In between the two oldest docks of the Antwerp harbour a remarkable building stands, built in a striking red colour: the MAS. Collections of more than three separate musea have been gathered here to tell the story of our town and its harbour.
Each floor of the museum tells a part of this fascinating story. The 2nd floor allows you to have a peek at how a museum works. Here you can see part of the depot: the objects that are not (yet) on display, but form a reserve. Floor 3 has temporary exhibitions.
The permanent exhibition
Floors 4 to 8 have more or less permanent exhibitions. At least: the aspect they try to tell remains the same. Floor 4 is about wealth, power, prestige and its symbols. The next floor is called ‘Antwerp à la Carte’ and shows you how towns are responsible for feeding huge masses of people. Follows a floor devoted to the harbour. Floor 7 is about death and the afterlife and how the different religions that are present in the city deal with these questions. Floor 8 has a very rich collection of pre-Columbian art from South-America.
On floor 9 you can enjoy a delicious meal in “‘t Zilte” a two-star restaurant lead by Vikki Geunes. From floor 10 you have a fantastic view over the city and its harbour.
Floors 2 and 10 can be visited for free, for the other floors there is an entrance fee.
The different floors 4 to 8 all have the same lay-out which starts with a short introduction to the theme in question. Then you enter the exhibition space as such. After that there is a section where you can find some more information, where kids can enjoy an interactive game, …
Another attraction is the hallways. As you travel from floor 1 to floor 10 you will pass a series of photographs that again tell a story about town. At this moment the theme is ‘Koekenstad’ (Cookietown). This was the nickname people from the country gave to Antwerp. Antwerp had many industrial bakeries, candy and chocolate factories. About twice a year the theme of these photographs changes.
As an accompaniment to the exhibition which is held at the Groenplaats, the MAS-museum has taken a selection of its background collection, added some objects from private collection, and puts it all on display on the second floor of the building. A floor you can visit for free.
The exhibition shows ancient Maya cups that were used to drink cacao in, porcelain cacaopots from Europe and tin boxes and so on that were used by Antwerp chocolate factories. These factories started their activities in the 19th century and they turned the once exclusive delicacy of the rich into an everyman’s candy: the chocolate bar. And of course they also helped the distribution and spread the world-wide popularity of the typical Belgian chocolates. The factories like Meurisse and Martougin are no longer there, but the local chocolatiers still make great chocolates.
This exhibition opens March 3rd and closes Sept 3rd. And while you’re there: do not forget to visit the top floor, which is also free and offers a very nice panoramic view over the city.
The MAS-museum can be found at the Hanzestedenplein.
From Feb. 3rd till March 31st an exhibition on the role of Antwerp in the history of Belgian chocolate is organised on the top floor of Mercado at Groenplaats. The very first Belgian chocolate factory was active in Antwerp. It was led by the Meurissefamily and created chocolate bars that were popular all over the country and far beyond the borders. Anyone older than 35 or 40 will certainly remember Perette (milk chocolate bar) and Boy Scout (black chocolate bar). One of their inventions was a cold-feel filling that was used in the Zero bars, which are still sold although they are now produced by another factory as the Meurisse plant has closed down and now houses a furniture store at Damplein.
In between 1830 and 1960 over thirty chocolate stores and factories were active in the centre of Antwerp. The exhibition, which is organised by Antwerpen Koekenstad (Antwerp Cookietown, a nickname for the city given because of its great amount of bakery, chocolateries and candy stores) shows a great number of unique documents dating back to the roaring twenties and the golden era of the fifties and sixties, and to top it all: you’ll be able to taste Perette (again), from Wednesdag to Sunday from 1pm to 5pm.
Tickets are available at 8 €, groups of more than 10 pay 5 €.