Corpus Museum in Leiden, The Netherlands
Corpus is an interactive journey through the human body. It was actually one of the first museums we heard about when moving to the Netherlands, but it has a minimum age of six to visit which put it out of our reach until now. With an open Sunday morning I decided to head there with the Big Little for a morning of exploration and learning.
Corpus is not part of the Museumkaart program and timed tickets are required. I was able to get my tickets online the night prior. Tickets are quite expensive. (€16.75 for adults at the time of writing.) We were able to use Jumbo points to purchase our tickets. ANWB also offers discounts for members.
Corpus fronts the highway but is otherwise largely surrounded by open land. Therefore, the €7 parking fee was a bit annoying. You will pay less to park in almost any city in the Netherlands. They have structured the streets around Corpus such that there is no parking in the area surrounding the museum. You can reach Corpus by public transport. We drove though as it takes 1/3 of the time and parked in the garage. Again, despite all the adjacent room the parking garage is quite narrow. Cars struggled to pass each other and to back into and out of spots. On my way out I searched for other parking options. There is a McDonalds and a bus stop co-located that has a free public lot. I presume it would take about 20 min to walk from this lot to Corpus.
The visits to Corpus are timed. They ask that you arrive 20 min early so you can get checked in and pick up your audio guide before your time slot starts. Due to traffic and construction near Corpus we arrived just in time. The place was empty so the staff was happy to rush us to meet our start time. I get the feeling though when they are crowded this isn’t an option. We were on the tour with one other family.
Audio guides are available in several languages. I chose English and the Big Little opted to take the tour in Dutch. The audio guides play automatically in each room and were comfortable to wear. The guided portion of the tour takes 55 min.
You start with the skin and move through each system of the body. Each room makes it look as if you are standing in that section of the body. The body parts light up as they are discussed or video screens appear to show more detail.
If you are visiting from outside Europe you may be surprised by their coverage of the reproductive system in detail, but it is nothing new for Dutch children.
In certain sections you board little elevators which function to move you up through the body and show a “ride” type video. You enter “the womb” and put on 3D glasses to watch sperm race for the egg. The “heart theater” uses moving chairs to turn you into a red blood cell being pushed around the body. You get to bounce around on a spongy tongue. You take an elevator from the nose to the eyes and end up in the command center brain where you watch all the information from the day be put together.
The narration does a great job of explaining what you are seeing. I found it hard though to digest the sheer amount of information I was given. The pace of the tour is quick! In several spots the Big Little and I were checking something out when we were directed somewhere else. In the mouth they were discussing cavities so we walked over to look at the glowing tooth, only to instantly be redirected to the different taste buds on the tongue.
Corpus was built 10 years ago and the technology gap of 10 years is quite evident. The body portion of the museum is perfectly kept up. You won’t find any chipped paint or non-working lights. However, I kept expecting things that didn’t happen. When you’re in the nose they have pumped in smells but when Corpus sneezes there is no wind or little droplets. The eye which appears to be Corpus’s real eye doesn’t allow you to look out of his body and see what is actually outside.
All that being said, the Big Little really loved the museum and learned quite a bit. Seeing everything cemented some body facts like the large and mall intestine and their functions. He also was really interested in the time spent explaining how blood moves around the body and picks up oxygen from the lungs.
You finish your body visit in the brain and are set free into a cafe on the top floor of the building. We enjoyed a little break here before working our way down through the exhibit space.
You pass through each floor and complete little challenges to learn more about the body. In practice this section is a bit disjointed.
You register with your name and birthdate and are supposed to be able to log into each activity. We struggled to get into and understand quite a few of them. I would love to see this area have a little card or QR code you could scan at each station and end up with a profile of your body at the end.
There are a few newer exhibits that have been installed, like learning about making food by filling up your food tray. Then you are told about your choices and shown them plotted on the food plate (or whatever they are calling the food pyramid these days.)
There are several exhibits where you get to do stuff to get your heart pumping or demonstrate your strength and of course my Big Little really loved this too.
I hope they continue to bring in more exhibits and update the system that ties your profile all together. I would also really love to see a playground of some sorts here. There is lots of talk about staying active and the museum is surrounded by green space.
Overall I thought Corpus was a worthwhile visit for us. It was not as groundbreaking or exciting as I had been led to believe. However, the Big Little loved it and learned a lot. We had a wonderful outing together and he asked lots of great questions on the way home. We’ve certainly been to more engaging museums and have had him learn a lot less.
If your looking for more fun things to do in the Netherlands. Check out our travel map.