Government archives stretch for 645 kilometres

Dutch government archives covered a total shelf length of 645 kilometres in 2000, 264 more than the 381 kilometres in 1980. The number of repositories has been reduced drastically, however, in the last twenty years.

Increase caused mainly by change in legislation

The increase in the length of shelves holding Dutch archives was mainly caused by a change in legislation covering archives in 1996. The new law meant that more government documents had to be officially archived. As many archives anticipated this change in the law, there was a sharp increase in the period 1990 to 1995 in particular. The number of documents in storage rose from 470 to 600 kilometres.

Fewer archive repositories

The Dutch government keeps documents, maps, drawings, charters, collections and data files in specially equipped archive repositories. Since 1980 the number of such repositories has decreased by about 60 percent.

Repositories and shelf length of government archives

The reduction in the number of repositories is connected with changes in municipal boundaries. The consequence of this was that the number of municipalities with archives fell sharply, from 517 in 1980 to 213 in 2000.

More information requests

Some 190 thousand people visited public archives for purposes of research in 2000, more than double the 87 thousand in 1980. Half of these visitors came for genealogical information, the other half for other research and official records.

Decrease in written information requests

In addition to visitors, archives received 48 thousand requests for information by mail, fax and e-mail, of which 60 percent were for genealogical information. This is slightly less than in 1980. Many people now find the information they need on the Internet.

Website visits

Although only 15 percent of the 329 repositories have their own website, 170 thousand people visited their theme pages.

Harry Visser