Speelklok the Magical Musical Museum of Utrecht

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Museum Speelklok is an interactive museum where people can come to listen to live music, played by old instruments, like Street Organs, Dance Organs or musical clocks. We have a huge range of instruments and it is magnificent to be able to listen to music of which you are sure that somebody has listened to the exact same music 100 or even 300 years ago. It is literally like going back in time. With a guided tour you will also learn about the instruments and how musical instruments have developed through the centuries. We also have a range of activities for children, so it’s the perfect day out for everybody.

foto Fred Ernst

Let me introduce you to Meghan Keereweer, she works at Museum Speelklok as interim floor manager and tour guide. She loves music and thinks that working in this vibrant and musical place is amazing. The location keeps on stunning her and she feels very lucky to be a part of the museum. Meghan works as an interim floor manager and as tour guide. She makes sure that the daily tasks are done and that all the people working in the museum are doing okay. She will  also coordinate events at the museum such as Weddings or conferences.

Meghan is half Welsh, half Dutch and grew up in a village close to Utrecht. She’s been coming to the city all her life and loves the cultural and relaxed vibe that Utrecht has. She was kind enough to answer my questions and give us a real insight into Speelklok Museum, which b y the way, is my wife’s favourite Utrecht Museum!

What is your favourite part of the museum?
The ballroom is definitely my favourite part of the museum. The big dance organs, the orchestrions, the ‘ghost’ piano and our Violina bring us back into a whole different world, where the music takes over and you go back in time. It is amazing to stand in front of a dance organ that plays a ray of songs like ‘Winter’ by Vivaldi, or the theme song of the Pirates of the Caribbean. Even though the instruments are old, they play recognisable songs and that makes us understand the power of the instruments.

And your favourite artefact and why?
My favourite artefact is the dance organ De Mortier. The sound is beautiful and the front of the organ is original, which is very rare. It really brings you into the 1920’s and it produces some cool dance songs like the Tiger Twist. But my favourite organ book (song) on that organ is Thank You For The Music from Abba.

How is the museum funded?
We have different funds where we get our money from. We get money from the municipality, the BankGiro Loterij, private funds, friends of the museum and different other funds help us create the reality of this museum. We also generate income via paying visitors and via external parties who hire parts of the museum for weddings or symposiums.

Are you competitive with other city museums?
We don’t see the other museums in Utrecht as competition, but more as colleagues. Together we generate the cultural scene of Utrecht and it’s important that we can all support different aspects of our rich history.

Do you try to attract the same type of exhibition at times or are you very individual?
It depends on what you mean by this question, within the Museum or within museums throughout Utrecht?

Within the Museum itself: The exhibitions are all very different. Of course most of them do have something to do with music, but the form is very different. We’ve had an exhibition about music boxes in Utrecht, but we have also had an exhibition about Robots that make music. Those were two very different exhibitions.

Within the museums in Utrecht: We are very individual as we attract people via mostly musical exhibitions, which is unique within all the museums in Utrecht.

How do you acquire exhibitions for the museum?
We always have exhibitions that are inspired on the collection or current interests of the museum. The themes of the exhibitions are based on an instrument or on for example new collection pieces that we have acquired.

What is your present main exhibition?
We always have our permanent exhibition, which are all the musical instruments. But we also have temporary exhibitions. We currently are building up an exhibition about de Buurkerk, the church where we are located. We are very enthusiastic about this, as the church has a very rich history.

How does the museum go about attracting visitors?
We have a marketing department at the museum that makes sure that visitors are attracted in different ways. We spread our promotion materials like flyers and posters throughout the province. We also get help from Utrecht Marketing, which supports all sorts of businesses in Utrecht. We give interviews to the press and so on. But also word of mouth works very well, a lot of people come to us because other people have told them about us.

foto Fred Ernst

Do you use the same strategy to attract tourists?
We use some different strategies to attract tourists. We are one of the main spots promoted by the city of Utrecht in the tourist information centers. We also have articles in travel books or magazines, like the book Your Utrecht Guide that will be published soon.

What type of visitor do you want to attract?
Ideally we would want to attract everybody, as most people have affinity with music. But we see that especially parents with children, or grandparents with children come here. We also have elderly visitors. We also attract school classes and daycare groups who follow their own educational programmes.

What future plans does the museum have?
The museum wants to focus on school classes more. We have an educational programme in which classes come to the museum and get to listen to the instruments. They also have answer a few questions about the instruments. We now have the opportunity to build special spaces for them, so that is something we are planning on pursuing.
We also bought a very special clock, the Clay Clock, in 2016. We are going to build a special space for that clock which we will call the Royal Room, which tells the story about the clock and of a few other instruments.

Does your museum have a central role in Utrechts life?
We like to believe so, yes. We participate in different cultural activities in and around the city. Because the museum is located in a monument we also participate in the national Open Monument day. We also have special activities around the Cultural Sunday’s we have in the city.

foto Fred Ernst

What brought you to Utrecht if you are not a native Utrechter?
It is the biggest city near to our village. It’s great to go shopping or to go out for dinner.

Where is your favourite place in Utrecht?
In the city? Oorsprongpark is very nice to walk, or Wilhelmina park. In the province: De Utrechtse Heuvelrug. It is so lovely to walk in the woods there.

Does Utrecht inspire you?
So much, it is where I feel at home.

With many thanks to Meghan for giving us the time to answer these questions about Speelklok. the least you can all do now is visit a very special place in Utrecht!

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Jon Wilkins

Jon Wilkins is Welsh and lives in England. He is a writer. A Europhile and Remainer, he is a regular visitor to Utrecht and has set his crime novel series in the city.

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