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The Netherlands is like a giant candy store for museum lovers; they are everywhere and about everything ranging from classical to contemporary art in multiple mediums, history, religion, architecture, anatomy and science.

As a museum lover myself, I have been wondering how to instill this love of art and culture into our son. How does one go about interesting a seven year old in Kandinsky or Giacometti? Jan Steen or Rembrandt? Thus far, I only have a partial answer; through repeated exposure so it is like part of his or her cultural landscape. Thus our museum passport project.

A few weeks ago, I took my son to Museon, a popular museum for kids in The Hague with hands-on exhibits about science, animals, minerals, geography and much more. We stopped by the gift store before we entered the museum and I let him pick out a tiny notebook. When we checked in with our museum card, I asked the cashier if she had anything to stamp my son’s museum passport. She located a stamp with the museum address and stamped his passport with the air of an official, and just like that, we gained access to a new world!

We explored a photo exhibit of endangered animals across the world, we tried our hand with an interactive exhibit on how to tell the difference between counterfeit items and the originals; we played a game with a robotic arm that moved from player to player, dropping discs into slots based on the buttons you pushed. At the end of our visit, we wrote up our favorite exhibits.

On another day, we headed to Naturalis in Leiden, receiving the second stamp in our homemade passport. This time I brought an iPad to do a bit of photo documentation and my son helped choose the items that he deemed worthy of sharing. I think his favorite item was an exhibit that combined million year old dinosaur eggs with with contemporary technology. Here is the video one would never have thought possible: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4MtbAorp1aQ

They say seven is the age of reason. I say it’s the age of manipulation negotiation. My son negotiated with me on day one of our museum adventures that after 10 museum visits, he is eligible for a present. It certainly does help with motivation.

An elitist, outrageously expensive project? Not necessarily. The Netherlands has an amazing concept called the Museum Card. You can purchase a Museum Card (MuseumKaart) for 45 euro a year, gaining access to about 400 museums throughout the Netherlands. Considering access to most museums ranges from 10 to 20 euros per visit, you make your money back very quickly. Occasionally, a museum on the list will be having a special exhibit, requiring an additional fee of 2 or 3 euros, but this is a small pittance considering the world to which you are gaining access.

I know that 45 euro is a lot of money, especially if you only go to the museum once in a while. One amazing thing about the socialistic nature of this country, is that they also think about cultural access for those of lesser financial means. Thus, if you fall into this category and happen to live in The Hague, you and your family members do not need to be shut out of cultural opportunities. Consider looking into the Ooievaarspas, a program offered through the city of The Hague that provides lower-income residents with free or discounted access to many cultural and educational programs in and around The Hague.

Other ways to keep this project smooth sailing and within budget is to pack plenty of healthy snacks and beverages and avoid the gift store and museum cafe for anything more than a coffee.

Want to join the museum crusade? Make your own Museum Passport and start visiting museums in your area.

(If you are a member of homeland security, the NCA, AIVD or FBI visiting my blog due to that dubious blog title, I apologize for the scare. This is about the homemade Museum Passport project my son and I started this January and why you might want to join in on this mission. When I say you, I don’t necessarily mean you law enforcement types, though I am not opposed to the idea).

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