Dinosaurs of Vlaardingen


Ah, the glamorous lifestyle of the dinosaur blogger. It’s a life full of fast cars, fancy clothes, exclusive parties, sexy people of all genders and, don’t forget, exotic locations all around the world.

Today we are in Vlaardingen! It’s a historic fishing town in the greater Rotterdam area. Rotterdam is famed for both its bizarre architecture and interesting museums. Not to be outdone, Vlaardingen has some of its own to offer in both categories.

The collection of Museum Vlaardingen is mostly connected to the history of the town, with a big exhibtion on fisheries, some archaeological finds from the Middle Ages and art exhibitions both modern and classical by local artists. The building itself is fairly interesting, consisting of a number of half-broken 18th century warehouses, more or less engulfed by a modern framework. One thing the museum doesn’t have is a palaeontological collection.

But never fear: this season, Museum Vlaardingen is home to a dino exhibition! I happened to randomly stumble upon this place on my way to a gig, so I decided to make some time to check it out a week later. Last time I went impromptu to a dinosaur exhibition, I was well pleased. That was of course at Natura Docet in Denekamp, a museum whose curator is a well-known palaeontologist. How would this exhibition on the other side of the country compare?

Guarding the entrance is this JP-inspired raptor. The signage explains the difference between Velociraptor and Deinonychus, and also shows a feathered one. Someone at least knows something, although it’s all a bit strange in the way it’s presented… Upon buying my ticket, I was warned that the dino exhibition was catered towards children (even though the website did say “fun for all ages”, nothing gets past me). I don’t mind. After all, “meant for children” doesn’t have to mean it’s bad or boring.

Here’s another “raptor” guarding the entrance to the exhibition rooms. The dino exhibition is downstairs, the fishery exhibition is up. I like the juxtaposition of the dodgy dinosaur and the ornamental coronet with Dutch flags. This is a patriotic dinosaur! Yeah, it’s a pretty ugly green stripy thing whose dull visage doesn’t even sell “scary” the way the JP raptor did. Nor is it hilariously bizarre like the Paradise Park dinosaurs. It’s still pretty goofy, and I was low-key hoping for more of this, but in terms of full-sized dinosaur models, this is our lot.

Much dinosaur very wow.

And here it all is, in a single downstairs room that might once have been the cellar of a warehouse.

Let’s turn to the left and look at the single glass display cabinet that has some fossils to look at. There’s claws, teeth and some replica skulls. That’s nice. This is the only point where the exhibit looks even slightly like a museum.

What else do we get? Toys. Lots of toys. Seriously, toys as museum exhibits*. I gave Paradise Park a hard time for it and Museum Vlaardingen is even more straight-faced about it. Here’s some toys stuffed in a big glass diorama. There’s more of this, too. And they’re not exactly the most amazing dinosaur toys. Observe how BOTH the different Papo T. rexes are in here. It’s obviously something someone put a certain degree of effort into. But it’s still a bunch of toys.

*If Marc ever does open the Dinosaur Toy Museum, I will eat all my words here.

Enough effort even to have a little water effect here, with marine reptiles under the surface and Papo Spino half-submerged.

And on the other end, a desert of cracked mud with herbivores. I feel sorry for putting this down as it’s obviously been put together with some care. I imagine a good diorama can, if done well, transport you back in time, but in this case… it really is just a big glass case with a bunch of toys in.

The rest of the room consists of Activities for Children. This life-sized print of an Allosaurus skellington – with a 3D skull attached – is the centerpiece. Kids can take some of the bones off and attempt to match them with the rest of the skeleton.

And here, you can throw a rubber chicken into the dinosaur’s mouth! I bet you didn’t expect to be doing that at a museum. This is one of the most random things I’ve ever seen. Yes, the sign does say that chickens are dinosaurs so this is all very scientific don’tchaknow. Parents are implicitly tasked with the responsiblity of making sure the chickens go back into their basket.

Here’s another opportunity for your kids to make a great big mess. There’s also the classic “dig up a dinosaur skeleton from under a pile of sand” box.

The wall on the right hand side is occupied by these big cardboard information signs that have “Graphic Desgin Is My Passion” written all over them… in fonts from Power Point ’95. The information on the sign is not wrong (although the tendency to spell T-Rex with a dash makes me cry on the inside a little) but the artwork and overall look is just a bit naff. Especially with those generic stock CG dinosaurs everywhere. I have no idea who curated this exhibition, but they are relatively up to date on their dinosaurs while simultaneously not having updated their computer in at least 25 years.

The hadrosaur egg is the genuine article, though.

Here’s the obligatory ripoff of the famous Giraffe-Georgia-Giant Pterosaur meme. I kind of like how amazed the Georgia stand-in looks. The photographed giraffe and the CG azhdarchid don’t even appear to be inhabiting the same world.

Much more intriguing are these printed artworks on the wall. Very old and outdated, but charming and atmospheric at that. I couldn’t find any accreditation here, but it makes for interesting Vintage Dinosaur Art if nothing else.

I do love a nice classroom poster, especially when the art is this hokey. The Allosaurus and Tyrannosaurus are attacking their relative prey in almost the very same pose.

…And that’s the exhibition. What can we say about that time the dinosaurs came to Vlaardingen?

We must judge everything on its own merits. Comparing this to the Denekamp exhibiton of 2021 is hardly fair. I appreciate that not everyone has a big pile of money lying around to display a fully mounted giant theropod, and I want to be fair. Obviously, there wasn’t much space and budget available, and I do see definite signs of a certain amount of passion behind all this. Given that fact, is this the best they could have done? If you or a I have limited space and limited funds and are tasked to build a kid-friendly dinosaur exhibition, is this what we would come up with? Probably, no. Could something better have been put in its place? Probably, yes. Though it was a lightly attended Saturday, I did see some kids walking around; they seemed to like it well enough. I guess that could be the end of the discussion; the target audience approves, so what more do we want? But I keep thinking we could stand to hold kids’ media to higher standards.

It wasn’t a wasted day. The rest of the museum was interesting enough, a modern remake of the Bayeux Tapestry (depicting the battle of Vlaardingen rather than the battle of Hastings) being a particular highlight. With the weather being good and Vlaardingen being 15 minutes away from the beach, I ended up having a nice day. Living that glamorous, bohemian life. But this is one dinosaur exhibition I can’t really recommend in good faith. Nevertheless, I’ll conclude by saying that if you want to visit anyway, the museum is just around the corner from the Vlaardingen Centrum metro station and the dinosaur exhibition runs until August 20.

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  • Reply
    Zain Ahmed
    May 1, 2023 at 10:44 am

    As someone who really doesn’t like the idea/stereotyoe of dinosaurs being only appealing for kids, let alone toddlers, this glorified play space and any other “exhibit” like it frustrates me. Why can’t museums aim higher?

    I do admit the setup with the Allosaurus is rather impressive, with the life sized skeleton even in 2D and mixing both cutouts and 3D skull, as well as the interactive element I don’t think I’ve seen much. It helps it’s the closest the exhibit has to an actual mount.

  • Reply
    Marc Vincent
    May 1, 2023 at 3:30 pm

    How wonderfully shonky. Bit disappointed that they overwhelmingly went with Papo in the dioramas, but at least we get the Collecta Triceratops corpse and the surprisingly vintage early ’90s Carnegie Maiasaura (as well as the two large Collecta figures by the entrance). Someone may want to introduce them to PNSO.

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