentic atmosphere. That's why daylight still streams in through the windows and the glass ceilings of the picture galleries in the daytime, although on the darkest days, we also use additional artificial lighting. In the Print Room, the light has intentionally been kept very low, to protect the prints and drawings from discolouration and fading. When the museum is used in the evening hours, of course, electric lights are used everywhere. The museum sometimes organises special guided tours of the permanent exhibitions by torchlight. The dates are announced in the Agenda. 

Finally, the main exhibition gallery (built in 1996) is naturally furnished with the most recent lighting technology.

What do fossils have in common with paintings, and scientific instruments with coins?
Pieter Teyler saw both art and science as ways of acquiring knowledge. This belief is wholly in tune with the Enlightenment, a crucial period of the 18th century. So although the collections are varied (palaeontology, mineralogy, scientific instruments, medals, coins, paintings and prints), together they make up a whole. You might compare the museum to an encyclopaedia, which helps you to understand the world.

What is the oldest part of the museum?
That is the Oval Room, in the heart of the present-day museum. It was the first museum room in the Netherlands, and is one of the parts of the building that makes the museum a unique attraction. One thing has changed, however. In the eighteenth century, visitors to the Oval Room did not come only to look at the objects displayed there: scientific instruments, drawings, books and rocks. Experiments were also conducted in this room, with the large electrical machine, for instance. In addition, scholars met here for lively debates. 

In December 2009, it was exactly 225 years since the Oval Room first opened. This anniversary was celebrated with a programme of activities, the opening of the museum's digital archives, and the creation of a special website about the first period of the museum's existence: Teylers Universe.

Where are the drawings by Rembrandt and Michelangelo?
Teylers Museum has an impressive collection of drawings and prints by artists including Rembrandt and Michelangelo. In fact, Teylers Museum is the only museum in the Netherlands that possesses 26 drawings by Michelangelo. Because of their delicacy, it is not possible to include these art treasures in the permanent exhibition all the time. Too much light would damage the objects. To enable the public to see what Teylers Museum has in its possession, extremely accurate replicas have been made, which can be studied from close by in the First Picture Gallery.

In 2005, Teylers Museum devoted a major exhibition to the work of Michelangelo, which attracted almost 100,000 visitors. A separate website was made for the occasion. Teylers receives frequent loan requests from international museums.

What was the building used for before it became a museum?
Teylers Museum has always been a museum; that is what makes it so unique. It is not a palace in which princely collections were displayed, but a building specifically designed as a museum. That all took place over 200 years ago. The architect Leendert Viervant designed the Oval Room at the end of the 18th century as an 'Books and Art Room'. Visitors came to admire the objects, besides which the room was also used for scientific experiments and as a meeting-place for scholarly debate. People wanted to find out about the world they lived in.

In those days, visitors reached the Oval Room by passing through Pieter Teyler's residence, the Foundation House. Later in the 19th century, new annexes were built beside the Oval Room, such as the Instruments Room, two Fossils Rooms, and the entrance hall. In addition, two picture galleries were built. At the end of the 20th century, the museum was expanded to include a modern Exhibition Gallery, a Print Room and Rare Books Room, a light and spacious museum café and the Education Centre. Other public facilities, such as the museum shop, have been added in the 21st century. The new buildings were designed by the architect Hubert-Jan Henket.

Why am I not allowed to manipulate the scientific instruments myself? Are demonstrations still given today?
The scientific instruments in the collections of Teylers Museum are delicate; many are unique historical specimens. However educational it would be to show how they work, it is impossible to use them for demonstrations, since this would endanger their preservation for the future. The museum guides try to make up for this by telling lively stories about the way the instruments worked.

The old laboratory of Nobel Prize laureate Hendrik Lorentz has been re-opened in the Foundation House, with items including an operational replica of his famous large electrical machine.

Why are there so many different labels, some of which are confusing or illegible?
Teylers Museum is the oldest museum in the Netherlands. It is the 'museum of museums': it demonstrates the history of collecting. Teylers Museum has chosen to allow its visitors to experience the history of the building and the collections in as authentic manner as possible. That's why you find information of different types, dating from many different periods, ranging from labels with written or typed information to audio guides. On the website, you can examine subjects in more depth. At the ticket desk, all visitors receive a concise guide to the museum, with background information about the different sections of the collection. 

What are those iron grilles I keep walking across?
When the 'New Museum' (the Spaarne wing) opened in 1885, it was equipped with the most advanced form of heating: underfloor heating. The beautiful decorative patterns on the iron grilles have remained a source of inspiration for artists and visitors to this day.

Where are the toilets, the café, the exhibition, the Print Room, the shop?
On the website you will find a floor plan indicating where everything is. You can also consult the concise guide to the museum that is handed out to all visitors at the ticket desk. A deliberate decision has been made to keep the number of signs in the building to a minimum, so as not to disrupt the authentic appearance of ‘the oldest museum in the Netherlands'. 

Can I visit the library and the other historical rooms on the first floor?
The library is one of the most atmospheric rooms in the museum. This beautiful room, built in 1885 as part of the 'new museum', is on the first floor. Unfortunately, members of the public are not permitted to enter the library during an ordinary visit. It is possible, however, to make an appointment for an exclusive guided tour. This tour will also take in the museum's historic auditorium. Click here for more information about booking a guided tour of the library.

The walls of the library are completely covered with bookcases. Freestanding bookcases placed at right angles to the walls divide the space into alcoves, in which reading tables have been placed. Just as in the Oval Room, there is a gallery with richly-decorated wrought-iron railings over half of the space, which visitors can reach by climbing some steps. The gallery shelves hold part of the collection of scientific journals, including the famous Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, London. In the middle of the room is a large table, beneath which are cabinets containing folio volumes. Light enters the room through the ceiling. 

There is no other library in the Netherlands with such a beautiful and complete collection of literature from the 18th and 19th centuries about botany, zoology, and the earth sciences. In total, the book and journal collection consists of more than 125,000 volumes. Major acquisitions continued to be made until approximately 1940. Since then, the library has no longer been a place for finding out about the latest scientific developments, but primarily as a museum room of historic interest. 

We are getting married in the near future, and would like to make a photo-reportage in Teylers Museum. Is that possible?
You cannot make a wedding photo shoot in Teylers Museum. It is possible to get married in the museum, however. The atmospheric 19th-century auditorium provides a superb ambiance for your wedding ceremony or partner registration. This room, where the great scholars of the 19th century gave their lectures, still has all its authentic decorations and furniture. The technology is modern. The room can seat about 150 people. Photographs can be taken, of course, during the ceremony. For more information, please contact Paul Rietveld. He will be happy to think through your plans with you. Paul can be reached at tel. +31 (0)23 553 1985 or prietveld@teylersmuseum.nl

Can you give me an estimate of the value of this painting/this medal/this fossil? My drawing is in poor condition: what should I do?
Teylers Museum does not give any opinions about the value of objects. If you are eager to know how much a particular object is worth, you should contact a certified valuer. For questions about restoration, you should contact a certified restorer.

I have a painting in my possession. Can you tell me who painted it?
For questions requiring expertise relating to paintings, you should contact the

Netherlands Institute of Art History (RKD),

Prins Willem Alexanderhof 5, 2595 BE The Hague 
Postal address: P.O. Box 90418, 2509 LK The Hague 
Tel. +31 (0)70 333 9777
Website: http://website.rkd.nl/