Collection development

The IISH contributes to the sustainable preservation and accessibility of information from a wide range of social and political groups and organisations and the people active in them. We do this by taking custody of materials as part of the collection, but also by advising and sharing our knowledge.

The IISH preserves and collects materials on labour, social movements and socio-economic developments. The Netherlands is an important area for us and we are also active with regard to international organisations and movements and a number of countries and regions outside Europe. We deal with materials from private organisations and individuals, not with materials originating from the government.

Since its establishment, the IISH has built up a large and broad collection, representing a multitude of subjects and countries or regions. It is impossible to remain active in all these areas. We focus increasingly on unique or rare material, not on material that is already accessible elsewhere, nor on material that can be preserved and made accessible just as well or better elsewhere, for instance in the country it originated from.

In terms of types of material, we are interested in archives, publications, and image and sound materials, and also, increasingly, in digital sources, both digital born and digitised.

The IISH team in the storage room of the Socialist International in London. Photo: SI.|
Photo: Socialist International


Through our work, we seek to ensure that materials are included in the historical archive, to safeguard the histories of groups, organisations and movements that would not otherwise be preserved or properly represented for current and future generations.

In addition, we aim to facilitate socio-economic history research by making these materials available. Facilitating knowledge production on socio-economic history provides insights into social inequality and its causes. These insights will gain relevance if they are based on a broad spectrum of sources.

how does it work

If you are considering donating material to the IISH or providing it on loan, we first ask you to check whether it might be suitable for the IISH, is already at the IISH, or is already held elsewhere (if it is non-unique material). Then we can have a conversation, preferably by e-mail first, to determine what the material is about and whether the IISH can play a role.

In such a conversation, we will explore the possibilities, how the material can be handed over, whether it should be a donation or a loan, and whether the material can be made publicly available or comes with restrictions.

We invite individuals and organisations that provide material to contribute to its arrangement or digitisation. This can result in a more extensive form of collaboration (collaborative archiving) where the provider has an important say in how the material is arranged and made available. Sometimes we will advise a provider to submit the material elsewhere or keep it for themselves.

collection development staff

If you are considering donating or loaning material to the IISH, or wish to ensure the long-term preservation of your material in some other way, please contact one of the staff members of the Collections Department:

IISH foundation

For every collection that ends up with us, we sign a donation or loan contract with the IISH Foundation (Stichting IISG). This independent, private, non-profit foundation ensures that the material does not become government property. The Foundation has a Supervisory Board comprising representatives of social, cultural and scientific organisations. The IISH, one of the institutes of the KNAW, manages the collections on behalf of the Foundation.