Located on the Herengracht, Amsterdam's "De Kattenkabinet" does not jump out at you as strongly as the city's other museums; but then again, neither is it a museum as much as a private gallery of all things cats. Located in an old merchant's house on one of the city's major canals, the Cat Cabinet was founded in 1990 by William Meijer. Meijer was a wealthy Dutchman intent on preserving the memory of his beloved cat Tom.
Before you jump to the conclusion that the Cat Cabinet is Cat Lady Central, let me stop you right there. Instead of being home to piles of tacky cat memorabilia, the museum prides itself on only showcasing the best examples of art that features cats in a central capacity. Moreover, the tone of the museum is unmistakably humorous. The exhibit does not take itself too seriously, and instead presents its treasures in an almost too rigid manner that cannot help but provoke a smile on the faces of all its visitors. For example, a few years ago, the Cat Cabinet published a heartily entertaining "Kat-alogus" (CAT-alogue, geddit?) that has since become a collector's item.
The Cat Cabinet, nevertheless, is taken seriously by larger institutions such as the Rijksmuseum and the Museum Van Gogh, with which it often collaborates on projects and exhibits. Paintings, sculptures, books and posters are exhibited in a serious manner, and likenesses of much of the art is available for purchase in the form of prints and posters in the gift shop as well as online.
Unsurprisingly, the museum is ruled by five cats of its on who live on the premises of the building. The building that houses the museum is gorgeous enough to have its own museum. It was originally built by wealthy brothers Adrian and William van Look in 1667. The brothers built two identical houses next to each other and then flipped a coin for who would live in each house - William got the building that is now home to the Kattenkabinet. Due to its long history, the house has been stayed in by such incredible figures of the past as American President John Adams and mayor of Amsterdam Jan Calkoen. Most of today's interior dates back to the 19th century, although its current splendor is due to renovations made in recent times by the current owner. In fact, the owner continues to reside on the second floor of the building and you may even bump into him when you visit.
Overall, the Cat Cabinet is a break from the many serious and intellectually tiring exhibits that dot Amsterdam. If you need a break from high art and history, the Cat Cabinet is the perfect getaway and is guaranteed to put a smile on the faces of all cat lovers and cat likers.
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