Soon after the invention of photography in 1839, a number of photographers set out for the remote colony of the Dutch Indies. Commissioned by the Dutch government and various historical societies, they documented the Indonesian treasures photographically. These pioneer photographers didn't have the best of luck. The damp, warm climate and their customers' high expectations frequently led to disappointments.
Javanese temples and other antiquities were photographed by the photographers Schaefer, Céphas and Van Kinsbergen. The photographer Kleingrothe devoted special attention to tropical agriculture. Lastly, Nieuwenhuis concentrated on the indigenous population, showing the various different aspects of their culture.
The collection contains 4500 photographs pertaining to the former Dutch Indies in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Professional photographers took pictures of a huge variety of subjects. The many travel and family albums tell mostly of "tempo dulu", the high days of colonialism. Worth mentioning is the album published on the occasion of the International Colonial Exhibition in Paris in 1931.