Collections and services

Those wishing to conduct research by consulting the collections of the Rijksmuseum are welcome to visit the Rijksmuseum Research Library and the Study Room located in and next to the historic library in the main building.

The Research Library Collections

The Rijksmuseum Research Library is one of the world’s most renowned art libraries. Catalogues of art sales and exhibitions, trade and collection catalogues, as well as books, periodicals and annual reports relating to the museum collections have been collected without interruption since 1885. These publications are available for retrieval from the library catalogue and can be consulted in the Research Library. The material you request will be available for reference for seven days.

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Art sales catalogues

The Rijksmuseum has a collection of around 60,000 art sales catalogues, the earliest of which dates from the late sixteenth century. New catalogues are added to the collection weekly. While art sales catalogues dating from 1989 are listed in the digital library catalogue, those acquired previous to 1989 can be found in the printed catalogue.

The Research Library makes the Art Sales Catalogues Online (ASCO) accessible. This is a database that includes more than 20,000 historic art sales catalogues dating from 1600 to 1900 and also provides access to such sources as the Lugt’s Répertoire Online database.

The Special Library Collections

In addition to its standard collection, the Research Library maintains publications that have been awarded a museal status due to their publication date, publication form, contents or provenance. These ‘Special Collections’ include such works as early editions, books containing original prints or photographs, special bibliophile editions, artist’s books, books providing instructions and guides for artists, and all the works of the Royal Antiquarian Society (KOG). These works are indicated in the catalogue by an asterisk and the designation ‘Special Collections’. Materials you have requested will be available for you to collect until the end of day from the desk in the Research Library.

Databases and digital collections

The Research Library also provides access to a number of e-periodicals, e-books and important art historical and historical databases. Most of these can be consulted only at the library itself by using your own computer and either the RijksWiFi connection or Eduroam. A list of the available databases is available here.

Consulting works on paper

The Study Room is the place for consulting works on paper that include prints, drawings, photographs and letters. Most of these collections are listed in the Rijksstudio. Requests should be submitted before noon, no fewer than two workdays in advance (we are open Tuesday to Saturday) by completing this form. If you would like to come on Tuesday, for example, make sure to submit your request no later than the previous Friday before noon. An appointment is not definite until you receive a confirmation.

Please note: a limit can be set on the number of objects requested. In addition, certain objects are so vulnerable to damage that they cannot be displayed.

Consulting documentation

The museum staff have been collecting documentation about the meaning, function and/or provenance of objects in the collection ever since the museum was founded. This documentation includes written articles, newspaper clippings, restoration documentation, black-and-white photographs and more recent photographs, provenance information, etc. The contents of these files can vary greatly depending on the object itself.

Practically all the collection documentation is available for research purposes. If a certain file is available, this is usually indicated under ‘documentation’ with the object data in Rijksstudio. Correspondence and information about purchase prices and the amounts for which objects are insured are not made public.

Restoration documentation is available for viewing only by submitting a justified request which involves completing this form. A request for restoration documentation should be submitted at least three days in advance.
The object files relating to the painting collection (except for restoration information) can be requested through the library catalogue. Requests for other files can be made by submitting this form.

Consulting the archives

The Rijksmuseum Archive

The Rijksmuseum Archive dates back to the beginning of the nineteenth century and contains institutional information about the acquisition of objects, exhibitions, the various museum buildings, operational management and the museum personnel.

Today, the Rijksmuseum Archive is accommodated at two locations. The Rijksmuseum Archive accommodating records that predate 1995 (and is closed to the public) is accommodated in the Noord-Hollands Archief (NHA) in Haarlem and can be consulted at.
The Rijksmuseum itself is responsible for the archive records and files dating from 1995 to the present. For information about this archive material and ways to consult it, please contact the staff of the Rijksmuseum Archive at archief@rijksmuseum.nl. Acquisition information is not always made available to the public.

eregalerij Gallery of Honour, c. 1957 - c. 1958

The Rijksmuseum Photography Archive

The Rijksmuseum Photography Archive consists mainly of images taken of objects in the collection. It also includes photographs of exhibitions, events in and around the museum, and images of the building. Much of the old material is preserved on its original media, which could be glass negatives, photographic negatives, Ektachromes, prints, or in albums. Much of this archive has recently been made available in digital form via Rijksstudio.

For information about the Photography Archive and ways to consult it, please contact the staff of the Image Department .

The archives and letter collections

The Rijksmuseum also manages archives belonging to third parties that have a direct link with the museum’s collections or sub-collections. Some of these archives are listed in the library catalogue while others are listed in the Rijksstudio. Requesting the latter archives is subject to the same conditions as requesting works on paper, including the submission of this form.