In 1830, Utrecht was a changing city. Due to a birth surplus, the population was growing rapidly and as a result, it was becoming increasingly crowded within the old city walls. In order to get more light and air in the city, demolition work started that year to tear down the city walls, gates and ramparts and make way for a beautiful green park. And to give shipping traffic as much room as possible, a new port was created: the Nieuwekade. Nevertheless, the original medieval yards and wharf cellars along the Oudegracht were also restocked with goods. After the bitter cold winter of 1829-1830, the Utrecht traders were especially eager to start doing business again. And further up, along the same canal, a couple of rooms were turned into a municipal museum. It was the very beginning of what is now the Centraal Museum.

1830 – Mayor Van Asch van Wijk

In keeping with the new fervour, a new town hall designed in neoclassical style was built in 1830. As a keen amateur historian, Mayor H.M.A.J. van Asch van Wijck felt that there needed to be a museum for the many ancient objects that the municipality had been collecting for years and had a connection to the city of Utrecht. Moreover, exhibiting would be a good opportunity to closely examine everything and take inventory. And who knows, perhaps much more could be acquired! Ultimately, the items were put on display in four rooms on the top floor of the town hall.

A.E. Grolman, Interior of the town hall in Utrecht: Municipal Museum of Antiquities on the second floor, 1889, The Utrecht Archives collection

1838 – Municipal Museum of Antiquities

The Stedelijk Museum voor Oudheden or Municipal Museum of Antiquities officially opened in late summer on 5 September 1838. The museum was open to locals aged 14 and older every Wednesday afternoon; admission was 25 cents. There were all sorts of things to see, such as 'Ancient sculptures and other antiquities, Drawings and Paintings', all of which were somehow 'related to the city of Utrecht'. Male visitors were required to purchase the catalogue accompanying the exhibit; female visitors were not.

1874 – City archivist Muller collects for the Museum of Antiquities

After Mayor Van Asch van Wijck's death in 1843, hardly anything was collected until city archivist S. Muller took up the cause in 1874. Four years later, he published a new catalogue for the museum, which was now simply called the Museum of Antiquities. The collection already included more than 2,000 objects at that time.

Portrait of Samuel Muller by W.G. Baer, The Utrecht Archives collection

1891 – Hoogeland mansion

In 1887, Utrecht council member A.C.J. van Eelde proposed buying the Hoogeland mansion near the Biltstraat. The council agreed by a vote of 15 to 9. The mansion was purchased for 260,000 guilders (which in 2015 would be more than €3.4 million). Not everyone thought it was a good idea, however. Some 1,000 people signed a petition objecting to the decision and there were even threatening letters sent. They went as far to inform Van Eelde that 'loaded rifles are waiting [for you]'. In November 1891 it was finally announced that a museum would be established in the mansion: the antiquities would be moved to Hoogeland. The annual number of museum visitors increased from 2,000 to 20,000.

1921 – Centraal Museum Utrecht in the former St Agnes Convent

Thirty years later, the city's collection was combined with various private collections and housed in a single 'central' museum in the former cloister on the Agnietenstraat. This is how the Centraal Museum got its name. Since the opening in 1921, the collections belonging to the Kunstliefde society, the Aartsbisschoppelijk Museum and the Utrechtsch Museum van Kunstnijverheid have also been on display.

1930 – Utrecht icons

Over the years, the museum has collected various Utrecht icons. For example, the 'Utrecht Ship', which is one of the showpieces of the Centraal Museum, was discovered along the Van Hoornekade in Utrecht in 1930. It spans 17.8 by 3.8 metres and the bottom is made of a hollowed out oak. Tree-ring research determined that it was built between 997 and 1027.

1985 – Rietveld Schröder House

After the death of owner Truus Schröder in 1985, the house designed by Gerrit Rietveld was entrusted to the Rietveld Schröderhuis Foundation. Management was transferred to the Centraal Museum following the restoration of the house.

2006 – dick bruna huis opens

Located directly across from the Centraal Museum, the dick bruna huis opened on 18 February 2006. It is an annex of the museum. The focus is on Dick Bruna's children's books and his graphic designs.

2013 Privatisation

The museum privatised in 2013. The municipality retained ownership of the building and the collection. Two years later, both museums were thoroughly renovated. The entrance to the Centraal Museum was moved to the Agnietenstraat. The dick bruna huis reopened as the nijntje museum, the ultimate museum for young children to discover their world.

2016 Modernised museum following renovation

The number of visitors doubled after the opening in 2016. The museum focuses on the future with, among other things, improved routing and an attractive ticket and information desk, as well as a shop and an information centre on the site where the cloister chapel used to be. You can stroll around the old cloister building to your heart's content and enjoy many highlights, such as the 17th century doll's house and the ship, as well as special exhibitions in Expo 7 and 8. Exhibitions are regularly organised in the former stables, Expo 2 and 3. The former refectory serves as a bridge, connecting the two buildings.

nijntje museum opening in 2016