Access restrictions on archives

For a small fee, the RKD is accessible to anyone wishing to visit our reading rooms in order to obtain or search for information there. Generally speaking, the archives and collections that are in our care are open to the public. This means that all visitors are at liberty to consult archives, whether it be the original documents at a table, or their digital counterparts on one of the computers in the reading rooms. However, there are also parts of archives that are not open to public inspection, and which therefore cannot automatically be applied for and consulted in our reading rooms.

Why am I not allowed access to these archives?

There are 5 possible reasons why archives are not available for public inspection:

  • The archives are not available to the public
    Some private archives - belonging to associations, foundations, businesses, families or private persons - which have been donated or entrusted (on loan) to our care are subject to contractual or legal limitations regarding publicity. More information on this can be found below. The staff member manning the reading room information desk will be able to inform you when the archives will be made available to the public. He or she should also be able to tell you if and on what conditions exceptions to these rules can be made.
  • The archives have been reproduced
    If archives have been reproduced (put on microfiche or digitalised) you are not allowed to consult the original. An exception will only be made if the reproduction proves to be illegible. For more information on this please enquire with reading room staff.
  • The archive is in preparation
    If an archive is in preparation (i.e., being inventoried, conserved, under restauration or being digitalised) it can be temporarily unavailable. Archives and collections which have not been inventoried are difficult to access and are only available for consultation by appointment and on specific conditions.
  • The archive is temporarily unavailable because it is on loan
    The RKD is regularly requested by museums to give certain archives on loan to them, so that these may be included in temporary exhibitions.
  • The state the archives are in does not permit consultation
    Sometimes the state that archives are in is so poor, that consulting them is not possible until conservation has taken place. This could, for instance, be the case with archives that have been severely damaged by fire or ink corrosion.

In the Inventories in the database you can check if (part of) an archive is subject to publicity restrictions, whether it has been reproduced and if it is available for consultation. Publicity restrictions resulting from privacy protection regulations have not yet been incorporated in the inventories.

Why are private archives sometimes not open to the public?

Contractual restrictions
Sometimes public availability is limited because of stipulations in the donation- or loan for use contract between the RKD and the owner of the archive in question. This could, for example, be the case with relatively recent letters. Contractual agreements also determine the duration of the publicity restriction and state who is authorised to grant dispensation. Often this will be the former owner of the archive; sometimes he or she has passed on this authority to another, for example, a family member.

Privacy laws
If there is no contractual publicity limitation, public inspection can still be obstructed by the privacy protection of living persons who are mentioned in the archives. This is regulated by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the GDPR Implementation Law which is based on this. Whether or not the publicity of archives should be limited in order to protect the privacy of living persons is subject to interpretation. The RKD has appointed a privacy coordinator who advises the archivist on questions concerning privacy protection.

There could be reasons why you would still want to consult archives that have access restrictions. How should you go about obtaining permission for this?

Contractual restrictions
To be able to consult a non-public item from a private archive, you need permission from the donor or depositor, or from whoever this authority has been passed on to. You can fill in your request in our contact form and address it to the Head of Collections of the RKD, who acts as mediator in these matters. As soon as you have obtained permission, you will be able to consult the not publicly accessible items you requested upon showing your letter of permission in the study room. A copy of this letter will then be made to serve as proof that you are entitled to consult the archives you requested. Archives viewed with the express permission of donor or depositor cannot be shown to third parties. Whatever you copy from the material may be used exclusively for the purpose of your own research. If you wish to use the material for any other end, such as publication or any other form of circulation, you yourself are responsible for ensuring that copyright laws are met. The RKD does not mediate in matters concerning third-party copy rights.

Privacy laws
Under certain restrictions the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Dutch GDPR Implementation Law offer scope for the processing of personal data for scientific or historical research or for statistical purposes. 'Processing' includes the issuing or showing of archives to third parties.

In order to meet the conditions of the GDPR and the Dutch GDPR Implementation Law, the RKD makes use of this form. We ask that you read this form carefully. Your archive access application can only be dealt with if you have fully completed and signed this form. If you are not (yet) able to fully answer certain questions, then please state the reason for this. We recommend you fill in this form at home and send it to us digitally, or bring it with you on your next visit. It is also possible to obtain and fill in a form when you visit the RKD.


From the provision of material by the RKD no liability can be inferred. User is assumed to be aware of all relevant legal regulations concerning copy right, the protection of privacy, libel and the like, and indemnifies the RKD from any and all legal consequences of his or her use of material.

Photography of archival objects

The following conditions apply to photography of archival objects:

  • You may not photograph an archive in its entirety
  • No professional equipment, i.e. tripod etc.
  • No flash
  • Permission must be sought in advance for archives that are partly/to a limited extent public (requests should go in advance to
  • Public archives may only be photographed to facilitate your personal research. This means that photographs may not be distributed or published, either on paper or digitally, for example on social media or the internet

Once archival objects have been made available to you, it is your responsibility to comply with legal requirements concerning the further processing of personal data.