Amsterdam Tulip Museum

Telling the story of the tulip The Amsterdam Tulip Museum asked for our help in improving their overall visitor experience.

The museum, a historic building in Amsterdam’s Jordaan district, is across the street from the Anne Frank House and contains a series of exhibit spaces along with a street-level gift shop.

As part of our work, we reconfigured the exhibit spaces, wrote and designed a narrative text panel system to help guide museum visitors, created a video viewing room, designed a new flexible gallery space that can be used for rotating exhibitions, and reimagined the gift shop.

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View of the updated museum entrance, looking in on the gift shop. Our marching orders were to open up the gift store, make it more welcoming, and provide more opportunities for merchandising.

The existing store design was somewhat dark and cluttered, with a challenging circulation pattern — the opposite of what comes to mind when one thinks of tulips, springtime, and colorful fields of happiness. Tulips are about optimism, and that’s what we wanted the store to reflect.

So everything came out: We reworked the shop to feature illuminated shelving, a relocated custom cash wrap area, and an innovative pipe-and-timber counter display system that references the elements of a traditional bulb shed.
Storage space, customized to accommodate bulb crates, was incorporated into the fixtures. We developed a new floor plan (and installed a new floor), created new signage, and — as a final touch — installed a vintage New York City (New Amsterdam, get it?) subway turnstile to serve as the portal between the shop and museum.

Our shop redesign is bright, open, and airy, making it much easier to merchandise gifts and seasonal tulip bulbs.

Upon reopening, shop sales increased by over 45% from the previous year. Same products, same price points.

Yes, we believe in the power of design.

On to the museum itself: The multi-room permanent exhibit traces the historic journey of tulips from their origins in the Middle East, on to their spread to Constantinople, and from there up into Holland where they are distributed around the world.

We felt that while most of the exhibit did a very good job telling the story of the tulip, the experience could be designed to be more engaging and informative. Pictured is a new image gallery wall, providing an introduction to the experience.

We recommended a series of modifications to help lead visitors through the spaces, establish a tighter narrative, and more clearly explain the significance of items within the collection.
We developed a program of curved informative panels that serve as directional guides to help lead visitors along the circuitous path of the exhibit.
The museum experience is based on visitors going on a journey through a series of rooms, each reflecting a significant historical period in the history of the flower.
As part of our work we designed a new flexible gallery space that can be opened to the street.

The program was wide-ranging: We updated the museum’s logo, created transit advertising and shopping bags, and developed a series of multilingual “floor plan flashcards” that help visitors find their way within the museum.

Bonus runway shots: The museum’s updated “blue steel” logo found its way into the work of designer Junya Watanabe.

Alexander Isley
Christina Holland
Erika Back

Frank van der Horst

Alexander Isley

Special Collections Research Center
NC State University Libraries