The Historical Utility Glass Foundation

The Historical Utility Glass Foundation glass is set up for financial and practical support of activities that promote the knowledge of historical utility glass: glass objects that in the past had a function in daily life or were used by special or festive occasions.

The purpose of the Foundation

The purpose of the Foundation is to unlock the knowledge of historical utility glass for an interested public. Another important goal is to ensure that the existing knowledge of historical utility glass is not lost.

We do this by, among other things, the presentation of the biennial Ina Isings prize for contributions on historical glass, through articles and by a annual symposium on historical utility glass. The Foundation manages a fund from which the price is financed. Furthermore, we organize small-scale activities and we publish articles on this website.


The Board of Directors of the historical utility glass foundation is formed by:

Mr. Willem van Traa, Chairman
Nelleke Nicolai, doctor, Secretary
David Willem van Traa MBA, Treasurer
Drs Nora Schadee

The members of the board do not receive any financial compensation for their work.


The foundation is the result of private initiative and does not receive any incidental or structural (public or otherwise) subsidies. For the financing of the organization and the activities we depend on individual private contributions. Partly, visitors to the activities make incidental contributions to pay the costs. Beside, from the start of the foundation we received from people interested in historic utility glass contributions, which are guaranteed for a longer period. We are committed to increasing the number of donors, so that our resources keep abreast with the development of more activities.

What is historical utility Glass?

Under historical utility glass we mean glass objects that in the past had a function in daily life or used by special or festive occasions and are not explicitly created as an expression of artistry.
So historical utility glass is a container concept. It includes a large number of types and kinds of objects, which have in common that they are made of glass and used in daily life and/or at special events. Outside this definition fall those glass objects that are explicitly made as art. This usually involves modern glass art. Most glass of the earlier centuries, however beautiful made or decorated, had a utility function. Some types are still in use, sometimes in their traditional form, but nowadays mostly made in plastic.

The use of other glass objects has gone in the course of time. The actual use or an exact dating is therefore difficult to determine. That certainly is the case when they are made in larger numbers and rarely have a (creators) mark or are nowhere described. Sometimes the former use can only be guessed using old paintings or prints.

Why is knowledge of historical utility Glass so important?

Promoting and unlocking the knowledge of historical utility glass is just now important because people who have actual work experience in the manual or semi automated making of the ‘young-historical’ part of utility glass rapidly disappear. In a few years no one will know anymore from personal experience of this cultural heritage. Only written, so secondary sources will be available on the manufacture, use, transport of glass or of international trade contacts. And already those sources on historical utility glass are relatively scarce, because most of the scientific attention is given to historical ornamental glass.

Centre of knowledge for historical utility glass

We want to set up a centre of knowledge on historical use glass, accessible for both a wide audience and scientists. Building materials are the data files that exist at institutions such as museums and universities, at associations of collectors and among private collectors or (former) employees in the glass industry. Many of these files are little known to third parties or not easily accessible, partly for reasons of security of the collections. They vary in scope, form, content and quality and take usually the form of annotated collection catalogues. Data files of museums and (exhibition) catalogues are the last years more and more electronically accessible. We welcome this development and will, where appropriate and possible, support these. Especially in older collections the information given is often very brief. Also a mojority of the objects remain ‘in depot’ and are therefore known to just a few and inaccessible to outsiders.

It has been suggested that the Foundation would build up its own glass collection to serve as a study collection. We believe that for the time being this is not our task.