Anne Frank House Marbles Show Rolls In Big Crowds

How Tiny Museum Outdraws Amsterdam Heavyweights

Child’s Play: Anne Frank plays marbles on the sidewalk before the Nazi invasion of Holland.
anne frank house
Child’s Play: Anne Frank plays marbles on the sidewalk before the Nazi invasion of Holland.

By Cnaan Liphshiz

Published February 07, 2014.
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(JTA) — When the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam unveiled its widely publicized offsite display of its namesake’s marble collection this week, it was yet another example of this small museum having a big impact with tiny objects.

Despite its narrow scope and limited exhibition material — in a city where visitors can choose from among a panoply of heavyweight museums and tourist attractions — the Anne Frank House is one of Holland’s most popular museums.

With more than a million visitors in 2013, it outranked even the Rijksmuseum — a mammoth institution that keeps churning out breathtaking exhibitions thanks to what seems like an inexhaustible reservoir of monumental artworks.

Trailing only the Van Gogh Museum, the Anne Frank House also surpassed the world-famous Stedelijk modern arts museum, the Escher Museum and the Dutch Railway Museum.

The Anne Frank House, where the young diarist hid from the Nazis with her family, owes its appeal to Frank’s worldwide fame. The museum is also one of the few Holocaust-related sites in Amsterdam.

The museum had a budget of $18.6 million that year, roughly two-thirds of the budget came from admissions fees, with almost all the rest coming from revenues from sales, projects, activities and services. With a collection of artifacts that are emotionally jarring but inexpensive to maintain, the museum has been able to focus its resources on outreach and educational work.

The latest example of the minimalistic but powerful curating choices of the Anne Frank House are the marbles, which went on display for the first time on Feb. 5, not at the house, but rather at the Kunsthal museum in Rotterdam.

Before she went into hiding, Anne had given the marbles to her childhood friend and neighbor Toosje Kupers for safe-keeping. Kupers, now 83, donated the marbles to the museum when she moved last year. A similar display opened in 2012, featuring a tea set that Anne also gave to Kupers.


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