The Amsterdam Museum in (you guessed it) Amsterdam is going to be dropping the term ‘Golden Age’ from their permanent exhibition ‘Hollanders of the Golden Age’, reports RTL News. However, reactions to this move have been mixed where the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum has stated that they will be retaining the term.
The Amsterdam Museum will be changing the name to ‘Group Portraits of the 17th Century’ as the term “does not cover the load of historical reality in this period”, they write on their website. Curator Tom van der Molen says that the term ignores “the many negative sides of the seventeenth century such as poverty, war, forced labor, and human trafficking”.
Today in “news which will send people crazy”:
Amsterdam Museum will stop using the phrase ‘Golden Age’ because it wasn’t actually that golden for all the slaves and colonized peoplehttps://t.co/HCGpGgplBQ
— Ben Coates (@bencoates1) September 13, 2019
The Dutch Golden Age
This age in Western history largely spans the 17th century in the history of the Netherlands where many great things happened, but it also was a time when “poverty, war, forced labor, and human trafficking” was also present, says van der Molen. Using the term invokes feelings of national pride, but it should also not be used to ignore the realities that were present during this period.
By dropping this term, the museum moves closer to what they have been working towards: making the museum more relevant and inclusive to all people. “That is a process that the museum, together with people from the city, has been working on for years. The Amsterdam Museum gives room to people and stories that are not heard, or heard insufficiently.”
Dutch Twitter is going crazy because @AmsterdamMuseum disavowed the use 'Golden Age' for 17th century.
According to critics it 'erases' our history.#TwitterHistorians
— Jip Barreveld (@BarreveldJip) September 13, 2019
They will also be having a symposium on September 29 to determine how exactly the history of the 17th century should be presented to a wider audience, so that it does not ignore any part of the period. They will also be having a photo exhibition on the same day called “Hollandse Meesters Her-Zien”, moving the spotlight on 13 Amsterdammers who were people of colour.
Reactions to dropping the term
However, a lot of people do not understand why dropping the term is necessary. As VVD’s MP El Yassini says to NOS, “First the street signs had to be removed, then the statues and now the entire Golden Age. I prefer that the Amsterdam Museum explain what the Golden Age has brought to our country and what the negative sides of it are. That is also the task of a museum. ”
White Dutch people waking up to the news that the historical period of slave trade and colonial robbery won’t be referred to as the “Golden Age” any more. pic.twitter.com/91mTgekFXC
— Four Seasons Total Dan-scaping (@DanHF) September 13, 2019
The famous Amsterdam Rijksmuseum will also be retaining the term as they don’t believe just dropping the term is necessary. “The name refers to a period in the history of great prosperity,” director Taco Dibbits told the NOS. “That does not mean that there is no eye for the shadow sides. For example, we will do so next year with an exhibition about slavery.”
Confronting the Netherlands’ colonial past
This has been a growing sentiment within the Netherlands where the Dutchies have been coming to terms with how its colonial past manifests today. Just last year, a bust of Johan Maurits van Nassau, a governor of the Dutch colonies in Brazil, was taken down in the Mauritshuis in The Hague.
Additionally, JP Coenschool in Amsterdam, changed its name as it felt the weight of the controversies surrounding the 17th-century colonialist, Jan Pieterszoon Coen.
What do you make of this move by The Amsterdam Museum and the Rijksmuseum? Do you think it is sufficient to just drop the term? How do you think the history of the Netherlands and its colonial past can be presented so that it shows all sides of the period? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
Feature Image: Alejandro/flickr