The KB's collection of websites as hosted by the former Dutch internet provider XS4ALL has now become Unesco documentary world heritage. It is the first web collection in the world that has been granted this status. The collection consists of thousands of websites that were published between 1994 and 2001. As a collection, they paint a unique picture of the early internet culture in The Netherlands.  

The XS4ALL web collection 

The KB, National Library of the Netherlands, aims to preserve everything that is published in and about the Netherlands. Both traditional and digital publications. The collection of XS4ALL homepages is special. They were made by normal people, about subjects they personally found important. They were made in a time when social media did not yet exist and this way of publishing was brand new. Publishing these homepages, gave groups such as children, disabled citizens and people from different ethnical, cultural or sexual backgrounds a public platform for the very first time. They could spread their messages without intervention of governments or publishers. Therefore, these websites are unique sources of online history.

The KB, National Library of the Netherlands, is proud that the XS4ALL web collection was granted a place on the Unesco Memory of the World list. Kees Teszelszky, the KB's conservator of digital collections: “Until now, heritage that was once in the possession of important public figures was most eligible for the world heritage status. This is the first time that heritage by and for ordinary people is granted this. When these people were making their websites, they were proud of their work, even if it wasn't necessarily old, expensive or beautiful. I think this recognition by Unesco is an acknowledgement of the importance of the ordinary, the everyday, the personal. And it is a confirmation that digital culture has become an official part of our rich heritage.”

Memory of the World 

The XS4ALL collection is the first born digital collection in the world that gets a place on Unesco's Documentary Memory of the World-register. With this programme Unesco aims to protect this heritage, consisting of archives, important documents and library collections. Protecting this heritage is important, for its preservation can be put at risk by for instance war, climate change or destruction. This can pose a threat to our collective memory. 

Unesco on tour through the Netherlands  

On Friday November 4th the Dutch Unesco committee visited all Dutch heritage organizations that were placed on the new Memory of the World register. Besides the KB web collection, another new Memory of the World status holders is the NIOD, with its collection of letters and diaries about the Second World War. All eight organizations have received the Unesco Memory of the World flag to confirm their registrations.

Accessing the XS4ALL web collection  

You can browse through our web collection in the reading room in the KB, in The Hague. You need a valid KB membership for this.

Want to know more?

Kees Teszelszky
Conservator digital collections