Het Nieuwe Instituut has completed its mission from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science to create an inventory of important and threatened archives in the fields of design and digital culture. The results were presented to Barbera Wolfensberger, the ministry’s Director-General of Culture and Media. The report outlines a policy perspective on the government’s task in relation to the preservation of archives in these fields. 

To carry out its mission of ‘Inventorying Design and Digital Culture Archives’, Het Nieuwe Instituut, in close consultation with the Association of Dutch Designers (BNO) and the ministry, established two work groups and an advisory panel and conducted dozens of interviews with experts and stakeholders in the field.

In their analysis, the design and digital culture work groups confirm the necessity of identifying relevant archives in both professional fields and making them accessible to the public. They also stress the essential importance of research and public access to legitimise the formation of the archives.

It was not possible to provide concrete answers to all the questions raised during this exploratory phase. But there is unmistakably support for a networked approach to the underlying question and there is confidence in the task’s feasibility. The process must be organised centrally where necessary and in a decentralised manner where possible.

On the basis of social issues such as identity, migration, automation and craftsmanship, an approach to archiving that reveals new connections and new insights that are relevant both within and beyond the design field can be developed.

The mission creates the possibility – following a period of stagnation – of taking a structural approach to preserving the memory of the Dutch design sector, which has hitherto lacked an integral archiving policy. Given the cultural significance of archiving these fields, the report aims to provide a productive response to the mission. On 11 June, the Minister of Education, Culture and Science, Ingrid van Engelshoven, presented her cultural policy document for the period 2021-4, in which she publicly outlined the future trajectory for the management of design and digital culture archives.