History of the University of Amsterdam

Sofia Gisberg, Oorkonde Nobelprijs J.D. van der Waals. Stockholm, 1910. [UM inv. nr. 080.130]

Nobel Prize of J.D. van der Waals

This collection domain relates to the history of higher education in Amsterdam, and particularly that of the Athenaeum Illustre (founded in 1632) and its successor the University of Amsterdam (from 1877).

The foundations for the University History collections were laid on two occasions: in 1743, when the Amsterdam merchant Gerardus van Papenbroeck donated his collection of portraits of famous learned men to the Athenaeum Illustre, and in 1883, when the CLIO debating society decided to start a collection focusing on the history of higher education in Amsterdam. The latter collection passed to the University of Amsterdam in 1916 and was gradually expanded to become what is very much a ‘corporate collection’.

The collection consists mainly of visual material and focuses on the impact of education and research. Some of the collections relating to education and research are housed at the faculties. Ownership of the collections will gradually be transferred.


The University History collections – especially the visual material – are an illustration of and an important source for research into the history of the University of Amsterdam and student life there. The collections are also actively used to promote the University of Amsterdam, particularly during university jubilee celebrations.

The materials are ideal for ‘University of Amsterdam heritage on location’ presentations, where they help increase students’ historical awareness. This focus on the history of the University of Amsterdam has yet to be given a permanent location within the university and is consequently often overlooked by the general public. There is collaboration with the central departments of the University, such as Documentary Information, the Registrar and the Central Computer Services (Album Academicum) and the Communications Office (photography).

Collection profile

  • Portraits of professors (paintings, sculptures and drawings)
  • Prints and photography relating to the university and the university community
  • Posters for university activities
  • University pins (international), medals and badges
  • Lecture notes
  • Archives relating to professors and student fellowships
  • Almanacs
  • Teaching models and pictures
  • Research collections (specimens)
  • Equipment

Important collections


Published by  Special Collections UvA

22 August 2014