National Archives of the Netherlands (Ministry of Education, Culture and Science)

Dutch West India Company archives become Memory of the World (UNESCO)

The Archives of the Dutch West India Company (WIC) are proclaimed Memory of the World (MoW). This has officially been declared by UNESCO on May 25th. With the MoW register, UNESCO calls for the preservation and increasing accessibility of valuable archival holdings, library collections and private individual manuscripts all over the world.

In 2003 the Dutch East India Company (VOC) archives already received this status. Last year (2010) the Nationaal Archief together with its counterparts in Brazil, Ghana, Guyana, Curacao, Surinam, the United Kingdom and the United States of America took the initiative to nominate the WIC as well. Successfully, as it appears now.


The WIC trade company was initiated in the Netherlands in 1621 and left its mark all over the Atlantic World. WIC archives can be found in the Netherlands, Guyana, Suriname, Curacao, the US and the UK. The archives not only tell the story of the WIC itself, but also of the trade posts and colonies. In some cases these archives are the only written sources describing these places in this period of time.
The WIC archives are especially known for its information on slavery and slave trade, but they also contain abundant information on cultural, religious, political, economical, geographical, geological and agricultural topics.

Preserving the archives

Only a small part of the WIC archives has survived the ravages of time. Preservation of this material is very important. In the framework of the MCH-program, the Nationaal Archief together with its partners has put up a management plan to secure these archives for the future and maximise its accessibity to the public. Therefore the WIC archives are being restored, digitized and put online.

Events celebrating the MoW

This autumn, several events in places related to the WIC will be organized to celebrate the new status of the WIC archives. More information will follow.