History of the Performing Arts

From masks and costumes to puppets, posters, models and miniature theatres. 

Dance, theater and music belong to the performing arts. This collecting area contains lavish collections that provide a colorful picture of the history of the performing arts. Music, drama, dance and circus are particularly well represented. A smaller section is devoted to cabaret, opera, operetta, musical, mime and puppetry.

Thanks to the interest in Dutch literature, librarians early on included plays in the City Library of Amsterdam, the forerunner of the University Library. In the nineteenth century the collection was supplemented by important donations and purchases of old plays and programs.



In 2012, the collection of the Theater Instituut Nederland was transferred to the University Library. This brought materials from all theater and dance genres from the seventeenth century onward into the custody of the Allard Pierson. It involves more than half a million objects: from masks and costumes to puppets, posters, models and miniature theaters. The owner of this collection is the TiN Foundation, see https://tin.nl/.

Maria Stuart, Haagse Comedie, 17-4-1954.


The music collection ranges from sheet music from the seventeenth century to digital streams from the twenty-first century and includes classical and contemporary composed music alongside pop, jazz and improvised music. These come from the historical collection of the Maatschappij tot Bevordering van de Toonkunst (Society for the Promotion of the Musical Arts”) as well as collections of contemporary composed music from Gaudeamus (Muziekweek) and Donemus and the collections of the Nederlands Jazz Archief and the former Nederlands Pop Instituut.

Geluidband met daarop een opname van het Concert van Sonny Rollins op het Jazzfestival in Laren in 1973. Foto Foppe Schut.

Circus heritage

The circus collection was added in 1963 and is composed of private collections from collectors and institutions that have stored circus heritage over the centuries. It is a “living” collection that is digitally accessed on the website www.circusmuseum.nl. The collection consists of posters, programs, photographs, slides, flyers, clippings and other documentation of circus performances.


The Theaterencyclopedie is an online encyclopedia on Dutch theater history. The encyclopedia includes a database of approximately 90,000 performances played in the Netherlands since 1751. At the same time, the encyclopedia is based on the Wikipedia principle: anyone can register to add their own information. Theater-makers, professionals and theater lovers can, for example, add visual material to their performances and supplement data on (their own) person pages.



Tijdlijn opera op theaterencyclopedie.nl

Collectie Specialists

mr. Hans van Keulen MA
Phone number: 020 525 49 98
Email: j.h.k.vankeulen@uva.nl
UvA staff page: Hans van Keulen

Consult the theater collection at: https://theatercollectie.uva.nl/
General questions about the theater collection to theatercollectie@uva.nl

drs. Ditmer Weertman
Phone number: 020 525 21 05
Email: d.weertman@uva.nl
UvA staff page: Ditmer Weertman
Consult the music collection at: MCN-collecties in UBA

Tone art
Dr. Simon Groot
Phone number: 020 525 25 49
Email: S.H.Groot@uva.nl
UvA staff page: Simon Groot
Consult the tone art collection at: https://archives.uba.uva.nl/resources/ubainv336