In the modest catering department of the Museum for the 20th Century in Hoorn, two employees look at each other, sigh deeply and then burst into laughter. “We’re really not used to these crowds,” one of them says to a grandfather and grandmother, who are slumped together in a chair, very tired.
A visit to the exhibition 90 years of Lego at the museum, this Christmas break is an, er, intense experience for those who don’t have fifty wildly enthusiastic children around them every day. By taking over the collection from a deceased collector, the museum has scored a direct hit, Lego is still so popular even after almost a century. And if you see the children building their tables themselves after a tour of the museum room in the room next door – tongues dangling from their mouths for maximum concentration – you, as an adult, will also prefer to participate. Well thought out by the museum: the children can place their constructions in display cabinets that they have just seen at the exhibition.
Make a tool from the last century and the Museum of the 20th Century has it in its collection. “And that includes the most popular toy of the century, Lego,” says museum director Hans Stuijfbergen. The huge collection in his museum therefore does not consist so much of art, Lego is ‘not that either’. “But you can make art out of it. We really want to do that in the new year and invite architects and artists to work with our huge stock of Lego.”
The museum’s truck is driving again today from North Holland to Wagenberg in Brabant, to pick up a new load of Lego bricks from Paul van Boekhout’s very extensive collection. In the village, between 2016 and his death in 2020, he ran Mini Billund, shop, showroom, museum and construction site for Lego. Van Boekhout’s heirs have sold the entire collection (Stuijfbergen: ‘hundreds of thousands of stones, if not millions, we haven’t counted them’) to the museum.
Lego made of wood
The exhibition is already a crowd puller, but the entire collection has not yet been transferred to Hoorn. Stuijfbergen: “In any case, we wanted to do something with Lego this year because of the anniversary.” In 1932, the Danish carpenter Ole Kirk Christiansen began making toys in Billund under the name Lego, derived from the Danish. put god (toy). In the beginning, Lego was made of wood, as for example one of the exhibits from the collection, which can already be seen in the museum: a wooden duck on wheels.
The animal is in the Lego room upon entry. Stuijfbergen and his colleagues have tried to stick to the chronology, but primarily want to show a lot of different Lego in the overcrowded display cases. People in their forties languish over the Lego bricks of their youth, their children in a beautiful Lego city with a packed basketball stadium around which an NS train circles. They point out to their parents a huge Eiffel Tower, the Taj Mahal and six (!) Lego Statues of Liberty. A boy of about 11 years old exclaims the Lego-Woody in amazement Toy Story for him is greater than himself. Duplo, Fabuland, thirty series of dolls (minifigures), Lego for the Chinese market, a Lego chessboard, Disney figures – it won’t be art, but the room is colorful and fascinating.
Anthill of mini people
And it’s busy. An anthill of mostly miniature people on the shores of the IJsselmeer. Also sometimes cozy after corona, calculates director Stuijfbergen: “Like so many cultural institutions, we have had half as many visitors in the past two years. And this year we have not yet reached our old level. People still prefer to stay at home, you hear that everywhere in the cultural sector. But with this busyness in the Christmas holidays, I think it will be ok in 2023.”