Dutch Queen Reopens Long-Closed Rijksmuseum To Cheers

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Thousands of people gathered outside Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum, home to Rembrandt van Rijn's "The Night Watch" and other Dutch masterpieces, as Queen Beatrix declared the national museum open on Saturday after a decade-long renovation.

Rijksmuseum

* Thousands gather as Queen re-opens long-closed museum

* Rembrandt's famed "The Night Watch" keeps its former place

Thousands of people gathered outside Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum, home to Rembrandt van Rijn's "The Night Watch" and other Dutch masterpieces, as Queen Beatrix declared the national museum open on Saturday after a decade-long renovation.

There were cheers and fireworks as the 75-year-old Queen, making one of her last official appearances before her abdication, turned a golden key and officially opened the renovated building before a crowd estimated by the museum at 10,000.

Rembrandt's huge masterpiece, showing Amsterdam's civic guard setting off on a march, is the only painting in the collection to have been restored to its original place.

"I am really proud it will open again. It is such a beautiful building," said Marry Straathof, 58, a big fan of the famous Rembrandt. "It really belongs there, at that spot. It has beautiful colours."

The huge painting is approached along a Gallery of Honour hung with works such as Johannes Vermeer's "Woman Reading a Letter" and "The Merry Drinker" by Frans Hals.

Many of the prize pieces in the collection of 8,000 works have been re-displayed in a broader context, with related paintings, furniture, silver and ceramics arranged in close proximity to each other as part of the museum's new layout.

The renovation of the museum, which is a showcase for the Netherlands' art, its rich history as a naval power and society of merchants, has received rave reviews in the Dutch and international media in recent weeks.

More than 75,000 tickets have been sold, Dutch media reported, and museum staff expected as many as 30,000 visitors on Saturday when the museum reopened. General Director Wim Pijbes has said his ambition is for all Dutch children to see "The Night Watch".

The museum's overhaul took far longer than expected and overshot original estimates, costing 375 million euro ($491 million) as the architects had to incorporate an existing bicycle path in the museum's design and ensure that the spaces below sea-level were in no danger of flooding.

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