Last week the Dutch Raad voor Cultuur (Council for Culture) published an advisory report to the Dutch Minister of Culture. The advisory report deals with the question of returning heritage that can currently be found in Dutch museum collections.
We have read the advisory report carefully and are disappointed in the outcome on two points:
- Objects are purely seen is objects that belong in a museum. The report does not consider objects to be part of living material culture, objects that should join ceremonies, objects that would be used in their original form upon return.
- The report advises that return of cultural heritage should be done within states / on state level. The report does not consider that Indonesia was not a state when the Dutch conquered Indonesia. Objects have been taken away from families who were reigning over an area then, and are still reigning over the same area nowadays, despite their regalia are within the Museum Nasional in Jakarta or within collections of Dutch museums.
Returning heritage on a state level only does not make sense and does not do justice. Justice is one of the spearpoints of the report. An object being returned to a museum on another island, thousands of kilometers away does not do justice.
We will prepare a letter to the Minister to voice our concerns about the report.