The first Thursday in June marks the opening of a new exhibition at Amsterdam’s Hash Marihuana & Hemp Museum: “We Are Mary Jane. Women of Cannabis.” Both timely and engagingly time-tripping, this temporary show sets out to illuminate various roles women have played in a traditionally male-led industry.
At the time of writing this article, plans for the exhibition were still in the works, though Leafly was privy to a verbal preview courtesy of museum curator Gerbrand Korevaar. Subjects range from the 17th-century wheel-bound women, who spun hemp fibers and supplied the Dutch shipping empire with ropes, rigs, and sails, to the hard laborers in Italian and Romanian hemp fields during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
(Courtesy of Karina Hof)
The exhibition even reaches current trends, ranging from topicals by Whoopi & Maya to reproductions of Amy Merrick’s ikebana arrangements (featured in the woman-led weed glossy, Broccoli). Also included is Amsterdam-based photographer Maria Cavali, who contributes images of women “for whom cannabis is an aspect of their daily routine,” says Korevaar.
Within this particular exhibition, as with most that take center stage at the museum, cannabis coverage spans hundreds of years. It dives into cultivators, crafters, and purveyors, but also consumers and proponents of cannabis. What’s more, “We Are Mary Jane” signals that both exhibitors and audiences have moved beyond cannabis itself as the matter for observation as deeper discussions and social issues continue to surge.
Maintaining a Robust and Growing Collection
(Courtesy of Karina Hof)
Once upon a time—founding year 1985, to be precise—the museum’s De Wallen location seemed obvious. A colloquial name for Amsterdam’s once wall-demarcated medieval middle, De Wallen is home to the Red Light District, sex shows and shops, snack and dive bars, plus an array of star-studded coffeeshops. So where better to host a hub of cannabis relics and memorabilia than in the cradle of practices deemed illegal and/or illicit in most other places?
Yet in 2018, the museum’s notorious postal code almost belies its message: though the road to decriminalization and legalization is long and circuitous, cannabis is consumed by all types of good people for all types of good reasons.
In fact, back when Ben Dronkers, founder of giant Dutch seed bank Sensi Seeds, and grow guru Ed Rosenthal opened the institution’s doors, it was called the Hash Info Museum. The two were friends, and “collecting remnants of cannabis culture,” as Korevaar puts it, was something they had in common. “On his travels, Ben landed upon examples of hemp culture worldwide—you know, textiles, spinning materials, pipes, all kinds of things relating to the plant,” explains the curator. Dronkers then realized that he had “a special collection and a passion for this plant,” and in Korevaar’s paraphrasing of his boss: “‘This needs to be shared. Cannabis is all about sharing.’”
Gerbrand Korevaar, Museum Curator
The museum has two branches: the flagship in Amsterdam, which expanded to occupy a second building in 2009; and the Barcelona branch, established in 2012, in a meticulously renovated Modernist palace. The Amsterdam property reportedly receives 100,000 visitors each year, and 70% of those guests also patronize Amsterdam coffeeshops—according to museum studies.
“Visitors are usually familiar with coffeeshops but walk out knowing much more about the other uses of this plant,” says Korevaar. The museum, he emphasizes, is “about spiritual, medicinal, and recreational use. It’s about cultural use, and it’s about industrial use. We try to cover all these things.”
Hidden Treasures and Legal Troubles
(Courtesy of Karina Hof)
Entering the main house, guests are first greeted by a sculptural rendition of a spread from the Vienna Dioscorides. From Constantinople, circa 512, the illuminated manuscript records hundreds of flora and their medicinal derivations. The word “cannabis” is transliterated into eight ancient scripts—none of which correspond to the eight languages in which the museum’s enjoyable podcatcher tour is available, though all of which attest to cannabis’ pre-Big Pharma polylingual appeal.
Several steps and centuries forward comes the section cataloged as “Coffeeshops of the Golden Age.” Red ochre walls set the atmosphere to Old World, with paintings depicting pipe-touting men in rookhuzien—literally “smoke houses”—essentially proto-coffeeshops. Artists in this genre include Adriaen Brouwer, Hendrick Sorgh, David Teniers the Younger, and Adriaen van Ostade, who, like Dutch contemporaries Rembrandt and Vermeer, captured scenes of everyday 17th-century life. The works are all originals except for Brouwer’s The Smokers, which is a representation of the oil on wood that hangs in New Amsterdam, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.