The Birth of the Museum
of Bags and Purses
Almost every museum owes its origins to a passion for collecting, and so it was with the Tassenmuseum Hendrikje (the Museum of Bags and Purses). As an antique dealer and collector, Hendrikje Ivo used to explore antique shops. She had always been intrigued by the trade in old artefacts and rarities.
One day, somewhere in the English countryside, she stumbled across a delightful purse. It was tortoise-shell with a mother-of-pearl inlay. This purse from the 1820s sparked a collection which eventually amounted to more than 5000 bags and purses; the largest collection of bags and purses in the world.
The collection reflects the history of the handbag in the Western world from the end of the Middle Ages to the present day. Famous designers such as Gucci, Prada, Hermès, Chanel, Emilio Pucci, Yves St. Laurent, Judith Leiber, Louis Vuitton and many more are part of this fabulous treasure trove.
A unique museum
Once they started collecting, the founders of the Museum of Bags and Purses, Hendrikje and her husband Heinz, searched everywhere for unique bags and purses with an unusual story or exceptional design, always having their eyes out for quality. Once they started making a serious study of bags and purses a more focused search began. They revisited England with its many antique stores and markets, but also made trips to Antwerp, Brussels and Ghent (Belgium) where they purchased lovely items.
Soon they wanted other people to enjoy the beauty of the bags and purses they collected, so they came up with a bold plan: a small-scale museum in their own house. This unique museum opened in 1996 and was an instant success.
After some years, however, their home proved too small to accommodate all of the visitors. Expansion was imperative, and, fortunately, they found a ministering angel: an anonymous Maecenas who wanted to bring the collection to a higher plane. He bought a beautiful 17th-century canal house that did justice to the collection. Hendrikje: ‘In 2007 we moved the Museum of Bags and Purses to this beautiful building.’