You may think cycling through a museum was already possible in the Netherlands. Indeed there is an underpass under the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum*, but the Dutch are taking it a step further. How about actually cycling through the exhibition hall of a museum during its opening times? That is now possible in the war museum in Overloon (North-Brabant). The museum recently opened this unique feature to celebrate and commemorate that it has been 75 years since the last war in the Netherlands ended.
The museum of Overloon, dedicated to the memory of World War II, is very proud of their world’s first. They announced:
“Our museum is opening up to bicycles soon! Taking the bicycle path from the main road, cyclists will be able to get a free sneak preview of the museum. The museum will shortly offer the first bicycle bridge, worldwide, really going through a museum.
This permanent bicycle bridge is part of the bicycle route connecting the museum to the British and German military cemeteries in the area. This project was generously funded by the Dutch vfonds, the Province of Noord-Brabant, the Leisure Development Fund Brabant and Gemeente Boxmeer (municipality of Boxmeer).”
On 26 September 2019, the cycleway through the main exhibition hall was opened. Right on time for the commemoration of the Operation Market Garden (the failed military operation to end the war for the Netherlands in September 1944). At a height of 3.2 metres the cycleway takes you right through the 90 metre wide hall. Together with the outside parts the total length of the museum cycle bridge is 170 metres. At first elevators were planned to bring people to the right height, but considering cost and maintenance of elevators the bridge can now be reached by ramps. From the bridge in the hall you have an interesting bird’s eye view on the vast WWII collection of the museum, which counts over one hundred military vehicles (including tanks and aeroplanes) and large calibre guns.
The bridge is part of a new 59 kilometre long cycle route dedicated to the war. The route was named Aan de andere kant “On the other side”. When they ride it, people are taken to historic sites where they can learn about personal histories. The message being that there are multiple sides to every conflict. This is underlined by the fact that the route takes people from the British war cemetery in Overloon (Noord-Brabant) to the German war cemetery in Ysselsteyn (Limburg).
The local press was enthusiastic about “Cycling through the museum”. A spokesperson told the newspaper “We get positive reactions. People think this is very interesting. Of course, you cannot find anything like this in the world.” The museum was perhaps most proud of the fact that the new cycle bridge was already mentioned in the New York Times.
IN THE NETHERLANDS The Overloon War Museum in Overloon is building a bicycle path that will go through the museum. It is scheduled to open for the 75th anniversary of Operation Market Garden. Visitors will be able to cycle through 90 meters (about 107 yards) of the museum hall at a height of three meters.
The bridge was designed and constructed by a company established near Leiden. The bridge is a modern rendition of the Bailey bridge. The cost for the project was €700,000. Largely paid by subsidies of the province and organisations to promote tourism.
Although the official opening will only be in March 2020, the bridge can already be used during the following opening times:
Monday to Friday 10:00 am – 4:30 pm
Saturday and Sunday 11:00 am – 4:30 pm
At the end of the ride the museum points to their coffee corner and of course they also hope that people get an appetite to visit the museum. The museum is very keen to spread their motto: “War belongs in a museum”.
Cycling through the museum, my video
Cycling through the museum, a ride in 360 degrees
This project may remind you of the Belgian projects Cycling through the trees and Cycling through water. The Dutch could already cycle through the Rijksmuseum and also in Amsterdam temporarily through a building under construction. In Tilburg you can cycle through a former factory hall.
* Cycling through the Rijksmuseum also impresses a lot of people!