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Decolonising the museum

The Netherlands has been struggling with its colonial collections for some time now. Which objects of colonial origin are in the collections of Dutch museums, how did they end up here, should we send them back and what kind of story do they tell – here and in the countries of origin?

Voormalige Tula Museum Curaçao. Foto © Michiel van Kempen

In October 2020, the Gonçalves Committee advised Minister van Engelshoven (Culture) to return objects looted from former Dutch colonies. Objects of great cultural value that have not been demonstrably stolen should also be returned by the state, owner of much of the artifacts. One of the challenges facing these reconciliations is that countries or communities that once owned the objects often do not know that these items are located in the Netherlands. In fact, some of our museums have a poor overview of (the origin of) their collections, or don’t know how to handle what they have in store. Jennifer Tosch will talk with historian Susan Legêne and artist and exhibition maker Raul Balai on decolonising the museum.

Studium Generale Groningen
Datum: dinsdag 15 februari 2022
Tickets to be live at the event are sold out, but a livestream will become available at 8 pm (you don’t have to log in when our event starts).

Susan Legêne is dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Professor of Political History at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU), with a special interest in colonial and postcolonial studies, related to issues of power dynamics in cultural practice. In the past she worked at the Royal Tropical Institute (& Tropenmuseum); moreover she was a member of the Netherlands National Committee for Unesco. 

Raul Balai works as a designer, exhibition maker, curator and artist. Based on a fascination for historiography and diversity, his work is about providing insight into power structures: how they resonate in the way the story of history is told and reproduced, and how they lead to the society we have today.

Jennifer Tosch is a cultural historian, founder of Black Heritage Tours in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and New York State and co-author of several books on the topic of heritage and slavery.

In collaboration with cultural manifestation Bitterzoet Erfgoed (Bittersweet Heritage).

When visiting our events a corona entry pass (a vaccination, test or recovery certificate) is mandatory. More information about this can be found at You can show the corona entry pass with the CoronaCheck-app or on paper.​ We ask you to keep 1,5 m distance and to wear a facemask.

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