From “old rust in the attic” to a unique collection of nautical equipment

In the 1970s, a small committee was set up within the electronics company Radio-Holland to ensure the preservation and storage of a unique collection of historical equipment.

Now that telecommunications is undergoing an unimaginable development and it seems that nobody and nothing can do without an “electronic highway”,
there is also still interest in those first attempts less than a hundred years ago to discover the ether “wirelessly”.
A morse key from 1901, for some a piece of “old rust”, is a very valuable piece for the enthusiast / collector.
And by the end of the Morse Telegraph / Radio Officer era, the historical value of such equipment is increasing.
The interest in the history of nautical communication and navigation equipment formed the cradle of the Historical Material Radio-Holland Foundation.
In the 1970s, a small committee was set up within the electronics company Radio-Holland to ensure the preservation and storage of a unique collection of historical equipment.

 Soon that group of enthusiasts (consisting of former employees / volunteers and employees of Radio-Holland) received the nickname: “Oud Roest Committee”.

In 1995, Radio Holland has built up a unique and rare collection of authentic and antique equipment, including an extensive library. To guarantee the survival of this collection, the Commission became a Foundation for Historical Material in 1994. The Foundation aims to preserve, restore and make accessible the material present at exhibitions and in museums. For example in the Scheepvaartmuseum Amsterdam, at TU Delft, the Tugboat Museum in Maassluis, the Fishery Museum in Urk, etc. etc.

A piece of history
Herz discovered at the end of the 19th century that radio waves could be transmitted and received; and the inventor Marconi continued to experiment with “the radio” at the beginning of this century. Although telephony already existed at that time, it was not possible to transmit or receive this form of communication wirelessly. That was possible with the Morse script of the telegraph. Telegraphy was mainly used in shipping. The then radio manufacturers Marconi (England) and Telefunken (Germany) therefore produced marine equipment for the merchant navy and navy of many countries, including the Netherlands. Before the 1st World War, Dutch ships mainly sailed with Marconi equipment, supplied and maintained by the Belgian company SAIT.

During the 1st World War, however, the Dutch shipowners ran into problems as the Belgian SAIT had become inaccessible. In 1916, the Dutch shipowners founded the Nederlandsche Telegraaf Maatschappij Radio-Holland in collaboration with Marconi and SAIT. A few years later followed by the Nederlandsche Seintoestellen Fabriek N.S.F. in Hilversum.

After World War I, the use of shipping telegraphy took off in the merchant navy and specially trained people had to come to operate the transmitters and receivers. Because the nautical schools did not yet have this study in their program, Radio Holland started its own training to become a radio operator (later “radio officer”).

The Radio-Holland school in Amsterdam was equipped with all common ship equipment. The wireless operator in training learned to signal and record, and in general how to handle the equipment. In the years that followed, many new devices came onto the market, including at the Radio-Holland school. The obsolete devices were conveniently stored in the attic of the canal house in which the school was housed. This continued until years after World War II, because no one was really interested in the old material. It was sometimes a reason for the school management to put the students to polish the mountain of brass and copper as a punishment!

It was around 1955 that Radio Holland took part in the Firato exhibition for the first time. As a contrast, next to a then modern radio station, an old authentic radio station was set up on the Radio Holland stand. The brass, the shiny mahogany, the large meters and the switches attracted so much attention that the new equipment was, so to speak, in the shadow! That was the reason to make an inventory of the school collection. It was decided to keep and expand the collection. This task came to lie with the “Oud Roest Committee”, later the Stichting Historisch Material Radio-Holland.

The work of the Foundation

The Foundation manages a unique collection of historical nautical equipment, maintains and restores this equipment and carries out projects for various museums, organizations and exhibitions.

The collection includes not only equipment, but also a historical library with technical documentation and historical reporting, and a photo archive. In addition, the Foundation also collects “new acquisitions” for the collection, whereby we mainly focus on equipment that is characteristic as “milestone” for a new technical development or as a first application in a shipping area other than major merchant shipping, eg short sea shipping, sea fishing. inland shipping, water sports and dredging industry.

Such as the first radio direction finder in the 1920s, the first echo sounder and the first telephone installations in the 1930s, merchant radars after the war, hyperbolic navigation systems such as loran, the VHF, telex-over-radio and ending with satellite communication.

Projects implemented

In recent years, many projects have been realized by the committee / foundation. There is, for example, a complete radio station from 1930 and a navigation corner from 1950 in the Scheepvaart museum in Amsterdam, an NSF radio station from 1920 at TU Delft, a tug station from 1918 in the Tugboat Museum in Maassluis, a cutter bridge from the 1960s in the Fish Series Museum in Urk and further specialized submissions in the fishing museums in Breskens, the Rescue Museum in Den Helder, the Sea and Harbor Museum in IJmuiden and the Broadcasting Museum in Hilversum.

(see the actual list under SHMRH ta projects (under construction)

We need your support!

We are thinking of supplementing our collection with new “historical acquisitions”.
Not only equipment, but also, for example, signal keys, headphones, station books, magazines, photos, etc.
For example, in 1994 a large Dutch shipping company made a complete package of Radio-Holland equipment available to the Foundation in the 1940s.
|Equally important, however, is that the Foundation has access to the necessary financial resources for the preservation and maintenance of the collection, but also for the implementation of various projects to make this unique collection accessible to the public.
Naturally we appreciate your support as a sponsor.

For more information and sponsoring about the Historical Material Radio-Holland Foundation, please contact the secretariat of the Foundation.

To be a friend of th foundation, please signin on the contact tab.

Stichting Historisch Materiaal Radio-Holland
Droogdokweg 71,
3089 JN Rotterdam
Phone : +31 10 4283 202   (only on Wednesday)