High Road to Culture in Flanders and the Netherlands


High Road to Culture in Flanders and the Netherlands

Dutch Museum Bans Term Golden Age
Our Colonial Legacy

Dutch Museum Bans Term Golden Age

The Amsterdam Museum will no longer use the term Golden Age when referring to the 17th century. According to the museum the term does not do justice to those who were exploited during the era in which the Netherlands was at the forefront of scientific discovery and artistic achievement.

According to curator Tom van der Molen, the term Golden Age is linked to national pride and ‘the many negative aspects of the 17th century such as poverty, war, forced labour, and human trafficking’ are ignored. In the 17th century the Netherlands was a world power in economic and military terms.

The museum reports that the term would not be used in future exhibitions and that the name of the museum’s permanent collection will be changed from Dutch in the Golden Age to Group Portraits of the 17th Century.

The decision is a step in the process of turning the museum into a place relevant to everyone and where all people feel welcome. ‘We want to give space to people and stories that are not or are insufficiently heard.’

The announcement by the Amsterdam Museum provoked a storm of reactions. On social media, some called dropping the term Golden Age a ‘good idea', but others spoke of ‘falsification of history’ and ‘self-hatred’.

The treatment of the Dutch colonial period in public spaces has become a matter for keenly contested debate in recent years with street names changed and questions raised about the relevance of statues celebrating military heroes of the past.

The Rijksmuseum will keep using the term Golden Age for the time being. Director Taco Dibbits: ‘The name refers to a period in the history of great prosperity. That does not alter the fact that we acknowledge the dark side of this. The Rijksmuseum approaches history from different perspectives. For example, we are opening an exhibition on slavery next year.’

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