Digitization and cultural heritage

Digitization seems to be the magic wand bringing new life to cultural heritage. This concerns in fact two connected themes: first, digital access to any kind of collections hold by institutions in the field of cultural heritage: museums, libraries, archives, photo and film archives, centres for regional history, and a number of not so easily classified institutions which transcend the boundaries of ordinary heritage institutions.

Secondly, day by day the number of institutions increases which show their collections or major parts of them on the web. In these cases one sees not only an online catalogue or inventory, but one has real time online access to the sources and objects of cultural heritage. Thus one can make a virtual visit to a digital library, archive or museum. In the field of digitization one encounters small and large forms of cooperation, especially for bibliographies and art history thesauri. Often one can enlarge or diminish the dimensions of the presentations on your screen, and often there are also other ways of adjusting a website to one’s wishes.

On this page several links have been put together: links to general institutions working on digitization, a selection of sometimes less well known online catalogues and inventories, and links to a number of digital collections. A few very special collections have been set apart. Of course one webpage cannot present all relevant links, and thus this page ends with references to other lists of relevant links. Over the years a lot of links have changed or even disappeared. Digital heritage does not automatically imply longevity!

On this website there are separate pages dedicated to digitized visual collections, virtual exhibitions, museums and legal history, and digital libraries and (digital) archives.

General institutions

First some Dutch institutions:

A number of Dutch provinces has created regional portals for (digitized) cultural heritage and cultural history:




Digital access to archives

Here, too, first a number of Dutch institutions

Interesting examples can be found in many countries:

More Dutch websites with visual materials can conveniently be found using a special visual resources page

For some Dutch heritage fields web portals have been created to help getting online access to collections:

  • Academisch erfgoed [Academic Heritage] – a consortium of a number of Dutch universities and university museums which has created Academische collecties, a portal for some ninety digital collections
  • Medisch Erfgoed [Medical Heritage] – a portal to digitized medical collections of five Dutch institutions, an offsping of Academisch Erfgoed
  • Erfgoedcentrum Nederlands Kloosterleven [Heritage Centre for Dutch Monastic Life], Cuijk-St. Agatha – in and near the fourteenth-century monastery of the Crosiers you can find the collections of well over seventy Catholic religious orders and congregations
  • Nederlands Militair Erfgoed [Dutch Military Heritage] – with digitized books, journals and portraits – the Nationaal Militair Museum, Soesterberg was launched in Autumn 2014
  • Maritiem Digitaal – a web site for digital access to the collection of thirteen (!) Dutch maritime museums
  • Stichting Volkenkundige Collectie Nederland (SCVN) [Foundation Dutch Ethnographical Collections] – a portal for the collections of six ethnographical museums

For academic collections in Belgium there is the network Academisch Erfgoed in Vlaanderen with links to Flemish and international projects.

Again some examples outside The Netherlands:

Outside any category

This section mentions a number of institutions, initiatives and digital collections that go beyond traditional borders in one or more ways: centres with combined institutions under one roof, institutions with much more than one would expect, some really remarkable forms of cooperation, and of course some simply stunning collections of exceptional quality.

  • Collectie Gelderland – a captivating site giving access to many museums in the province of Gelderland and their collections
  • Atlas of Mutual Heritage – a web site of the National Archives, The Hague, presenting archival sources, maps, prints and drawings from the Netherlands, Indonesian and other collections concerning the Dutch East Indies Company
  • TANAP Net – the former archival portal of the international project for the history of the Dutch East Indies Company, with sources from the Netherlands, Indonesia, South Africa, Indonesia and Britain (British Library)
  • Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam – this remarkable museum gives very good online access to its rich collections, for example the library of the Etz Haim Livraria Montesinos with 200 digitized manuscripts
  • Menasseh ben Israel Collection, Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana, University of Amsterdam

Looking across borders yields a rich harvest:

Other links

  • Archivalia – the blog of Klaus Graf (Aachen), this time for archivists and archives, but in fact a treasure trove for news about cultural history and digital projects
  • A Compendium of Digital Collections, University of New Hampshire – an attempt at a bloglike database, no longer updated since 2011