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foto: Kim Verkade

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The growth of the collection

The current museum collection was assembled over many centuries. It all started in the old City Hall on Dagelijkse Groenmarkt, where as early as the sixteenth century, several walls were decorated with painted views of the Hofvijver (Court Pond). Such paintings could probably also be found in the Sint Sebastiaansdoelen (the clubhouse of The Hague city guard, which now houses the Historical Museum of The Hague) in the sixteenth century. In 1650, the city governors commissioned Jan van Goyen to paint a large view of The Hague. The painting was displayed in the Mayor’s Parlour at City Hall.

Paintings of magistrates and the city guard were also commissioned. The city’s collection grew in the course of the centuries. When various guilds disbanded at the end of the eighteenth century, their precious glassware and silverware was donated to the city. Private individuals in the nineteenth century were particularly generous, donating old family portraits or unusual historical items. In 1851, several wealthy residents of The Hague founded a society focused on collecting items and pictures that helped tell the story of the city. The municipality provided the society with an exhibition space: two small rooms in the City Hall on Dagelijkse Groenmarkt. Another society was subsequently founded, which collected modern art.

In 1871, the city council decided to turn a building on Korte Beestenmarkt (number 9) into a municipal museum, so that everything could be properly exhibited to the public. As the collection grew, the building became too small. The municipality decided to transform the Sint Sebastiaansdoelen into a museum. The Gemeentemuseum (the municipal museum of The Hague) opened its doors on Korte Vijverberg in 1884.

However, space also became an issue at this location. In 1935, a newly built Gemeentemuseum was completed on Stadhouderslaan. Eventually, this building became too small as well. In 1986, the Hague History department of the museum was given a new building and a new name: The Historical Museum of The Hague. The corresponding collection was officially transferred to this museum in 1991.

The collection continues to grow thanks to acquisitions and donations. Only approximately 4 per cent of the some 8,000 objects in the collection is on display in the museum, the remainder is on loan (less than 4 per cent) or is in storage. Preparations are currently being made to restore and renovate the museum building, in part to make it easier to organise exhibitions at the museum.

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