Many Dutch museums have agreed to return colonial treasures, brought to the Netherlands when the country was a major colonial power, but the plan has raised many other questions—including, ironically, in the view of one expert, the Netherlands interest in getting back artefacts taken from it by other European countries.
The discussion over art and other cultural treasures, largely from Indonesia and Suriname is on the table because of a report from the Dutch Council for Culture last week, saying that as many as 100,000 objects held by Dutch museums should be returned, if requested.
Stijn Schoonderwoerd, director of the National Museum of World Cultures, which is one of the major holders at its several sites, says he hopes the government will accept the report, and says he doesn't expect museums to be depleted, because it is not likely that they will be asked to send everything back. He told reporters that ‘It is our task to investigate the origin of the pieces and work closely with the countries involved so we know what is important to them about the objects.’ The government is involved because it owns all the museum collections.
In a somewhat similar vein, Mexico is asking Austria to return the ceremonial headdress of the Aztec king, Moctezuma, which ended up in Austria. It's believed that it was brought to Europe by Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes. Whether it was given to him or seized by him...lost to history. The request was carried to Vienna on a visit by Mexico's First Lady to Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen.
Title image: Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam (Ziko/Wikimedia)