The Museum of Bags and Purses, located in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, is a unique museum, the largest of its kind in the world, devoted to historic handbags, purses, and suitcases that range from the Middle Ages through to the present.
The museum’s collection includes 4,000 items dating back to the 16th century.
This private museum was set up by an antiques dealer from Amstelveen, Hendrijke Ivo. Her lifelong fascination with bags started when she came across an ancient green tortoiseshell purse dating back to 1820. She was just charmed by the object, and fascination changed into a real passion of gathering extraordinary handbags.
For more than 35 years, with help from her husband Heinz and her daughter Sigrid, Hendrikje collected more than 4000 bags. She soon decided to show part of the collection to the public.
The museum originally opened in Amstelveen in 1996, but as the collection grew, in 2007 it moved into a 17th Century patrician house at the Herengracht, Amsterdam’s most prestigious canal.
Visitors get to see how the bag has developed over hundreds of years in terms of both design and materials used (including a variety of animal skins).
Among the highlights, there are Margaret Thatcher’s iconic handbag and a Versage evening bag worn by Madonna for the première of the movie Evita.
Today, the Museum of Bags and Purses is a serious institution. Aside from the permanent historical collection, the museum holds temporary themed exhibitions where young designers, mostly Dutch, have a chance to show their work to a larger audience.