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With the introduction of a new search portal – search.hetnieuweinstituut.nl – Het Nieuwe Instituut gives the public direct online access to one of the world’s largest architecture collections. The State Archive of Dutch Architecture contains 1.4 million drawings; 300,000 photographs; 2,500 models and 70,000 books and magazines, which together document the history of Dutch architecture and urbanism. Among other features, the search portal allows professional researchers and others to consult 130,000 images in detail via a special viewer.

Het Nieuwe Instituut preserves 580 archives and collections of Dutch architects and urban planners including P.J.H. Cuypers, H.P. Berlage, J.J.P. Oud, Gerrit Rietveld, Van den Broek & Bakema, Herman Hertzberger, Piet Blom, OMA and MVRDV. The collection’s great cultural and historical value derives not only from the artistic quality and uniqueness of the individual collections but also from the archive as a whole, which charts 130 years of developments in Dutch architecture and urbanism. Alongside presentation drawings, photographs and models, the archives contain sketches, working drawings, correspondence, posters and other documents.

The collection is at the heart of Het Nieuwe Instituut’s activities and the source of its investigation of current issues in the fields of architecture, design and e-culture. For example, a long-term research project on Dutch structuralism conducted within the Jaap Bakema Study Centre resulted in the exhibition Structuralism – An Installation in Four Acts and an accompanying series of debates in 2014. That year Jaap Bakema’s work was central to the Netherlands’ submission to the Venice Architecture Biennale. The exhibitions Designing Scarcity (2014) and What is the Netherlands (2015) were also based on research in the archives.

The collection’s relevance is clear not only from the institute’s own programming. Het Nieuwe Instituut also facilitates and stimulates external research by curators, architects, academics, educational institutions and conservators. With the launch of the new search portal, a much broader audience will easily be able to find its way around the collection. The interface is user-friendly and offers a range of different search functions.

Data about the collection is also the subject of academic and artistic reflection. Research fellow Annet Dekker, for example, is looking into possible interpretations of and ways of presenting the digital archive. Artists, photographers and designers are attempting to reveal the collection’s invisible layers. Designer Richard Vijgen, for example, is using the archives to experiment with different forms of data visualisation. And the recently acquired MVRDV archive provides a pilot scheme for research into how to manage archives created entirely in the digital age.