A 3D printer, virtual reality glasses and touch screens: the newly opened Museum Rotterdam is doing all it can to excite its visitors about the past, present and future of Rotterdam. You will find no accounts of famous figures such as Rembrandt or Desiderius Erasmus here, but a glimpse into the life of Antillean cake-maker Joyce and born-and-bred ‘Rotterdammert’ Max.

Bottle bank

For years the Museum Rotterdam roved the city, but since last week it has had a permanent place. The city museum is housed in the Timmerhuis, designed by OMA, the firm run by architect Rem Koolhaas. The latest creation by Koolhaas, who also gave the city the largest building in the Netherlands, ‘De Rotterdam’, is described by him as ‘a glass cloud’. The Timmerhuis building dating from the fifties and its modern superstructure together make an edifice with large spaces and plenty of natural light, making this ‘bottle bank’ ideal for exhibitions.

In line with the current trend in the museum world, the museum is far more than a collection of civic relics. It gives you the opportunity to get to know Rotterdam and its people better. Five of them are brought to life in life-size statues. At the foot of the statue, we learn about Joyce’s cakes and Max’s green fingers from a city map and a short documentary. As well as discovering their passions, you can read their list of favourite things, including descriptions of their favourite food and item of clothing.

Cake-making and woollen jumpers

The five Rotterdammers spotlighted by the museum are all ordinary people. Unlike Rembrandt’s paintings, Max’s vegetable gardens are not sold at auction for millions, and Joyce hasn’t written a philosophical masterpiece. That doesn’t make their stories any the less interesting, but it takes some getting used to reading in a museum about cake-making and Max’s favourite woollen jumper. Perhaps that goes to show that it really was time for ordinary men and women to take their place in a museum. Too bad that these personal stories are mostly told through screens and plastic statues: ideally, you would like to speak to the protagonists in person. I will be making another visit to the Museum Rotterdam soon, but it will be at the Saturday market with fries in hand.

Would you too like to see the genuine Rotterdammers at the Museum Rotterdam? Students who produce their student card can visit the newly opened city museum for 3.75 euros.