Colonial collection (KIT)

The colonial heritage collection of the former KIT Library has been transferred to Leiden University Libraries. The collection is available for study and research via the Catalogue.

The Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) in Amsterdam is an independent centre of knowledge and expertise in the areas of international and intercultural cooperation. In 2013, after the KIT Library was closed, the colonial heritage collection was transferred to Leiden University Libraries.


The history of the collection dates back to 1864 with the foundation in Haarlem of the Colonial Museum. Parts of the collection can be traced back to the Hollandsche Maatschappij van Wetenschappen  (Dutch Society of Sciences), specifically to the department Koophandel en Colonies (Trade and Colonies), founded in 1777. In 1913 the collection was transferred to the Colonial Institute, founded in 1910 in Amsterdam. After the sovereignty transfer to Indonesia in 1949 the mission of the Royal Institute was altered and the name was changed to Royal Tropical Institute. Since then, the library collected material relating to all tropical regions.


The collection includes unique heritage material and historical publications about the Dutch East Indies (80%), Surinam and the Dutch Antilles (20%) and deals with all relevant aspects: agriculture, economy, culture, government, anthropology and history. The heritage collection compromises ca. 25,000 books and brochures, 3,300 journals and 11,500 maps and 150 atlases.

The KIT collection is an excellent reinforcement of the current collections in the UBL, especially of the Southeast Asian Collections (general and special) and the Maps & Atlases Collections. The collections are an important source for the Leiden research on Asian Modernities and Traditions.


All maps of the collection are also available online with geographical references.

Numerous books and journals have been digitized. Unfortunately these digital versions are temporarily unavailable. Please consult the original works via the Catalogue.


All material from the KIT Library heritage collection is available in the Catalogue.

Further reading

General collections

Last Modified: 04-08-2016