Rijksmuseum Research Library

The Rijksmuseum has the most extensive art history library in the Netherlands. Items have been collected since 1885, including catalogues (auction, exhibition, commercial and collection), collection-related books, periodicals and annual reports.

The objective of the Rijksmuseum Research Library is partly to provide documentary information to support the mission of the Rijksmuseum, and partly to consolidate and expand the position of an academic art historical library of national importance. The library sets itself the aim of maintaining the high quality of the collection and conserving it to the highest possible standards, of filling any gaps in the collection, and of ensuring access to the information available and improving this access where possible.

In line with the general policy of the museum, the Rijksmuseum Research Library also plays an important international role in delineating, presenting and publicizing Dutch art history. One example of this is its participation in Art Discovery, which provides online access to the most important art historical libraries in the world.

Collection policy

detail Detail van de CuypersbibliotheekThe collection profile corresponds to the collection areas of the Rijksmuseum. The initial priorities are the history of painting, printmaking, drawing, sculpture and the decorative arts in Western Europe from the Middle Ages to the early 20th century. In these areas, the Library pursues a collection policy that focuses on comprehensiveness.

Other priorities are the history of photography, iconography, collection history (collection catalogues), Indian miniatures, Chinese painting and bronze, Japanese prints and sculpture from South and Southeast Asia.

Since the Rijksmuseum’s reorientation as a national museum of both art and history, Dutch history has also become an area within the collection. In this respect, the main emphasis is on cultural history.

Special collections

The library is home to a number of important special collections, including:

  • auction catalogues
  • the A.N. Godefroy Collection
  • the National Photography Collection
  • the former libraries of the National School of Applied Arts and the State Normal School for Art Teachers (collectively referred to as The School Libraries)
  • [Library of the Society of Friends of Asian Art (VVAK)](http://library.rijksmuseum.nl/cgi-bin/koha/opac-search.pl?q=copynumber 3DMAK%)
  • [Book Collection of the Royal Archaeological Society (KOG)](http://library.rijksmuseum.nl/cgi-bin/koha/opac-search.pl?q=callnum 3Dkog%)
  • the Frits Keers Collection

More about the special collections of the Rijksmuseum Research Library

Access to the collection

The aim is to provide access to all available materials through a flexible library catalogue. With a view to service and efficiency this requires a standardized library catalogue. For this purpose, a large part of the card catalogue has been digitized and made available online.

New activities

The library does not provide a ready-made information product but provides services which enable internal and external users to solve issues pertaining to history and art history. It is impossible to hold all relevant literature on the premises while sources of art historical and historical information are increasingly being distributed by electronic means. The goal is to support art historical and historical research by granting access to the information systems of the Rijksmuseum and external electronic sources of information. With a view to the further development of the library’s virtual component, we are currently investigating the possibilities of combined searches, more detailed presentations of search results, web services and tools, personalized access and links with external art historical and historical databases.


The policy of the Rijksmuseum Research Library is focused on improving or maintaining the condition of its book materials with the aim of ensuring that they can be consulted. To achieve this, restoration work need to be carried out while maintaining the original materials and structures.