Among the items on display inside Anne Frank House are the original diaries and samples of other writing that Anne produced during her time in hiding in the Secret Annexe. Visitors often linger over these pieces, finding themselves moved when brought face to face with these famous manuscripts.
Although Anne’s legacy occupies a key position in the museum’s collection today, it was not a part of the museum’s collection for the first 25 years of its operation, from the time it opened in 1960 to 2010.
When Otto Frank moved to Basel in 1952, he took his daughter’s writings with him. He then granted ownership of the copyrighted materials to a separate organisation, the Anne Frank Fonds in Basel.
After Otto’s death in 1980, the materials were transferred to the care of the Dutch state in accordance with his wishes. The state entrusted the Rijks Instituut voor Oorlogsdocumentatie or National Institute for War Documentation (later Netherlands Institute for War Documentation) with the task of managing this important bequest.
In order to put allegations that Anne’s diary was a forgery to rest once and for all, the Institute spent the first half of the eighties working on a critical edition of the diary. During this period, all of Anne's writings were subjected to careful scientific and critical analysis.
The Director of the National Institute for War Documentation showing Anne’s original red-plaid diary.
A critical edition of the diary was finally published in 1986. It was only after the publication of this edition that Anne's first diary, the iconic red-plaid covered book with its broken lock, was placed on display at the museum, along with a pair of loose pages. The rest of the materials were kept in a safe at the Institute, which also administered the museum display case.
It was not until 2010, fifty years after Anne Frank House first opened its doors to the public that the first complete collection of Anne’s writings went on display at the museum. On 18 March 2010, custody of all the materials that Anne wrote while in the attic was officially transferred to the Anne Frank Foundation, including the three diaries, the “book of nice sentences”, the book of stories she wrote, loose pages and the photo album she put together during her time in the Annexe.
The idea behind this new display was to allow the building itself to tell the story of the hidden eight in the Secret Annexe. Both Dutch and English language excerpts from Anne’s diary have been placed in all the rooms in Prinsengracht 263, which has been reconstructed to reflect its original pre-war state as accurately as possible. Each excerpt presents visitors with an anecdote related to that particular space and its significance during the time spent in hiding.