The Rijksmuseum is the Dutch National Museum dedicated to arts and history in Amsterdam. But tucked away inside, is the Netherlands Research Library. When we think “Research Library”, we are often met with thoughts of boring, stark architecture and dull, grey walls as far as the eye can see. But the Rijksmuseum's Research Library is a creation all of its own. This is a place one could only dream up, let alone have the opportunity to spend your days studying here. It looks like a slightly more gothic version of Belle's library from Beauty and the Beast; fairytales really do come true.
The Rijksmuseum Research Library is the definition of "architecture porn". It is the crown jewel of the Netherlands art history collection. Books and ephemera have been collected since 1885 for the collection and include catalogues from auctions and exhibitions, periodicals and annual reports, photography, iconography, Indian miniatures, Chinese paintings and bronzes as well as Japanese prints and sculptures. The library was built along with the rest of the museum in 1885 by Pierre Cuypers in Renaissance and Gothic architectural styles. The decorative embellishments can still be seen today in the wrought iron railings and swirling staircase.
The library is used every day by the museum staff who research some of the more obscure pieces of the museum's collection or other art history artefacts they received. This isn't just a beautiful building, but a functional one where day to day operations of the museum take place. The library has a buzz to it, much like any office but set in a Gothic, court-like setting.
As the collection grows, not all of it can be held in this library, but it has been a mandate for the Rijksmuseum to make more and more of the information publicly available online. So, even though not all of us can visit this gorgeous masterpiece of Renaissance and Gothic architecture, through the magic of the internet, we all get the chance to access the rich texts that are housed within.
If you want to visit the library and take out a book, all you need is Photo ID to register for a library card. But be aware that some books cannot leave the library. You can check online to see if the book you're interested in is available for borrowing. External visitors (tourists) are not permitted to borrow books or periodicals, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t browse the collection and read the books while you’re in town. On request, some items can be scanned, so you do have the ability to take a piece of a book home with you if you are so inclined. They have gone out of their way to make sure they this kind of information is available to everyone, and more people can learn more about art and history!
There are about 400,000 volumes in the collection. The online web catalogue contains about 300,000 monographs, 3,400 periodicals and 40,000 art sales catalogues. And there are still about 50,000 art sales catalogues, published before 1989, that have yet to be entered into the system.
The Rijksmuseum museum and library just finished undergoing extensive renovations, and as a result, has created a special reading room for visitors. Creative Adventurers are encouraged to come into the reading room to read items from the library since they are unable to borrow them. The reading room also has a comprehensive collection of historical reference books. A staff member is on hand inside to answer any questions you might have about the collections or the library itself. This is such a great resource so don’t miss out on this opportunity if you have any sort of interest in art history.