One of the city's most intriguing museums belongs to the Royal Institute for the Tropics, a foundation devoted to studying the cultures of tropical areas around the world. Its focus reflects Holland's centuries as a landlord in areas such as Indonesia, Surinam (on South America's northern coast), and the Caribbean islands of St. Maarten, Saba, St. Eustatius, Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao. The Tropical Institute building complex alone is worth the trip to Amsterdam East; its heavily ornamented 19th-century facade is an amalgam of Dutch architectural styles: turrets, stepped gables, arched windows, delicate spires, and the monumental galleried interior court -- a popular spot for concerts.
The museum's approach to its subject has matured considerably from its original 19th-century colonial pride and condescension -- indeed, it's become an antidote to those kinds of views. Its representation of contemporary issues such as the causes of poverty in the developing world and the depletion of the world's tropical rain forests is both considered and balanced.
The most interesting exhibits are the walk-through model villages and city-street scenes that, except for the lack of genuine inhabitants, capture daily-life moments. Stroll through a Nigerian village, wander an Arab souk, sit in a Mexico City bar or in a traditional yurt home of Central Asian nomads. Examine the tools and techniques used to produce batik (distinctively dyed Indonesian fabrics) and the instruments and ornaments that comprise a tropical residence.
Part of the premises is given over to the children-only Kindermuseum TM Junior. Before leaving the Tropenmuseum, take a snack or a drink at its tropically inspired cafe, Ekeko. The museum shop sells products from the tropics and developing countries.
- © Frommer's 2013
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- Highly Recommended 2009
- Recommended 2010