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When is a museum not a museum? [May 2, 2011]

Took aged parents to the new Grachtenmuseum - canal museum - on the Herengracht. A wonderful spring day with brilliant blue skies and a pesky wind blasting the elm seeds everywhere.

The building is imposing, the staff (and there are lots and lots of them) are cheerful and attentive, but is it a museum? Not really. Infotainment at its very best more like. It's not full of things to look at and be amazed by - its a computer-generated audio-visual tour.

Coats off way down in the basement, pay for your ticket on the ground floor and pick up your headset and then move upstairs.

Its all very clever and well done. Room 1 contains a raw white model of Amsterdam in the beginnings, while the voice and special effects relay the early history.

Room two is a plain room with table and chairs and covers the expansion of the city - the members of the planning committee speak while maps and plans unroll on the table and disappear.

Room three is a bit odd. A musical accompaniment to a sort of Bob the Builder animation of piles being hammered in. No info at all as to what it is about or what is happening for the beginner. A misser.

Room four, or was it five is huge screens with a compilation of film footage about Amsterdam - from squatters riots and speed boat chases on the canals - not sure which film. All commentary in Dutch so we dispensed with the headsets while I did a quick translation.

Room five or four was the best - a huge dolls house with hologram characters which moved and told stories and round the edge of the room a frieze of canal houses with peepholes showing pictures, photos and reconstructions. Lots of fun but again, a little short on info and high on tainment.

There are also three stijlkamers - period rooms, which are lacking in furniture but fine rooms anyway and, apparently, also available for rent. Which makes me slightly suspicious about the whole concept.

Indeed, the very cheery staff were happy to tell me that they were also planning to set up this special online facility for booking guided tours around the area.... No sign of that as yet... but obviously another spin-off.

Entrance ticket was eight euros - was it worth it? For the digital generation who like a touch of history probably - for people who like to look at old things, no.

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