The history of the National Archive dates back to 1802. As the national memory institution, the National Archive is custodian not only for the archives of the national government but also the archives of some social organisations and individuals of national importance. Furthermore, the National Archive also has a large collection of photographs and historical maps.
The formal status of the Nationaal Archief is enshrined in the 1995 Public Records Act. This designates the Nationaal Archief as the central repository for archives transferred from national government bodies. That is, those institutions which have or had functions encompassing the Dutch nation as a whole. In particular, this definition refers to the High Councils of State, the Queen's Cabinet and the ministries.
The Nationaal Archief also has an important public function. This is defined in its mission statement:
'The Nationaal Archief supplies historical information to a varied public, based upon the content of its collection: the archives related to national government.'
This wording reflects the fact that the needs of users are considered alongside the Archive's statutory function. Information is made available and accessible, and is supplied to the public.
To fullfill the new mission statement and tasks in a satisfactory way, the following preconditions and principles have been formulated:
- In its content, scale and quality, the Nationaal Archief collection must remain of national importance. At the very least, it should provide information about the main national administrative and political bodies, the persons and organisations associated with them, and their policies.
- The expertise available to the Nationaal Archief should be of sufficient quality to manage the collection properly and to extract information from it.
- The Nationaal Archief wishes to play a leading role in national alliances with other archive-related institutions and with organisations concerned with the national cultural heritage.
- The Nationaal Archief also wishes to act as a national and international point of contact for archive-related institutions.
- The Nationaal Archief wishes to play a leading role in archive policy and to advise the State Secretary effectively.
How these objectives are being achieved is described in the long-term policy plan.
In 5 years' time, in 2013, the Nationaal Archief will comprise of a physical archive and a digital archive: www.nationaalarchief.nl. At our own premises, the national heritage will be stored safely and expertly on traditional carriers (paper, parchment, celluloid, etc.). In the electronic Nationaal Archief, information will be safely and expertly stored in digital form, and fast access will be provided to the original archives.
There will be a differentiated range of services, ranging from perceptions of the past (exhibitions, lectures, debates, workshops, theme sites, publications, etc.) to active research (image database, educational projects, supervised research, seminars, etc.). The path to realizing this goal is set out in a vision document and refined into six main strands:
- Safeguarding, disseminating and increasing knowledge about our unique collection.
- From 'Informatie op Orde' to 'Informatie Actief Openbaar'.
- Platform for digital government.
- Provision of an archives service on site and on line for a wide public.
- Strengthening of the knowledge function for the national and international archiving world.
- A new structure for an ‘enterprising service’.
When this vision has been discussed with stakeholders, the plan will be developed in the policy plan for 2010–2013 and in a transition plan for the organisation.
Read the full vision document (PDF, 545.47kB)