Joop Frankvoort-van der Meer Fellowship for Circus Collections

This fellowship is supported by a generous gift of Joop Frankvoort-van der Meer Fonds / Amsterdams Universiteitsfonds.

The Allard Pierson manages a unique and extensive circus collection that includes posters, programmes, photographs, slides, flyers, clippings and other documentation about circus performances. The circus collection consists of private collections of collectors and institutes dedicated to collecting circus heritage throughout the centuries. To name one, Herman Linssen amassed the data of almost 6,000 circuses, including the artists, venues, and seasons in which they performed. Other vital contributions to the Allard Pierson’s circus collection are the Jaap Best collection, which includes nearly 4,000 posters by the Jewish-German printer Adolph Friedländer; the Hartmans collection, specialising in children’s and young adult literature themed around the circus; and the Theater Instituut Nederland (Dutch Theatre Institute).

Suggestions for research:

  • Women’s changing role in the circus in the 19th and 20th centuries.
  • The importance of family connections among circus artists.
  • The rise of human exhibitions in Europe as part of the circus.
  • The relevance of the circus as a haven for LGBTQ+ people.
  • The changing morality towards ‘freak shows’.
  • The impact of the ban on wild animals for running a circus and attracting audiences.
  • Other topics related to the circus collections.

Searching the collection
The circus collection can be searched online in the database of the theater collection of the UvA. The individual circus collections can also be found on

Curator Hans van Keulen can be contacted at for questions about the collection. Fellowships programme coordinator Anna de Wilde can be contacted at for questions about the application process.