Dutch Museum Chiefs Agree to Return Stolen Art

October 9 2020

Image of Dutch Museum Chiefs Agree to Return Stolen Art

Picture: Tracing Patterns Foundation

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

Several Directors of Dutch Museums have agreed to cooperate with the return of statues and other artefacts stolen during the colonial era. This approach has been sanctioned it seems by the Dutch Council for Culture and will be put to government ministers. The museums represented in the council are in possession of an estimated 270,000 objects that might have claims on them.

In the article above, Stijn Schoonderwoerd, director of the National Museum of World Cultures, is quoted as saying: 

I don’t hide behind the state, but everyone should take responsibility.

We have here a number of 13th century Singosari statues from Java. They were standing next to a crumbling temple and the Dutch thought, they’re nice, we’ll have those. And now they’re here at the Leiden museum.

However, Leiden University Professor Pieter ter Keurs points out that these returns should not be a one-way street:

The Dutch would also like to have artefacts from the Golden Age returned to them. It would be endless. I would say, please think about how you handle restitution very carefully.


Update - Here is The Guardian's take on the news. They point out that emphasis will be placed on return where "involuntary loss" is identified. Also, the author of the report Lilian Gonçalves-Ho Kang You is quoted saying “If it doesn’t belong to you then you must return it.”

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