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Archive photo Teylers Museum

The Building

Teylers Museum as a time machine

The building of the oldest museum in the Netherlands - with the monumental Ovale Hall at its heart - is a museum piece in itself, a time machine. The rooms all have a unique character and breathe the atmosphere of the 18th and 19th centuries.

Wybrand Hendriks, 'Hallway and Stairs of The Pieter Teyler House', 1814.

Wybrand Hendriks, 'Hallway and Stairs of The Pieter Teyler House', 1814.

The Pieter Teyler House

This unique house – now a listed building – was Pieter Teyler’s home from 1740 until his death in 1778. Here, he defined his dreams in the testament that led to building Teylers Museum. As part of your visit to the museum, you are a guest at the Pieter Teyler House. Marvel at its splendid rooms, some of which are among the best-preserved 18th-century rooms in the Netherlands. You will also find current exhibitions and activities here, consistent with Teyler’s most important dream: a better world for all.

Discover The Pieter Teyler House

Oval Room

Following Pieter Teyler’s death, the five directors of Teylers Foundation set about building a museum. In 1784, the Oval Room, designed by Leendert Viervant, arose in his backyard. In this impressive space, the museum staff exhibited the latest art and science to the public according to Teyler’s ideals.  

Johan Conrad Greive, The Oval Room with Visitors, 1862.

Johan Conrad Greive, The Oval Room with Visitors, 1862.

The Oval Room

The Oval Room

Large Room

The Large Room was redesigned at the same time as the Oval Room by Leendert Viervant and was the main entrance to the museum until 1885. This space was the beating heart of the museum for a long time. From here you could go straight into the museum hall, up the stairs to the observatory or through the door into the laboratory. Lectures, demonstrations and art viewings were given here and Teylers Stichting and the Genootschappen met there.

The 'Large Room' of The Pieter Teylers House.

The 'Large Room' of The Pieter Teylers House.

A Dynamic Centre of Knowledge

In the Oval Room, inquisitive visitors could see the latest scientific instruments in operation, during live experiments, demonstrations and lectures. The large electrostatic generator was frequently put to work, too. Art lovers and students studied drawings and prints down to the smallest detail; nature lovers could get up close to the most beautiful minerals and fossils. The cabinets on the first floor hold countless books, to be studied in the room.

Barent de Bakker, Martinus van Marum's Large Electrostatic Generator in the Oval Room, 1800.

Barent de Bakker, Martinus van Marum's Large Electrostatic Generator in the Oval Room, 1800.

The Oval Room, first floor

The Oval Room, first floor

Observatory

Above the Oval Room is a small observatory that was built simultaneously with the room. It was intended for astronomical and possibly meteorological observations, for which a weather vane on the roof is readable inside on the ceiling. The observatory was equipped with special chairs, which have been preserved, to easily look through the telescopes. In 1790, the large Herschel telescope from Teylers collection was purchased and used by Van Marum in the observatory. From a visitor's report, it is known that this special telescope was also - or still - there in 1808. Nowadays, this telescope and the smaller ones are set up in the Oval Room.

Archive photo Lorentz Lab

Archive photo Lorentz Lab

18th-century Expansions

Shortly after the Oval Room opened, in 1790, a physics laboratory was fitted out especially for the first director, Martinus van Marum. It is adjacent to the Pieter Teyler House and was the first physics lab in the Netherlands. All the equipment of the age necessary for experiments in physics and chemistry was present there. Physicists who did not have the funds or facilities to carry out these tests on their own could get to work at Teylers Museum. This room was later converted into the Lorentz Lab.

19th-century Expansions

Very soon after Teylers Museum opened, the Oval Room became too small for the new collections and the many activities. In 1826, a new wing opened, with two rooms for lectures and the geology collection on the ground floor, and upstairs, a Reading Room with library. The ground-floor rooms served, successively, as a palaeontology museum, demonstration room and picture gallery. These are now furnished as exhibition space for the Numismatic Collection and the Prints Cabinet.

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Archive photo Teylers Museum

Archive photo Teylers Museum

The ‘New Museum'

Sixty years after the extra wing had opened in 1826, Teylers Museum again needed to expand. The ‘New Museum’, which opened in 1885. The monumental facade by Christian Ulrich, facing the Spaarne, lends Teylers Museum metropolitan allure, with beautiful decorations referencing the arts and sciences. The interior by Adrianus van der Steur Jr. comprises three new rooms: two for fossils and one for scientific instruments. Upstairs a Lecture Room and a second library, the Opkamer, or upstairs room, were added.

Fossil Rooms

The arrangement of the display cases and objects in these rooms is virtually unchanged since they were furnished in 1885. The fossils and rocks are still largely organized according to the system of that time. This collection was purchased at the time as source material for future research: on the origin and extinction of species and on man’s place in nature. In the original historical display cases, you can read back through the entire development of palaeontology – the study of the fossilized traces of living beings – as a science.

Archive photo Second Fossil Room, ca. 1900

Archive photo Second Fossil Room, ca. 1900

Archive photo Instrument Room

Archive photo Instrument Room

Instrument Room

Ten large display cases hold scientific instruments once used in this museum building for experiments and demonstrations in the natural sciences. Packed closely together, as is customary in laboratory cabinets. These objects are tangible evidence of scientific progress through the centuries. How does one preserve sound? Can it be sent through the air? Can electricity be controlled? In the middle is the large electrostatic generator of 1784, moved here from its original location in the Oval Room a century later.

Magicians’ Cabinet

Between the Instrument Room and the Oval Room is a special side cabinet furnished for a unique collection of 18th-century magicians’ devices. Almost everything is made of wood and was made in the Netherlands. With secret drawers and hidden strings and magnets, a magician would astonish the audience with seemingly impossible tricks. A wise man of the East who knows the answers to all your questions, a cards cabinet, a magic marbles house… The magician’s secret? You can find out with the interactive touchscreen.

Magicians’ Cabinet

Magicians’ Cabinet

Luminescence Cabinet

Luminescence Cabinet

Luminescence Cabinet

Between the Instrument Room and the Oval Room is a small, dark room, with lighting that briefly comes on, by itself, and then quickly switches off again. The idea is to demonstrate the phenomenon of phosphorescence. For a long time, this was a scientific riddle: substances that give off light. In this side cabinet, you experience how this effect comes about.

Lecture Room

In 1885, Teylers Museum was a dynamic research institute where demonstrations and lectures would often take place. The Lecture Room holds about 150 people, who would engage in debates on the arts and sciences. At the front of the room is a demonstration table, with connections for gas, water and electricity, where scholars were able to demonstrate tests in the natural sciences. Lectures are still held here today, but weddings and receptions regularly take place here, too.

The Library of Teylers Museum.

The Library of Teylers Museum.

Upstairs Room

The scent of wood and books, and also the magical incidence of light take you back in time. This library holds the most beautiful and important books on natural history from the 18th and 19th centuries. Travelogues, astronomical treatises and periodicals of learned societies have held a place of honour in the cabinets for 150 years. The room and its contents are priceless and also extremely vulnerable – so they can only be admired during guided tours.

20th-century Expansions

In 1996, Teylers Museum expanded with the construction of a modern wing, in order to preserve the original 18th- and 19th-century furnishings of the old buildings. Space was created here for temporary exhibitions, in the Exhibition Room, the Book Cabinet and the Numismatic Cabinet. The Educational Pavilion was designed for interactive activities. And visitors can truly relax in the museum café situated in the Garden Room. This new addition, designed by Hubert-Jan Henket, seamlessly harmonizes with the existing parts of the building. The design’s transparent style was intended to allow as much daylight in as possible. In 2002, a new museum shop and a refurbished entrance were also realized.  

Archive photo cafe

Archive photo cafe

Numismatic Cabinet

Numismatic Cabinet

Hendrik Antoon Lorentz (1853 – 1928)

Hendrik Antoon Lorentz (1853 – 1928)

Lorentz Lab

From its opening in 1784 until the early 20th century, Teylers Museum was a centre of active scientific research, the results of which a wide audience could see with their own eyes. Did you know Nobel prize winner Hendrik Antoon Lorentz had his own laboratory here from 1909 until his death in 1928? Important scientists, including Einstein, visited him there. With the refurbishment and opening of the former lab, Teylers Museum has brought Lorentz’s physics collection back to life. In the renovated Lorentz Lab, secondary school pupils carry out experiments with electricity. They use replicas of the original scientific instruments.

Restoration

The history of Teylers Museum resonates in the creaking parquet. It lives on in all the objects, display cases, stairways, terrazzo floors, wooden shutters and cast iron heating registers. This authentic interior demands a great deal of love and care. Before any maintenance and all restoration, specialists carry out extensive research: into the original colours under the various coats of paint, into the colours of curtains and into the original design of a room.

Restoration of The Pieter Teylers House.

Restoration of The Pieter Teylers House.

Photo: Johan Nieuwenhuize.

Recent Work

Between 2010 and 2011, the Oval Room was comprehensively addressed: the wainscoting, the woodwork, the bookcases, the display cases, the guard rail … everything was cleaned and restored. Starting in 2013, restorers worked for three years on the interior of the stately residence of Pieter Teyler on Damstraat: when the Pieter Teyler House opened to the public in 2022, its resemblance to the original 18th-century property was astonishing.

In 2013-2014, the First and the Second Picture Galleries were returned to their original state. It was the Fossil Rooms’ turn in 2020: from the shutters to the back walls of the display cases and from the terrazzo floors to the cast iron heating registers: everything was restored as accurately as possible to its 19th-century state. What is most authentic? This would, of course, be the experience of viewing the fossils by daylight, as before!

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Spaarne 16, 2011 CH Haarlem

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