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Since 1874 the Municipal Museum of Leiden has been housed in the Lakenhal, the former clothmakers' hall built in 1640 by Arent van ' Gravesande. This is where the famed Leiden cloth was inspected and where the Governors and Syndics of the cloth industry held their meetings. Reminders of the textile industry which was so important to Leiden can be seen in the historical collection. The various stages of the wool production process are illustrated in a monumental series of 16th-century paintings by Isaac van Swanenburgh. This unique pictorial record is supplemented by a loom, sample books, scissors, stamps and suchlike. Events from Leiden's history are also depicted, such as the siege of the city and its relief on October 3, 1574.
The Lakenhal is a museum of typical Dutch urban culture from the 16th century to the present. Visitors can admire the fine collections of (Leiden) silver, engraved glass, pewter and tiles; and paintings by famous Leiden artists of the16th century such as Cornelis Engebrechtsz. and Lucas van Leyden. The 17th century is represented by the young Rembrandt and Lievens, David Bailly, Jan Steen, Gerard Dou and the Leiden 'Precise School' of painters, including the Van Mieris family and many others. The Lakenhal's own collection of Dutch landscapists (Van Goyen, Porcellis and others) is enhanced by an important collection of Dutch landscape paintings, loaned to the museum by The Netherlands Office for Fine Art. The 18th century is presented in rooms furnished in the style of the period.
Then comes work by artists of the 19th and 20th centuries such as Bakker Korff, Jan Toorop, H.P. Bremmer, Floris Verster, Kamerlingh Onnes, Hendrik Valk, Theo van Doesburg and early examples of De Stijl movement, on show in the recently renovated ground-floor galleries. A selection of the museum's collection of contemporary art (paintings, photographs, drawings and sculpture) is presented every summer. The artists either work in Leiden and its environs, or are important for the artistic climate of The Netherlands.
The museum regularly organizes exhibitions of classical and modern art and on historical themes of topical interest.