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  • Writer's pictureBen West

A Brief History of NEMO Science Museum in Amsterdam

What is NEMO Science Museum?

NEMO Science Museum is a vibrant, ground-breaking immersive museum that introduces people of all ages to the fascination of science.

NEMO Science Museum

Velvet, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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NEMO Science Museum History

As well as being a fantastic modern science museum, indeed the country’s largest science centre, NEMO is one of Amsterdam’s contemporary architectural highpoints. Perched above the entrance to the IJ car tunnel, this striking building faced in patinated copper opened in 1997. It was designed by renowned Italian architect Renzo Piano to echo the shape of a ship’s hull. (Piano’s other work includes the Pompidou Centre in Paris, Potsdamer Platz in Berlin, and the Shard in London.)

The museum is located in the Oosterdokseiland neighbourhood in Amsterdam’s central borough. Its nearly 20,000 artefacts are distributed over five floors, focussing on science, technology, being human and energy. Fenomena on level 1 focuses on how science works, while Technium on level 2 explains everyday technology. On level 3, Elementa is preoccupied with the building blocks of the cosmos. Humania at level 4 is about discovering more about who you are, while Energetica on level 5 is, unsurprisingly, all about energy.

There are sections on electrical engineering, lighting, energy generation and storage, and early-20th-century home technology as well as more modern examples. You can experiment with lifting yourself up via a pulley, find out how bridges work and see how rainbows and lightning are created. Divide light into colours, chase your shadow, test your memory and your senses, create a bubble you can stand in – at every turn there’s a thrilling new educational surprise on a host of diverse aspects of the scientific world.

Complex and what might seem at first to be challenging subjects, such as DNA and chain reactions, are presented in absorbing ways accessible to lay people of all ages. There are numerous hands-on displays and interactive exhibits, as well as demonstrations, shows, workshops and lab projects, and more.

Much of the museum is especially geared to children and families, but in 2021 an offshoot of NEMO opened. Called NEMO De Studio, and located in the Marineterrein area, it offers science and technology exhibitions aimed specifically at adult audiences. Subjects covered include how algorithms make predictions about identity and behaviour, and the digital world of data privacy.

Don't miss Nemo's roof!

When NEMO’s architect, Renzo Piano, designed the museum roof he wanted to create a piazza, or city square. On his large terrace you’ll find the open-air exhibition Energetica, as well as brilliant views of Amsterdam.

Dive into rich history with Urbs Amsterdam audio tours, your ears will thank you!


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