gahetNA in the National Archives

How do the archive inventories work?

In the archive inventories you will find descriptions (in Dutch) of the records held by the Nationaal Archief. An archive inventory contains a systematic description of all of an archive's components. First you will find an introduction with information on the history of the person or organisation that created the archive. Then you will find a tree structure containing the descriptions of the records. The level of detail of the descriptions varies from archive to archive.

Search archives

From the archives overview page, you can search all archives simultaneously. If you know exactly what record you are looking for, enter the catalogue reference and the inventory number. On each page of an archive inventory you will also find a search window for searching within that archive. If you are not sure which archive could contain material that could be of interest to you, have a look at the research guides.

NB: You will be searching the descriptions of the archives, which contain less information than the records themselves. For example, an inventory number may consist of a bundle of letters which are listed in the archive inventory as 'received letters 1911'. You will only see who wrote the letters when you consult the record.

The inventory

When you are in an archive, you will see several tabs.

Archive inventory

This tab contains details of the complete archive inventory, including an introduction and a description of all the records. Most inventories are arranged hierarchically in a tree structure. You can expand a section by clicking on the plus sign in front of it. When you click on a description of an inventory number in the lowest level, you will be taken to a page containing details of that inventory number (see below).

In the ‘Archive inventory’ tab, you have the option to download the entire archive inventory in PDF or EAD/XML format. PDF files are suitable for printing and are easy to scroll through and search. You will need Adobe Reader to read a PDF file. EAD (Encoded Archival Description) is an XML-based open standard for describing archives. XML files are mainly intended for further processing by computers. They can be opened in any text editor.

Archive description

All the results in the introduction of the archive inventory that meet your search query. If your search has produced results, the number of results will be shown in brackets after the tab name.

Archive components

All the results in the described records that meet your search query. If your search has produced results, the number of results will be shown in brackets after the tab name.


Scanned records in this archive inventory. Only a small proportion of the records have been scanned. If there are any scanned records, the total number of scans will be shown in brackets after the tab name. The first five scans of each inventory number will be displayed. Click on the inventory number to go to the ‘Scans’ tab within the inventory number and view all scans.

If you have entered a search query, you will only see the scans belonging to the inventory numbers that meet your search query. Click on ‘Show all results’ to view all scans of records in the archive inventory.

To view a scan, click on the thumbnail. The scan will be displayed, and there should be a zoom option. Below the scan you will see several tools, e.g. to rotate the image. Use this if the scan is accidentally the wrong way up or if part of the text in the margin is written at a 90 degree angle.

If you can only see a small image with no zoom option or tools, you probably do not have Flash installed. You can download Flash from the Adobe website.


Some archives contain digital records. These are records that have been sent to the Nationaal Archief in digital form, e.g. by e-mail or as a Word document. These files are kept in the digital repository and can be viewed by clicking on this tab. Most of the archives do not contain digital records, so this tab will usually be disabled.

Detail page of an inventory number

Within an archive inventory, clicking on the description of an inventory number in the ‘Archive description’ or ‘Archive components’ tab will take you to the detail page. Here you will see the description of the inventory number, sometimes with additional comments. You will also see instructions for citing from the archive and providing the source correctly.

The ‘Scans’ tab shows all the scans of the record, and the ‘Files’ tab shows all the digital files (see above).

Reserving records

From the detail page of an inventory number, you can reserve a record that you wish to view in the Nationaal Archief reading room. Read more about reserving records.

Ordering a scan

If there are no scans of a particular item available, you can buy one. Read more about ordering scans.

gahetNA is a website of the Society for the Nationaal Archief in cooperation with the Nationaal Archief and Spaarnestad Photo.
Search in collections
Search in: