Naomi Oosterman in NRC: "Putting up signs in museums is not enough"

De dekolonisatie van musea
Paintings in museum
Portrait picture of Naomi Oosterman

'Old collections, new stories' is the theme of this year's VriendenLoterij Museum Prize. More and more museums want to tell new stories with their historical collections, trying to draw attention to the colonial past. Dr Naomi Oosterman (associate professor in cultural heritage and decolonisation at ESHCC) has a mixed message about museums in the NRC and thinks more needs to be done.

"Restructuring narratives"

"We are only at the beginning of the decolonisation of museums," Naomi says. She certainly sees an acceleration in Dutch museums after Black Lives Matter, but "they are not there yet." Naomi thinks museums should pay much more attention to different perspectives on their colonial collection in particular - something she calls "restructuring narratives".

More action is needed

Naomi tells NRC that she is sometimes seen as "a bit annoying" at conferences. Because she thinks more action is needed. And for museums, that means going beyond "putting up signs”. "There is no colonial past, there is a colonial legacy that we are still living with. The narratives that have been suppressed by the Western perspective need to come to the surface." She also thinks museums should make stronger efforts to return colonial heritage.

Three museums have been nominated for the Museum Prize: Museum Jan Cunen in Oss, the Nederlands Fotomuseum in Rotterdam and the Wereldmuseum Amsterdam. All three give decolonisation a role to varying degrees, but what they have in common is that their new permanent exhibitions tell a contemporary as well as multi-voiced story.

Read the entire article from NRC


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