If you know what your roots are, it makes it easier to plan the road ahead – Herman Harder, the Director of the SNS Historical Centre in the interview by Agnieszka Krawczyk


Agnieszka Krawczyk: The SNS Historical Centre, located in genuine premises of a savings bank looks really impressive. What idea was behind its creation? Herman Harder: I started working for SNS Bank as the Director of the Frans Walkate Archive in 1994. Frans Walkate (1866-1943), a former savings bank director, left the bank a collection of images of the Hanseatic town of Kampen. This collection included photos, paintings and topographic maps. He was of the opinion that national and municipal archives were leaving a gap in their collections. Around 1900, despite the advent of photography, images were not archived. Walkate, therefore, took the initiative  to create his 'own' image database.

Savings banks played an important role in the development not only of SNS Bank but also in the development of the Dutch financial market. Frans Walkate’s biography is the best example of it.

What were the beginnings of the project?

Around 2000, entirely in line with Walkate’s line of thinking, I took the initiative to create, acquire and maintain a historical archive for SNS Bank. Next, all archives of SNS Bank’s predecessors were organised in an orderly and accessible way and transferred to national archives. This catch-up effort, covering nearly 200 years of history, was completed in 2010.

Public interest for saving and savings products has increased immensely since the global financial crisis and so did the appreciation for our corporate history. In 2013, the Frans Walkate Archive and the SNS Historical Archive were, therefore, both transferred to what is now called the SNS Historical Centre.

What kind of exhibits do you present in the Centre?

The company archives are housed in some eight national and municipal archives throughout the country. This has been done on purpose to preserve the social-economic context. During my ‘raids’ for company archives in our own savings banks, I found some wonderful material. Luckily, I was allowed to transfer these ‘incidental discoveries’ to the depot at Kampen. This Centre now houses photos, objects and other materials: from cashbooks to piggy banks, from stamps to debit cards and from passbooks to advertising posters.

The interiors of the SNS Historical Centre – Kampen, the Netherlands
Source: SNS Bank

Have you used any examples of similar historical centres in your centre’s creation?

The SNS Historical Centre maintains good relationships with the corporate historical departments of the three major banks in the Netherlands, i.e. ABN-AMRO, Rabobank and ING. Moreover, we are a member of the European Association for Banking and Financial History. Via this network I regularly visit other archives of financial institutions. Just recently, I visited the Rothschild Archive in London for instance. Our archive distinguishes itself from other archives because particular emphasis is placed on savings products, and because it is housed in a historic savings bank of course. So what we have here is an archive in the original context – a unique combination for Dutch standards.
The interiors of the SNS Historical Centre – Kampen, the Netherlands
Source: SNS Bank

What can we learn from history?

Herman Harder, the Director of the SNS Historical Centre
Source: Remy Steller

Objects and images from our past (since 1817 !) confirm what SNS Banks was and still wants to be: an accessible bank for ordinary people. Even after all this time, the present SNS Bank is still the bank for ‘self-reliant citizens’, i.e. the same customers the bank aimed for at the beginning of the 19th century. So, even though SNS Bank looks towards the future, it does not forget its past. The past is not only important for nostalgic reasons, but for policy making too. After all, if you know what your roots are, it makes it easier to plan the road ahead… Moreover, the name SNS Bank stands for Co-operating Dutch Savings Banks (Samenwerkende Nederlandse Spaarbanken). Sharing history has turned out to be an important cohesive factor and this also brings benefits for the co-operation within our company.


Thank you for the conversation and good luck!

Agnieszka Krawczyk

The Polish version of the interview is available in the November edition of the BANK Financial Monthly.
141127.a.poster.in.the.sns.historical.centre.600A poster in the SNS Historical Centre
Source: SNS Bank

SNS Historical Centre – SNS Historisch Centrum

The SNS Historical Centre comprises three valuable elements:  the monumental bank with the authentic savings bank interior, the archive collected by Frans Walkate and named after him and the SNS Historical Archive.

The Centre is engaged in collecting and managing archives, providing access to these archives, arranging exhibitions and contributing to publications. Additionally, the archive closely co-operates with other banking museums. SNS Bank has contracted out the archiving work to the Amsterdam City Archive and the Frans Walkate Archive. The SNS Historical Centre manages the collections. In view of SNS Historical Centre’s objective and the importance of these archives for historical research, tours are available on request.

The SNS Historical Centre provides answers to questions such as: When was a bank founded and by whom? How did the mergers come about? How were the savings managed? In addition to this role of information centre, it plays an advisory role in the field of archiving and promotion. It can help local banks with the organisation of exhibitions and writing commemorative books. The SNS Historical Centre will also provide research support for publications whenever possible.

Source: http://www.snshistorischcentrum.nl/about_us.html



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