Dutch museums comply with return of stolen colonial artwork

Dutch museums agree to return of stolen colonial art

Earlier this week the Dutch Council for Tradition mentioned that Dutch museums ought to return statues and different artefacts which had been stolen through the colonial period to their nations of origin. 

Dutch museums agree to return of stolen colonial art
This statue’s possession is disputed [Credit score: Ferry Herrenbrugh,
Stichting Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen]

In suggestions made to tradition minister Ingrid van Engelshoven, the council says that artefacts ought to be returned if there’s “affordable certainty” that the objects had been taken by pressure. 

“Injustices that passed off within the colonial previous can’t be undone,” the council mentioned. “However a contribution could be made to repairing that injustice by taking accountability when coping with colonial objects.” 

The report focuses on objects taken throughout both colonial wars or when the Netherlands counted Indonesia and Suriname as colonies – particularly, the start of the 17th century when Dutch ships first set sail for Asia and 1975, when Suriname was declared impartial. 

The suggestions, the council says, apply to 100,000 objects, starting from ceremonial weapons to flags, spiritual objects and even human stays. The council additionally recommends wanting once more at objects which come from locations  the place the Netherlands didn’t have colonies, particularly if they’ve particular cultural, historic or spiritual significance.

In response, many Dutch museum chiefs have mentioned they are going to cooperate with the advice to return statues and different artefacts stolen through the colonial period to their nations of origin. 

Stijn Schoonderwoerd, director of the Nationwide Museum of World Cultures, which incorporates the Museum Volkenkunde in Leiden, the Afrika Museum in Berg en Dal and the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam, mentioned he hoped the tradition minister would settle for the advice. Collectively the museums have some 270,000 objects of their collections. 

“I don’t conceal behind the state, however everybody ought to take accountability”, Schoonderwoerd instructed present affairs programme Nieuwsuur. “Now we have right here various 13th century Singosari statues from Java. They had been standing subsequent to a crumbling temple and the Dutch thought, they’re good, we’ll have these. And now they’re right here on the Leiden museum.” 

Schoonderwoerd mentioned he’s not afraid museum collections might be depleted. “The council itself mentioned that they weren’t given the impression by their contacts in Indonesia that it will likely be asking us to return a whole bunch of 1000’s of objects,” he mentioned. “The quantity will most likely be restricted.”

Dutch museums agree to return of stolen colonial art
The Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam [Credit: WikiCommons]


The Rijksmuseum has 4,000 objects with a colonial connection and none has ever been the topic of a request for return, primarily as a result of there was no process in place for nations to show to. 

“We’re viewing historical past in a special gentle and which means we take a look at the gathering in a special gentle as effectively. And what we see makes us uneasy,” mentioned Valika Smeulders, head of the historical past division on the museum and one of many writers of the report. 

The return of objects that weren’t stolen however are of nice cultural worth isn’t one thing everybody agrees with. Leiden College professor Pieter ter Keurs mentioned that specific paragraph within the report is “a slippery slope”. 

Golden Age 

“The Dutch would additionally prefer to have artefacts from the Golden Age returned to them. It will be infinite. I’d say, please take into consideration the way you deal with restitution very rigorously,” he mentioned. 

The minister has but to answer the council’s suggestions. The museum collections are owned by the Dutch state and it should resolve to return the objects. 

“It’s our job to analyze the origin of the items and work carefully with the nations concerned so we all know what’s vital to them concerning the objects,” Schoonderwoerd mentioned.

Supply: Dutch Information [October 7/8, 2020]

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