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foto: Kim Verkade

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What does the museum collect?

A large part of the collection was acquired a long time ago. Items are often donated by private individuals. For example, the museum received exquisite paintings, such as the portrait of Willem van den Kerckhoven and his family. The work was painted in 1652/1655 by Jan Mijtens, and donated to the museum in 1870. And items like the model of the fireworks pavilion that was erected in the Hofvijver in 1749. The model was donated to the museum in 1888 by politician and culture promoter Victor de Stuers. In 1991, the collection amassed by the Gemeentemuseum (the municipal museum of The Hague, now Kunstmuseum Den Haag) was officially transferred to the Historical Museum of The Hague. The museum’s curators still rely on donations, but now also have a budget allowing them to actively seek out new acquisitions.

Every item in the museum’s collection is intended to illustrate an aspect of the history of The Hague. In this sense, a random chair is not of any interest, in contrast to a suite of furniture from the Royal Waiting Room at Station Staatsspoor. Some items are rather unsightly, but are nevertheless of historical significance. For example, the tongue and finger of the De Witt brothers illustrate an important, gruesome period in the history of The Hague (and in this case, of the Netherlands). In the past, the collection primarily focused on the material culture of the upper echelons of The Hague society.

Nowadays, the items acquired by the museum are representative of all societal levels. Curators are challenged to capture the changing city in the collection, while also focusing on contemporary collecting. What should you add to the collection to capture the essence of modern-day The Hague? An apt example of contemporary collecting is the coronavirus collection, which the museum built up in a short space of time. And the many items that the museum acquired at a contents auction following the unfortunate bankruptcy of Garoeda, an Indonesian restaurant on Kneuterdijk. Alongside introducing dining culture in The Hague, these items also highlight the lives of the many Dutch Eurasians who settled in the city.

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