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Allard Pierson

Parent Institution: Bibliotheek van de Universiteit van Amsterdam / Library of the University of Amsterdam


The Allard Pierson manages the heritage of the University of Amsterdam. This heritage comprises all special collections of the University Library and various museum collections, including the archaeological collections of the former Allard Pierson Museum and the collections of the former University Museum.

The University Library has its origins in the City Library of Amsterdam that was founded in 1578. Following the establishment of the Amsterdam Athenaeum Illustre in 1632, the library also came to serve higher education, a function which was consolidated in 1877 when the Athenaeum Illustre was promoted to the status of university and the city and athenaeum library of Amsterdam became the University of Amsterdam’s library. From 1880 several departments were created to manage the library’s special collections. The University Museum was founded in 1916 on the basis of the historical collection that had been assembled by the student association CLIO since 1883. All these collections were united in the Special Collections department of the University of Amsterdam in 2007.

When the Allard Pierson Museum was established in 1934, it received two founding collections, one the collection of antique objects that had been brought together by Professor Jan Six to serve the curriculum at the University of Amsterdam, the other Constant Willem Lunsingh Scheurleer’s private museum in The Hague. In 2019 the Allard Pierson Museum and Special Collections merged to become Allard Pierson – The Collections of the University of Amsterdam. The Allard Pierson is administered by the University Library.

Geographical and cultural context
The Allard Pierson is housed in a cluster of historical buildings on Oude Turfmarkt in the heart of Amsterdam and in Artis Library on Plantage Middenlaan. The relationship with the city of Amsterdam and its religious, cultural and academic institutions has been strong from the establishment of the City Library in 1578. Many smaller and larger libraries and collections were incorporated in the university in the course of the centuries, and these have left a strong mark on the collecting policy. The Allard Pierson is still closely linked to the city.

Administrative structure
The management of the collections of the Allard Pierson is the responsibility of the Kennis en collecties (Knowledge and collections) department. The Allard Pierson is a division of the Bibliotheek UvA/HvA (Library of the University of Amsterdam/Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences), one of the common services units of the University of Amsterdam and the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. The Allard Pierson and the central library services collaborate closely in cataloguing, depot management, digitisation and service delivery.

Records management and collecting policies
The Allard Pierson acquires, preserves and manages, catalogues and makes accessible a broad range of primary and secondary research material, consisting of manuscripts, printed works, archives, prints, audio-visual material, museum objects, digital files and other special material to support education and research at the University of Amsterdam and the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences and to enable presentations for the general public. Collection development comprises both acquisition and deselection. The Allard Pierson is conservative in acquiring new material, prioritizing instead cataloguing and making available already existing collections for research purposes. Labour-intensive and costly acquisitions of individual items occur less frequently than before, the emphasis having shifted to the acquisition of good-quality complete collections assembled by private persons or institutions.

In 1976 the Allard Pierson Museum moved into the former home of the Nederlandsche Bank on Oude Turfmarkt, a building designed by Willem Anthonie Froger. The complex incorporates many elements from previous buildings, such as a conventual church and a hospital and a few private houses designed by architect Philip Vingboons between 1643 and 1645. In 2007 the Special Collections department was housed in the adjoining complex on Oude Turfmarkt. PRO architectural studio combined the three still intact monumental Vingboons houses, the former Sint Bernardus Gesticht (Saint Bernard’s Hospice) dating to 1882–1884 and the Gasthuishofpoortje situated in between, to form a single whole.
The present Artis Library began its life in 1838 as the library of the Royal Zoological Society 'Natura Artis Magistra'. In 1868 it moved to a purpose-built library building on Plantage Middenlaan near Artis Zoo, which had been designed by architect Gerlof Bartholomeus Salm. The library’s gallery still houses extensive collections of books and periodicals on natural history.

Archival and other holdings
Collecting areas:
• Archaeology and Cultural History of Ancient Egypt
• Archaeology and Cultural History of the Near East
• Archaeology and Cultural History of the Classical World
• Cultural History of the Middle Ages
• European Cultural History from c. 1500 – present
• Church and Religious History
• Jewish Cultural History
• Natural History
• History of the Exact Sciences
• Cartography, Geography and Travel
• History of the Book Trade
• Graphic Design and Typography
• History of the Performing Arts
• History of the University of Amsterdam

Oude Turfmarkt 127-129
Amsterdam 1012 GC Nederland

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