Design heritage

Premsela works to preserve Dutch design heritage in partnership with the Netherlands Institute for Art History (RKD). Artefacts from the design process are scattered around the country in private mixed-format archives, and special care is required to find appropriate homes for this material and make it available to the public.

Maintaining these archives and providing access to them are fundamental to preserving Dutch design history. Without archival material – roughly defined as the physical traces left behind by the activities of people, groups and organisations – we will be unable to write history and ultimately to understand our designed objects. Design archives serve as essential sources of information for research, exhibitions and publications. They also enable the reconstruction of design processes, which is useful for reproducing iconic designs and planning anniversary activities.

Dealing with design archives, which often contain three-dimensional objects, requires specific expertise. Correspondence, notes and photographs fit standard archival packing materials, but design prototypes, museum-quality products and fragile large sketches demand specific treatment and appropriate housing.

Plan of Action
Premsela works to find homes for important and endangered Dutch design archives and get them exhibited. With partner heritage institutions, we are setting up a permanent national infrastructure to ensure their future maintenance. Since May, with the RKD, we have been operating the Central Register of Design Archives (CRDa) and issuing advice on design archiving through the CRDa info desk. We will use the knowledge and experience we gain to prepare an action plan outlining new steps toward cooperation and longterm policy in this area.

CRDa database
The CRDa database plays an indispensable role in the preservation of Dutch design heritage. It serves as a clearinghouse, map and guide for heritage institutions and builders and users of archives. Premsela and the RKD maintain the database.

CRDa info desk
The CRDa info desk answers questions about archiving and registers information on Dutch design archives. Through it, we share our knowledge on aspects ranging from spotting endangered archives to providing public access to materials. The CRDa info desk also supervises rescue operations for design archives and collects data on them for the database.

Heritage clusters
Alongside our activities to preserve design archives and our CRDa work, Premsela is cooperating with partner heritage institutions to build an infrastructure for placing these repositories of design history and making them publicly accessible. We are bringing individual archives together in a number of “heritage clusters” around the country. Industrial, fashion and graphic design archives will be watched over by three new discipline-specific institutions: the Louis Kalff Instituut in Eindhoven, Modekern Arnhem, and the forthcoming Grafisch Erfgoedcentrum in Amsterdam. 

The Willem Hendrik Gispen archive, Netherlands Institute for Art History, The Hague.
Contact the CRDa
To register details of a Dutch design archive or ask a question about archiving, contact the CRDa info desk by email or on +31 (0)20 3449 443.