History

Anyone who opens the museum's heavy door on the bank of the River Spaarne sees at a glance what it is that inspires such enthusiasm. The museum breathes the atmosphere of the 18th and 19th centuries – the Age of the Enlightenment – when people were busily gathering knowledge about the world. Teylers Museum is a world in itself, one that you will never forget.

All in its Original State

Teylers Museum is the best-preserved 18th-century public knowledge institution for the arts and sciences in the world. It has been open to the public since 1784, welcoming all those who are eager to look at paintings and drawings by the Old Masters, magnificent minerals, ingenious scientific instruments, precious books, and centuries-old fossils.

The museum's interior alone, with the monumental Oval Room as pièce de resistance, is a truly remarkable attraction. It is the only authentic 18th-century museum interior in the world. More than 110,000 people visit the museum every year.

Pieter Teyler

Pieter Teyler van der Hulst (1702-1778) never visited the museum that bears his name. He had been dead for six years by the time Teylers Museum opened to the public, in 1784. On his death, the wealthy banker and silk merchant left his house at Damstraat 21, along with his collection of books, drawings, prints, coins and medals and his entire fortune of two million guilders (which would be equivalent today to approximately 80 million euros) to a foundation to be named after him: the Teylers Foundation.

The Spirit of the Enlightenment

As a man steeped in the ideals of the Enlightenment, Pieter Teyler believed in the great benefits to be gained from acquiring knowledge. He was a collector, and felt it important to create a place in which ordinary people could explore the world. Teylers Museum became that place. Ever since then, famous scholars from all over the world have visited the museum for research and exchanges of views. Others have come to look at works of art. This has been going on for 230 years, and the institution's relevance is undiminished today.

The Ideals of Pieter Teyler

Like his father, Pieter Teyler van der Hulst (1702-1778) was a successful silk merchant; from 1763 onwards, however, he became more active in the financial world. As a typical representative of the Enlightenment, Teyler had a wide range of interests in the arts and sciences, which he valued as ways of enriching society and humanity in general. He built up collections in both fields. He also took a keen interest in theology. In 1728 he married Helena Wijnands Verschaven. In 1756, shortly after his wife's death, Pieter Teyler drew up his last will and testament.

Teyler's Bequest

In his will, Pieter Teyler wrote that his considerable fortune of two million guilders (roughly 80 million euros) should go to a new foundation, and named five of his friends to serve as its directors. One of the primary goals of the new foundation was to promote theology, the sciences, and the arts. Teylers Foundation is still active in these areas, for instance through the essay contests that are set annually by the two learned societies that have been part of the foundation since 1778. Charity and poor relief are also part of the mission of the Teylers Foundation. 

After the death of Pieter Teylers in 1778, the ownership of his house on Damstraat and his collections of books, and items of natural history, numismatics, and draughtsmanship passed to the Foundation. In 1779, the Foundation's first directors commissioned the young architect Leendert Viervant to design a 'Books and Art Room' behind the Foundation House (Fundatiehuis, where Pieter Teyler had lived). The result was the Oval Room, which opened to the public in 1784. Before long, the minutes of the Foundation's meetings started to refer to this room as the 'museum', a concept that was still quite new at the time. In this way, the first museum of the Netherlands was born. And it is still there.