The collection of the Netherlands Media Art Institute reflects the turbulent history of the Institute. In addition to the collection of Monte Video, the predecessor of the Netherlands Media Art Institute, the Institute administers the collections of four institutions: the Lijnbaan Center (1970-1982), Time Based Arts (1983-1994), De Appel (1975-1983) and the Institute Collection Netherlands. This combination of artists' initiatives (Time Based Arts, De Appel and the Lijnbaan Center) and more formal institutions (Institute Collection Netherlands and the present Netherlands Media Art Institute) affords the collection a surprising diversity.

In addition to renowned artists like Bill Viola, Nam June Paik and Gary Hill (who were represented in the collection as far back as the 1970s), there are internationally known Dutch artists who experimented with the medium for only a short period in the 1970s, such as Marinus Boezem, Jan van Munster and Pieter Engels.

Before any institutions at all had yet been created for the purpose of collecting small centers were set up in various parts of The Netherlands which facilitated and promoted the use of video by and for artists. The earliest examples of this were Agora Studios in Maastricht, the Lijnbaan Center in Rotterdam (itself a merger of the studio of Venster in Rotterdam and the video studio which was set up for the Sonsbeek exhibition in 1971 in Arnhem), and a couple of individuals such as the artists Miguel-Ángel Cárdenas and Jack Moore in Amsterdam, who made their cameras available for other artists. Many of the works which were made in this earliest period of Dutch video art only surfaced from oblivion in the course of the 1990s. Surprising discoveries among them are the works of Dennis Oppenheim, Terry Fox, Wim Gijzen, Nan Hoover and Tajiri.

With the arrival of the collection of De Appel an enormously rich collection of video records of performances was added. De Appel flourished in the 1970s as one of the most progressive international work sites for performance art. The collection of this institution contained unique works by Vito Acconci, Laurie Anderson, Gina Pane, Carolee Schneemann and others. But in addition to records of events in her own gallery, Wies Smalls, the founder of De Appel, also built up a collection of international video art in order to enable the Dutch public to become acquainted with what was happening internationally, including work by Douglas Davis, Ulrike Rosenbach, Joan Jonas and Alison Knowles.

In the early 1980s, with De Appel as its base, efforts were begun to establish an association for video artists, which later created the Time Based Arts Foundation. The collection of this artists' association, in addition to works by artists based in The Netherlands, such as Abramovic/Ulay, Hooykaas/Stansfield, Ben d'Armagnac, Christine Chiffrun and Lydia Schouten, also included work by international artists like Mona Hatoum and General Idea.

Time Based Arts maintained an active collection policy, in which any artist who worked with video could try to have his or her work included in the collection. As it grew the collection became enormously diverse and afforded a good overview of the various ways that video could be employed in the visual arts. Through in to the 1990s Time Based Arts played an important role in the collection, distribution and support of video art until, in 1994, under pressure from the municipal authorities of Amsterdam, it entered into a merger with Monte Video.

René Coelho began his video gallery Monte Video in 1978, and in doing so laid the foundation for the present Institute. Monte Video was a gallery which specialized in electronic art and especially in video art that sought out the creative possibilities and qualities of the medium itself. An important impetus for establishing the institution was the work of the Dutch video pioneer Livinus van de Bundt. He was therefore the first artist to be shown in the gallery. Later the Vasulkas, Bert Schutter, Peter Bogers, Matthew Schlanger and many others followed. In addition to the works that were to be seen in the gallery, Monte Video began to be active in collecting and distributing work. Bill Viola, Gary Hill, Shelly Silver and Gabor Body were for instance artists who 'stabled' their work with Monte Video. The gallery owed its international success chiefly to this.

When in the 1990s the conservation of video works became a pressing problem, the then merged Montevideo/Time Based Arts established itself as the goad and later as the center of technical expertise for carrying out the Conservation of Dutch Video Art project. As well as the collections described above, there was integral cooperation with museums that over the course of time had also collected video work. In addition to much technical research, the conservation efforts also prompted considerable recording work and research into content. Among questions dealt with were the status of the vehicle, the significance of the material chosen and establishing the boundary conditions for proper exhibition. Because of the differences in approach among the institutions from which they came, considerable time was spent integrating the collections with one another, and getting the possibilities for the use of the works coordinated with one another.