Academic Historical Museum
Travel back in time and learn about how the University has changed over the centuries.
Leiden University and the Academy Building go back a long way: the University moved into the building in 1581. Once the church of the Dominican Sisters or white nuns, the Academy Building now forms the heart of the University and is the location of the Academic Historical Museum.
Museum theme running through the Academy Building
In the Academy Building portraits, wall paintings and historical objects take you on a tour of the history of the University and its student life. A museum theme leads you through the Academy Building and brings the history of Leiden University to life.
The museum has a collection of portraits of leading Leiden professors. The collection began with a portrait of Desiderius Erasmus that was presented to the University in 1597. It also has portraits of the University’s Nobel Prize winners, or the Fabulous Four as they are known: Professor of Physics Hendrik Lorentz (1902), Professor of Physics Heike Kamerlingh Onnes (1913), Professor of Physics Albert Einstein (1920) and Professor of Medicine Willem Einthoven (1924).
William of Orange proposed the foundation of Leiden University in an address to the States of Holland and Zeeland. A number of his statements describing the University have since become famous. Leiden University asked Leiden professor and typographer Gerard Unger to develop a ‘Leiden Font’ that would be used to introduce five historical texts to the inside and outside of the Academy Building. You will find our motto Praesidium Libertatis (bastion of freedom) in the Gewelfkamer , a beautiful vaulted room in the Academy Building. The other texts can be found in the courtyard, in the Menso Kamerlingh Onnes room, in the courtyard of the Reception Room and in the floor of the Senate Room.
The Academic Historical Museum is open during office hours, although not all rooms in the Academy Building are open to visitors. Guests and visitors of inaugural lectures and PhD defences can see the inside of the building during such ceremonies.We regret that we cannot provide guided tours. The Academy Building does have an archive that can be visited by appointment. Please contact the curator of the Academic Historical Museum.