There are very few Museums in the world that will appeal to both parents AND kids at the same time. After all, there are things that are intellectually stimulating for adults that are completely way over a child's head... and the stuff that is really interesting for kids tends to be a bit tedious for adults!
Of course, in modern times, the museums have attempted to present information and artefacts in a more interactive fashion in order to engage adults and children alike... but some are going to be more successful than others... and sometimes, it is nothing more than the sorts of things and topics that they are trying to present to the public.
Now the, Speelklok Museum in the Dutch city of Utrecht is one of the really cool ones that both adults and children (in my family at least...) found to be pretty engaging and interesting. I mean, a museum that is dedicated to old fashioned mechanical music making machines... well, the music itself is pretty cool to everyone, the mechanics is pretty interesting to many kids and adults... and the music replication is pretty nerdily interesting to musicians like me (they are a sort of rough record of what music was like BEFORE audio recordings!).
One little bit of an embarrassing aside... I had visited this museum many times as it is the home of the Early Music markets in the yearly festival... and although all the interesting mechanical instruments were all around, I was always distracted by the concept of new musical shinies and books for my own collection that all the people were selling! It actually took us quite some time before we actually visited the museum as it was designed to be visited!
The museum is located in the centre of the city of Utrecht, within easy walking distance to the main train station and surrounded by the main shopping district... so, easy enough to wander out for snacks and lunch if you need to!
Originally, the place was a church (de Buurkerk)... and if the large cavernous stone main hall is anything to go by, it was likely a Lutheran or Protestant church, as that is a similar design to many of the Protestant churches in the Netherlands region. Thankfully, no longer as cold and freezing as many of them still are...
Some of the highlights of the collection are the gigantic mechanical street organs that are housed near the entrance of the museum. If you manage to, take one of the guided tours where they will play many of these behemoths... and be prepared, they are LOUD! They are designed to project and play outside... so, no surprise that they are crazy loud when they are indoors!
They are a bit kitsch, but such great artefacts... and they are a damn sight more impressive than the little ones that you see on the streets these days!
As you head out into the main hall, you are met with two levels of glass displays and large presentations. They range from the quite beautiful wood clocks through to the slightly bizarre and strange... through to the clear artifacts of a very very different age with very very different ideas of acceptable morality!
So, if you are in the Netherlands and looking for things to do with your family... the Speelklok Museum is definitely worth a visit. There are also many other interesting Museums in Utrecht as well... another favourite was the train museum, but that is a little bit further out (still walkable, but the kids will complain!).
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