Het Nieuwe Instituut derives its special position to a significant degree from the range and unique importance of the National Collection for Architecture and Urban Planning, which it manages. The collection, which is growing constantly, has a central place in the institute’s research and exhibitions programmes. In this respect the archive has an increasingly organic connection with Het Nieuwe Instituut’s function as Museum for Architecture, Design and Digital Culture and the central role that Research & Development plays in generating the content of the institute’s programming. Following the introduction of the 2016 Heritage Act the collection was also granted heritage status. This has served to endorse once again the significance of the collection and ensure structural funding for it. The collection has proved to be of significance not only in addressing historical subjects but also as a speculative wellspring of 150 years of progressive thinking.
Alongside its significance for the institute’s own activities and for internal research by experts and fellows, the archive is also an important source for external parties: researchers, curators, students and writers for whom the hundreds of archives with approximately 4.5 million documents provide indispensible materials. The activities of the Agency for Architecture, Design and Digital Culture, within which Het Nieuwe Instituut has grouped several advisory functions in relation to the creative industries, also benefit from access to the extensive collections.
An important task in managing the National Collection and making it accessible is digitisation. For Het Nieuwe Instituut, with digital culture as part of its remit, it is natural not only to explore digitising the collection but as a cultural producer to employ digitisation to generate new meanings.
Het Nieuwe Instituut manages 600 archives and collections of Dutch architects, urban planners, professional associations and educational institutions, comprising a total of some 4,000,000 documents. The collection is the largest in the Netherlands, after that of the Naturalis Biodiversity Center, and is one of the largest architecture related collections in the world. Besides museum quality drawings, these archives include sketches, preliminary designs, working drawings, business and personal correspondence, photographs, models, posters, press clippings and published articles. The collection offers insight into 130 years of development within Dutch architecture and urbanism. The uniqueness of many archives, their artistic quality and the added value of the complete collection give the archives of Het Nieuwe Instituut their great cultural and historical significance. The archive of so-called 'born digital' material is growing rapidly and currently contains approximately 60,000 files. This shift is one of the reasons for our increased investment in digitalisation, both in time and funding terms. One of the key outcomes is a new search portal, which provides access to the largest digital architecture archive and contains more than 140,000 images.
With the establishment of the Maatschappij tot Bevordering der Bouwkunst (Society for the Promotion of Architecture) in the mid-19th century, the education of architects in the modern sense started taking shape. From that moment onwards, architectural archives were established. The archives of the firm P.J.H. Cuypers and his son J.Th. Cuypers, are prominent 19th century components of the collection of Het Nieuwe Instituut. The main bulk of the collection is from the period 1900 to 1940, and includes the archives of H.P. Berlage, K.P.C. de Bazel, W. Kromhout, M. de Klerk, J.J.P. Oud, W.M. Dudok, J. Duiker, J.A. Brinkman and L.C. van der Vlugt, T. van Doesburg, H. Th. Wijdeveld, G. Th. Rietveld and C. van Eesteren. Another important archive from the same period is that of the Royal Institute of Dutch Architects (BNA). The post-war reconstruction period (1940-1965) is well-represented by the archives of J.H. van den Broek and J.B. Bakema, H. Maaskant, and W. Wissing. More recent archives include those of Herman Hertzberger, Sjoerd Soeters and Albers en Van Huut.
Het Nieuwe Instituut collects publications about Dutch and international architecture, urban design, and related design fields such as housing, spatial planning, landscape architecture, and interior architecture. The main emphasis is on the modern era, from the 19th century onwards. Besides architecture and urbanism, Het Nieuwe Instituut also collects information on art, photography, digital culture and design, as well as on social topics such as globalization, media, the network society, and the amusement industry. By staying in touch with these trends, Het Nieuwe Instituut aims to take a broader perspective of developments that are relevant to designing the space around us.
The library collection contains around 65,000 books and brochures, and 1,300 magazine from the Netherlands and abroad, including 40 ongoing subscriptions. The audiovisual collection contains around 550 video tapes, DVDs, CDs and audio cassettes, and has recently been digitised. Het Nieuwe Instituut also houses a collection of rare 20th-century books and magazines and 18th- and 19th-century folios. The collection grows by around 10 metres a year, not only through acquisitions from (antiquarian) bookshops, but also through donations by institutions and private individuals, and the acquisition of libraries from the estates of Dutch architects. In 2013, when the NAI transitioned into Het Nieuwe Instituut, the core of the acquisitions policy remained architecture and urban planning. The collection is still a secondary resource for research, alongside the primary resource of the State Archive for Dutch Architecture and Urban Planning. In addition, acquisitions are made for the longterm research projects Things and Materials, Landscape and Interior, and the disciplines Design and Digital Culture. The composition of the library is thus gradually adapting to the institute’s current mission. Both internal and external researchers have access to the resources that underpin Het Nieuwe Instituut’s programme.