The Museum Archive

The exhibition and management archives form an integral part of the library’s collections. The two archives together form the museum’s archive and serve as the organization’s working memory. The museum archive contains primary sources, partly unpublished (including policy memorandums, notes and correspondence) about the history of the museum. They also provide a picture of the development of the art and museum world from 1936. The museum archive was extensively documented in the study by René Pingen ‘Dat museum is een mijnheer‘ (That museum is a gentleman). You can find a summary of the exhibitions in the Van Abbemuseum from 1936 up to the present in the accompanying list: tentoonstellingen 1936-2021 (exhibitions 1936-2021). You can find more documentation about the exhibitions in the online bibliotheekcatalogus (online library catalogue) in the list under Exhibitions 1936-2019

Management Archive 1936-1989

The management archive contains archive materials about the history of the museum. You can find information here about the backgrounds of the collection and exhibition policy. For example, in addition to the correspondence from and to the former directors of the museum, the archive contains files about the Advisory and Supervisory Commission.  In addition, there are files about the way in which the museum organized museum lessons in the past, amongst other things. The museum employees were obviously also active in numerous external cultural  commissions, organizations and editorial boards. The results of these activities can also be found in the archive, such as the minutes and correspondence of the well-known ‘Museumjournaal’ and the ‘Stichting Openbaar Kunstbezit’.  All the documents about the period 1936-1989 can be consulted online via the mediabank. You can find more general information in the inventories:


Posters / designers

The library’s collection of posters is an important part of the museum’s collection. In particular the collection documents the development of national and international modern art and design from 1936. There are regular requests for the posters to be loaned for national and international exhibitions. The posters also often have a prominent presence in the museum itself as a witness and symbol of its (exhibition) history.  You can find a summary of the museum’s posters (including the illustrations) in the bibliotheekcatalogus (library catalogue).

The individual directors of the Van Abbemuseum always chose their own graphic designers to promote their vision. Posters, catalogues and invitations were the perfect vehicle for clarifying the museum’s position and to present the exhibitions. Two prominent graphic designers were briefly mentioned in the series of library exhibitions: Wim Crouwel and Jan van Toorn

Historisch overzicht van de belangrijkste grafische vormgevers van het Van Abbemuseum. (Historical summary of the most important designers of the Van Abbemuseum)

Museum history

In the museum history series we present special archive materials and documents about the history of the museum, from the opening of the museum in 1936 up to and including the directorate of Jan Debbaut (1988- 2003).