The mark of history: Amsterdam's tattoo museum opens its doors

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Soldiers and sailors, prisoners and whalers – some of history’s more obscure figures are being celebrated at Amsterdam’s latest tourist attraction.

The Amsterdam Tattoo Museum, which opens on Saturday, is the long-cherished dream of Henk Schiffmacher, the Netherlands’ best-known tattoo artist.

“It’s a kind of Disneyland for tattoos,” he told Het Parool. “I call it the Tatican, a kind of shrine, the epicentre of the tattoo.”

Schiffmacher, 59, confesses to being a “compulsive collector” and the evidence is scattered around the giant exhibition space on Plantage Middenlaan.

He has stripped bare his house to furnish the museum and almost all the 60,000 objects on display are from his private collection.

They include items from cultures and people all over the world, at every level of society from the aristocracy down to circus artists, prostitutes and prisoners.

The long history of tattoo artistry is also reflected in the huge range of machines and hand tools on show.

The museum also doubles as a social enterprise, offering work for the long-term unemployed as part of a funding deal struck with the organization Partners at Work (Partners aan het Werk).

In return for €1.5 million in startup funding, Schiffmacher will take on 30 apprentices in the first year, a number which will eventually rise to 300.

The museum, which needs to attract 150,000 visitors a year to break even, will hold two exhibitions a year and is home to what is thought to be the world’s largest library on the subject of tattoos.

Schiffmacher also plans to hold workshops and seminars and organize factfinding trips around the world.

Setting up the museum has been a labour of love for the man known in Amsterdam as the “king of tattoos” – so much so that it has left him with one small problem.

“It’s very empty now in the house,” he reflects. “It could be that I end up feeling more at home here.”

Source: Het Parool: 'Een Disneyland voor tatoeages'
Photo by Tropenmuseum

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