Self-playing musical instruments? That’s what the Museum Speelklok in Utrecht is all about and it’s one of the loveliest, most fun museums I’ve visited in a while.
Housed in the beautiful Buurkerk, one of the oldest churches in Utrecht, the Museum Speelklok is full of instruments from the 16th Century onwards that play lively, entertaining music.
There is a self-guided exhibition area which you are given a keycard for. You insert the keycard into the listening points and get to hear about the displays around you. There’s a good section of instruments you can try out for yourself and lots to look at, including large street instruments, ornate clocks for the home and other smaller instruments.
There is also a 10-minute interactive presentation to sit and enjoy, which details the history and stories of the instruments. I found it really interesting to know that the first of these types of instruments was created by a man who already made other coin-operated machines, such as coffee machines, cigarette machines and chewing gum machines, and that instruments which played the music of some of the most-renowned composers at the time (Mozart, Handel, Haydn, etc) were the ones most sought after and also the most expensive!There’s a guided tour every hour which lasted around 45 minutes. The guide showed us a range of self-playing and mechanical instruments, explaining how they work using specially created music books that have little cut out sections or using small metal barrels with strategically-placed pins. He was really knowledgeable and happy to present in English and Dutch. We even had a sing-a-long to one instrument and a child in the audience was also able to help with one of the machines.There is such a great range of displays; from small instruments found in wealthy households to ones played by an organ grinder in the street to huge, beautifully painted orchestral ones used for balls and dances.
This one stood around 5 metres tall and played really loud music that made you want to dance – take a listen:
Until 8 April 2018, the Museum Speelklok has a temporary exhibit called “Shady Songs on Majestic Musical Clocks” – best exhibition name ever! These clocks play ‘naughty’ songs – with lyrics that focus on a comical side of life including drunkenness and erotic adventures. This was very entertaining and I can only imagine how risqué this would have been in the 18th Century.
Whilst I maybe wouldn’t recommend this section for kids, the rest of the Museum Speelklok is great for a younger audience. They even have a treasure trail to spot Toon, a little crocheted organ monkey who sits throughout the exhibits.
Can you spot Toon sat up on the left? Recognise this tune…
If I had to describe the Museum Speelklok in Utrecht in one word, it would be “joyous”. It left me feeling really upbeat and with a smile on my face, and I definitely learnt something new.
Time spent here: 1hr30
Cost: €12.00 adult / €6.50 kids / free with a Museumkaart