Our story started with a single handbag | Museum of Bags and Purses

Our story

It all started with one single handbag. This one bag turned Hendrikje and Heinz Ivo into passionate collectors – and soon connoisseurs – of handbags.

Over the years, they gathered a private collection of such exceptional quality that they wanted to share it with the rest of the world. This was the start of the Museum of Bags and Purses, which now receives over 70.000 visitors a year.

Hendrikje Ivo had always been a dedicated collector of all kinds of small antiques and curiosities, and had started to trade them as well. One day, in a small English village, Heinz en Hendrikje Ivo found a leather handbag from the 1820s, with tortoise shell cover plates.

Hendrikje Ivo explains: “This amazing beauty immediately threw us into ecstasies and we took it home as a regal showpiece. Fascinated by the beauty of this tortoise bag we started researching the history of the handbag. The collectors were born: we were, so to speak, in the bag.”

Founders Museum of Bags and Purses
Hendrikje Ivo with her favorite bag

The collectors

Collecting bags became serious business for Hendrikje and Heinz Ivo. Hendrikje explains: ”Building a collection of bags is fun and very instructive. Our many trips in search of new items were so exciting! At antique fairs we found these bags, impervious, well-shaped and in flaming colours. Challengingly and beggingly they stared at us. We could not resist the temptation and returned home carrying suitcases full of bags. Since we wanted as many people as possible to share our joy, we came up with a plan to create a small museum in our own house.”

First bag in the collection
De eerste tas in de collectie, met een dekplaat van schildpad en ingelegd parelmoer, 1810-1820

Museum at home

In 1996, Heinz and Hendrikje Ivo opened the doors of their house in Amstelveen to show their collection of handbags to the public. Their daughter, art historian Sigrid Ivo, developed and supported the informative content, which also contributed significantly to the museum’s success. For the next ten years, the Museum of Bags and Purses resided in Amstelveen. During those years the collection grew steadily and more and more enthusiasts found their way to the museum.

The Museum of Bags and Purses remained settled in Amstelveen for ten years. Slowly, however, the museum outgrew the private residence.

To Amsterdam city centre

Thanks to a contribution of an anonymous patron, the museum was able to move to the present location in Amsterdam in 2007. In the meantime, Sigrid Ivo had become both director and curator of the museum. The former 17th-century mayor’s residence was renovated and furnished exclusively for the museum. The canal house is part of the UNESCO World heritage Canal Ring Area of Amsterdam.

To the heart of Amsterdam

The Museum of Bags and Purses moved in 2007 to a building on the Herengracht.

Thus started a new epoch of success for Museum of Bags and Purses. Its splendid location, high-profile exhibitions, outstanding food and spectacular collection resulted in ever-growing visitor numbers and international recognition for this extraordinary Amsterdam Museum.

Read more about the rich history of the canal house

What people are saying

I would recommend a stopover for any fan of purses!
One woman's acquiring a handbag led to a huge collection. Margaret Thatcher, Liz Taylor and Hillary Clinton's bags are all here.
"Loved this museum!"
Really gorgeous handbags with explanations. Fab restaurant there too and a tea shop.
"Spectacular place"