The KB National Library of the Netherlands’ collection of websites hosted by the former internet provider XS4ALL has become part of the Dutch UNESCO committee’s national Memory of the World register for documentary heritage, launched in 2022. In a unique move, UNESCO has made this the first ever born-digital collection to be given the Memory of the World heritage status. The collection contains thousands of home pages from the period 1994-2001. They give unique insight into the start of the Dutch internet culture. 

The XS4ALL web collection 

The KB National Library of the Netherlands aims to preserve everything that has ever been published in or about the Netherlands, including websites. The XS4ALL home pages form a special web collection, as they were made by individual citizens, about subjects they considered to be important - at a time when there were no social media and online publishing was still a new phenomenon. For the first time in history, a platform was given to groups such as children, people with a disability, and people from ethnic, cultural or sexual minorities. They were free to spread their message without fear of intervention from governments, editors or publishers. This makes these websites a unique source of cultural history. 

The KB is proud that its XS4ALL web collection has been placed on the Dutch UNESCO Memory of the World heritage list. Kees Teszelszky, curator of digital collections: “Up until now, mainly heritage that had once been owned by prominent figures was given the status of world heritage. This is the first time that heritage created by ordinary people has been given this status. These people were proud of what they’d made at the time, even though it’s not particularly old, expensive or beautiful. I see this as recognition of the importance of things that are ordinary, everyday and personal. And it’s confirmation that born-digital culture is well and truly part of our rich heritage.” 

Memory of the World 

The XS4ALL collection is the first born digital collection in the world to be placed on a Memory of the World register, one of the programmes run by UNESCO to protect our heritage. It encompasses archives, important documents and library collections that are at risk of damage through war, climate change or destruction. This would be to the detriment of our collective memory.  

Tour of the Netherlands   

On Friday 4 November 2022, the Netherlands UNESCO committee visited all the Dutch heritage institutions that were newly placed on the register. As well as the KB, this included Atlas van Stolk, the Jewish Council Card Index and the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, with its collection of letters and diaries relating to World War II. All institutions were presented with a special UNESCO Memory of the World flag. 

How to access the XS4ALL web collection   

The web collection can be viewed in the KB’s reading room, for members with a valid KB membership card. The description of the collection is available to all. 

Want to know more?

Kees Teszelszky
Conservator digital collections