History of the Collection

The Jewish Historical Museum FoundationThe Jewish Historical Museum Foundation was set up on 23 May 1930 for 'the collection and presentation of everything that illustrates Jewish life in general and Dutch Jewish life in particular, in the widest sense, the discussion in meetings of everything related to this and the useful employment of every means to encourage Jewish art and studies'.

Eight months after its official opening at the Weigh House in Amsterdam's Nieuwmarkt district on 24 February 1932, the museum already owned 335 objects. By late 1937 this had risen to around 630.

Second World War
In the Second World War the museum was forced to close and much of the collection was confiscated. Only a small percentage was recovered after the war. Read more.

133N006New collection
While the restored objects were largely religious items, after the war the museum began to focus on the history and culture of Dutch Jews. Part of this new collection was a large body of wartime documents.
On 14 July 1955 the museum was reopened by Dutch prime minister Willem Drees. In 1974 the museum moved from the top floor of the Weigh House to encompass the entire building.

Resource Centre
As the museum grew, so too did the collection of documentary information. In 1975 these items formed the core of a new Resource Centre, which could be visited by appointment. Its task was to actively collect publications and visual material about the art, culture, religion and history of (Dutch) Jews. Video material and music were added later. When the museum moved to Jonas Daniel Meijerplein in 1987 the Resource Centre was opened to the public on a permanent basis, providing a valuable information centre, thanks partly to the development of digital technology. More about the Resource Centre collection and services.

New accents
Today the museum has around 30,000 objects, documents and photos. In general the collection guidelines have remained the same as when they were first drawn up in 1930. In recent decades, however, additional emphasis has been placed on a number of new areas.

The museum's focus on art encompasses both work by Dutch Jewish artists and depictions by non-Jewish artists of Jewish themes. The presentation of over 1,300 gouaches of Charlotte Salomon's series Leben? Oder Theater?, was an important acquisition. A catalogue of her oeuvre has been published in Dutch, English and German, and the series has featured in major exhibitions in the Netherlands and abroad.
Another shift in emphasis occurred when the museum launched the highly successful Pedlar, Middleman, Manufacturer: Jewish Enterprises and Entrepreneurs in Holland, 1796-1940 exhibition which remained on display from 1994 to 2002 in the Great Synagogue galleries. This presentation inspired many visitors to the museum to donate objects and documents relating to Jews involved in Dutch commerce and industry to the museum.

Personal history is another theme on which the museum has focused. Documents such as diaries, letters and photos, as well as video interviews, portraits and personal items, testify in a profound way to events in the lives of people and families while providing an authentic image of a historical period.