With France having taken steps to return looted artifacts to Benin and Senegal by 2021, the Netherlands is now establishing processes to identify and repatriate plundered objects that reside in the country’s museums. According to a report by the Guardian, the directors of the Rijksmuseum and Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam have voiced support for the proposed creation of a legal apparatus that would manage the return of an estimated 100,000 objects. The proposal comes from a new report by the Dutch Council of Culture urging the repatriation of pieces stolen from former colonies.
The initiative by the Dutch government would include the establishment of an independent research center, which, according to the National, would track the provenance of pieces seized abroad by the Netherlands from the 17th century onward and convene panels for restitution cases. One piece already identified by the government as a candidate for restitution to Indonesia is a diamond that once belonged to the Sultan of Banjarmasin and is now held by the Rijksmuseum.
“We think it is good advice to set up an independent committee and a centre of expertise to deal with any claims from states,” Taco Dibbits, director of the Rijksmuseum, told the Guardian, adding, “For the Rijksmuseum, this means that we will also continue to research the provenance of our collections from the former colonies and intensify international cooperation.”
Valika Smeulders, head of history at the Rijksmuseum, told the National, “The museum is really bringing in new knowledge, new voices, new expertise, new ways of dealing with the past and looking at these objects…. We’re trying to bring down the walls of the museum.”