It makes sense to post about the reason I got to go to Amsterdam in the first place before starting in on my ~vacation~ pictures. Anyway, it’s chronological; visiting Tot Zover was the very first thing we did off the plane (after checking in at our Airbnb), on New Year’s Eve.

Early last year, I was contacted by the Dutch funeral museum with an invitation to participate in the upcoming exhibition De Laatste Aai: eerbetoon aan dode dieren / The Last Stroke Pet: ode to dead animals. Tot Zover (“So Far”) is a small museum in Amsterdam dedicated to Dutch funerary heritage and multicultural funeral customs of the present day. I was told that the space is situated on the premises of the monumental New East Memorial Park. It is on the edge of a grand historic cemetery (for human remains, not animals).

Maybe you can tell by that photo of me that I felt half-awake and half-alive during my visit to the museum 😂 My phone tells me these photos were taken at 3:30am my time, and I had just flown for 10.5 hours with pneumonia. Still, I was elated to be there, and of course I wish I’d had more time. My pieces (printed by a lab in Europe) looked beautiful – larger than I had ever seen the work! Standing in front of them will surely be counted as one of the great moments of my life, and definitely a highlight of 2019.

There were no guided tours as we were visiting during the holidays, but I appreciated the free entrance for me and my family, the translations in English throughout the exhibition, and an English handout and for the main collection. For the colophon, all participants in the exhibition were invited to make a dedication to an animal. I wrote, “My companion of 17 years, Candy, the little cat I picked out at a rescue event when I was 10 years old. The creature who taught me how to make my first photographs of animals, and how much I could adore animals, and how to treat them with respect and be endlessly curious about them. I’m so grateful to have known her.” I missed the deadline for the publication, but I was really touched to see Candy‘s name on the wall in the gallery.

Other things I loved about Tot Zover: the ribbon printer from 1980 (think funeral wreaths and memorial bouquets), the grave drums (metal drums containing memorial wreaths of artificial flowers to be placed on top of a grave, a tradition in the Netherlands from 1850 to 1950), the largest hearse model collection in Europe, and the work of the other artists included in De Laatste Asi, especially Tineke Schuurmans, Jop Vissers Vorstenbosch, and Stephan Vanfleteren (about whom the curator I was working with told me, “Your work hangs right next to one of the most celebrated photographers in the Netherlands and Belgium” 😵). The exhibition opened June 12 and was set to end January 19 (we went pretty much as late as possible in order to save money and time off from work). Due to its success, it’s been extended to February 23, which means – you can see it! If you happen to be in the area within the next three weeks.

When we left the museum, we walked through the big, beautiful cemetery for a bit, and I majorly delighted in the sounds of parrots in the trees. I’ve since learned that flocks of wild ring-necked parakeets are not specific to Amsterdam; I saw/heard them in Paris and London, too 🦜