A Trip Back Into Childhood

Visiting the Dick Bruna Huis, home of Nijntje

By Laetitia Boon

Want a break from the seriousness of university and a chance to act like a child again? Making a trip to the Dick Bruna Huis is an easy way to alleviate this nostalgia.

On a Tuesday afternoon, my unit mate and I headed off to the home of world famous Nijntje, also known as Miffy in English. Translated into 40 different languages since its creation in 1955, Nijntje and her companions have been a childhood figure for most children in one form or another. The Dick Bruna Huis, named after the creator of Nijntje, was created in 2006 in the center of Utrecht, right across from the Central Museum (of which it is a subsection). It is currently composed of a permanent exhibit on the ground floor, and a temporary exhibit by Roland Sohier entitled “Miffy in the attic” on the first.

The one thing that really struck me about the entire exhibit is that it’s really made for kids. A first room shows a collage of books from floor to ceiling, and has headsets from which you can hear Nijntje stories in Dutch, English and Mandarin, while sitting on Nijntje-themed stools. Another is dedicated to Dick Bruna’s life and works. Sketches and photographs, an interactive ‘puzzle’ for the younger ones, and films on the way Bruna makes his books provide something to do for everyone. A little further you can enter a fully-furnished child-sized doll’s house or dress up characters from Nijntje in various combinations of outfits.

When you go upstairs, you enter a world where Dick Bruna’s creations are mixed-and-matched with countless other stories. There is wardrobe that makes you want to go to Narnia, a slide that reminds you of Alice in Wonderland, a cosy TV room where all the old animated films you used to watch are playing, an area where you can dress up Nijntje or as a ghost, and everywhere pictures of Miffy and her ‘cousins’ (rabbits from other imaginations). This part of the exhibit was most interesting for an older audience as it shows Sohier’s interpretation of Miffy.

I left the building with a feeling of euphoria. For a moment, I had forgotten I was too old to act like a child, and it felt fantastic. So don’t hesitate to go there if you want to revisite your childhood memories, or see them incorporated into so many other different themes. I also thoroughly recommend visiting the Dick Bruna Huis if you have younger siblings/cousins/nephews/etc and don’t quite know what to do with them for one afternoon, they’ll enjoy it immensely!

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