Dutch world cultures museum (NMVW) presents principles for colonial claims

National Museum of World Cultures
National Museum of World Cultures, Netherlands Image: Peter Hilz (National Museum of World Cultures)

The Dutch National Museum of World Cultures has published principles on the basis of which it will assess claims for the return of objects of which it is the custodian. The guidelines, called Return of Cultural Objects: Principles and Process will provide advice to the Minister, who has the final authority on the matter.

As the collections are national collections and owned by the state, it is the Minister of Education, Culture and Science who retains the final authority to grant the request for return and to develop a national policy in The Netherlands regarding claims for colonial heritage.

National Museum of World Cultures
The National Museum of World Cultures, (or Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen), is a Dutch museum in three different locations: the Museum Volkenkunde (Leiden), the Tropenmuseum (Amsterdam) and the Africa Museum (Berg en Dal).

‘We know that many parts of our collection were acquired during the colonial period, a time of injustice and inequality’. ‘Objects changed hands in a variety of ways in the course of four centuries of worldwide colonialism, and it is certain that we have objects in our care that were not relinquished voluntarily by the original owner. Where this is the case, claims for return are justifiable in the view of NMVW. If we state today, following agreed international conventions, that objects taken in situations of contemporary armed conflicts do not belong in our collection, why would that same principle not apply in the case of objects that were seized without consent a hundred years ago?’

Stijn Schoonderwoerd, director of NMVW

Read the full article at the Museum’s website.

Download the principles for claims in relation to colonial collections

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