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De grote illusie

Opening The Grand Illusion - 200 Years of Virtual Realities

Delve into the world of optical illusions

Monday 19 February 2024

In the exhibition 'The Grand Illusion – 200 Years of Virtual Realities', Teylers Museum takes you back to the nineteenth century, to the roots of virtual reality, augmented reality and fakes. The exhibition room of the oldest museum in the Netherlands has been transformed into a house of mirrors, where visitors can experience nineteenh-century and contemporary illusions. From mirrors and projectors to the digital genius of AI: 'The Grand Illusion' shows that the fascination for illusions of yesterday is not so different from the experience of today. Until 1 September, have a look in the highlight of Teylers, the Kaiserpanorama, step inside a kaleidoscopic space, look through a VR headset and be entranced by images made by artificial intelligence - or are they? Roll up, roll up for 'The Grand Illusion'!

De grote illusie

Photography: Bastiaan van Musscher

Mass spectacle

A talking head on a table, a ghost appearing on stage, a stereoscope showing the Egyptian pyramids in three dimensions: in the nineteenth century, optical illusions became a mass spectacle. People gaped at the grandest and most astonishing optical effects, often created with the latest techniques and developments in science. With spectacular theatre acts and exciting attractions at funfairs, the public’s imagination was captured by this new and revolutionary kind of entertainment. Worlds usually out of reach and things impossible, now looking more real than reality: these virtual realities were fascinating. The audience loved it! Just as we now see a picture of the Pope in a trendy designer coat with astonishment: it is not possible, but it seems real. Concerns about the credibility of the realities created were also raised in the nineteenth century. On the basis of comparisons with today, The Grand Illusion once again poses the topical question: is seeing believing?


The Grand Illusion is the first exhibition in the Netherlands on the intersection of science, technology, theatre and mass entertainment. The scientific collection of Teylers Museum holds lots of material containing optical illusions, prompted by a fascination with the workings of the eye. The Rijksmuseum, Eye Filmmuseum, Cinématèque française and several private collectors and museums have contributed objects on loan. For public events, Teylers Museum works with Schuur Haarlem and the Rathenau Instituut. Researchers of the Rathenau Instituut will talk to visitors of Teylers Museum on 30 April and 2, 6 and 8 May about the results of their report on immersive technologies: technologies that immerse the user in an environment in which the boundary between the virtual and the physical world become obscured. There will also be a symposium in Teylers on June 21 for policymakers, politicians and other professionals who deal with this subject. From March 14, you can visit De Schuur for the cinematographic VR experience Naturally Immersive.

De grote illusie

Photography: Bastiaan van Musscher

Download the press kit of 'The Grand Illusion'

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