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Movable heritage

The Cultural Heritage Agency also looks after the Netherlands’ movable heritage. Its main tasks are:

  • to manage and display the State art collection
  • to conduct research and disseminate knowledge of the movable heritage 

The Dutch Collection

The Dutch Collection comprises all the movable cultural heritage that is accessible to the public.

A large proportion of this heritage is cared for by museums. Some of it is managed by churches, universities (the academic heritage), local and regional authorities and companies (historic corporate collections).

The Dutch Collection includes the State art collection, which is managed by national museums, government ministries, and by the Cultural Heritage Agency on behalf of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.

The State art collection

The Agency manages the part of the State art collection that is not on permanent loan to museums. This includes some 100,000 objects. Much of it is on loan to museums, public buildings and Dutch embassies. The items that are not on loan are stored in repositories in Rijswijk (near The Hague).

It is a very diverse collection, and can roughly be divided into fine art and applied art. The fine art collection includes old and modern paintings, works on paper (drawings and graphic art), sculpture, photographs, videos, installations and performances. The applied art collection includes ceramics, furniture, textiles, glass, jewellery, design drawings and posters. The state collection also includes architectural fragments and archaeological objects.

How does the state acquire art?

The government acquires its art through purchases, commissions, gifts, bequests and transfers. From 1932 to 1992 the government not only purchased existing works, it also commissioned new art. Several large collections have also been bequeathed to the nation.

The Formation of the Dutch State Collection

Jewish-owned art

During the war, the occupying Germans appropriated many artworks belonging to Jewish families. After the war the Netherlands reclaimed some 4000 ‘ownerless’ works. Some have been returned to the descendants of the original owners, asin the Goudstikker case.


From 1949 to 1987 many artists sold their work directly to the state under two special schemes that existed during that period. Much of this work has been returned to the artists or donated to non-profit art-lending libraries.

High-quality collection

The Agency is working on creating a smaller, high-quality state art collection. Art for which there is no longer a place in the collection is entered into a relocation database accessible to museums. What remains will be auctioned off, some of it through eBay, on the site (Dutch only)

Cultural Heritage Preservation Act

The Netherlands has no legislation for the protection of the movable heritage, except for the Cultural Heritage Preservation Act, under which heritage of national importance that is in private ownership can be kept in the Netherlands.