The Return of Cultural and Historical Treasures

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In The Return of Cultural and Historical Treasures: The Case of the Netherlands, Jos van Beurden researches cases in which the Dutch state and Dutch heritage institutions have been handing over cultural and historical treasures that were acquired in colonial times and more recently. He investigates the dynamics of their return practice and gives his analysis extra depth by including cases in which return has not materialized. The most remarkable of these is that of a keris or traditional sword of Indonesia’s national hero Diponegoro. Where is it? In addition to library study, many heritage directors and experts have been interviewed. That makes The Return of Cultural and Historical Treasures: The Case of the Netherlands an indispensable addition to the literature about return by the Netherlands of Nazi-spoliated art and human remains. Jos van Beurden is a Dutch research journalist who has published extensively on the protection and endangerment of cultural and historical treasures. For the Tropenmuseum he has written Goden Graven en Grenzen: Over kunstroof uit Afrika, AziÍ en Latijns Amerika (KIT Publishers 2001).

The Return of Cultural and Historical Treasures: The Case of the Netherlands

Jos van Beurden

ISBN 978-9460221842

The Return of Cultural and Historical Treasures: The Case of the Netherlands

The return of cultural and historical treasures touches on a number of political and cultural issues, and often inspires controversy. As the world is changing, the concept of return is changing as well. The shrinking divisions between a poor South and a rich North, colonizer and colonized, and source countries and art and antique market countries impact our thinking about return. How do Dutch heritage institutions deal with this new reality, when the return of their objects or collections comes under discussion? That is the central question in this critical book.

Jos van Beurden Tropenmuseum

9 789460 221842


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The Return of Cultural and Historical Treasures: The Case of the Netherlands

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The Return of Cultural and Historical Treasures: The Case of the Netherlands Jos van Beurden


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Contents Foreword






Rethinking return What is return? Global factors Instability New players Indigenous rights Stronger source countries Heritage hunters or caretakers? Restitution of Nazi spoliated art Restitution of human remains Conclusion

11 13 15 16 17 19 19 21 22 24 26

Dutch return cases Dutch colonialism War booty Colonial collections Colonial archives Missionary collections from colonial areas Colonial legacy Returns after theft and smuggling Crucial role government officials Crucial role heritage institutions Returns of catches from conflict areas

29 30 34 35 36 37 38 38 40 42 45

Diplomatic or economic interests Partage Others Conclusion Cases of return

45 48 50 50 52


Non-materialized Dutch return cases Related to Dutch colonialism Borobudur stone heads Keris of Pangeran Diponegoro Missionary collections from colonial areas Private collections from colonial areas After alleged theft or smuggling From conflict areas Conclusion

55 55 57 58 63 63 65 68 68


Return in an impasse? Doubts remain Acting upon request Cry for joint decision making Shared authority Conclusion

71 72 73 74 76 77





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In the last few decades issues related to the return of ‘heritage objects’ to communities from which they originated have emerged as important, unavoidable concerns for heritage institutions. This shift has resulted from, among other things, growing rights claims by indigenous groups in places such as Australia, New Zealand and native groups in North America, who advocate for the return of their cultural objects, including human remains, which they believe were wrongly removed during colonial conquest. In some cases the governments in these countries have also been assisting indigenous groups claim their cultural heritage from overseas institutions. Similar claims to right colonial wrongs have been made by postcolonial states in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean. While different in nature, these claims to redress colonial injustice can be seen to coincide with other claims for the return of cultural heritage objects lost during times of war, through pillage or acts of illicit trafficking in cultural objects. This contestation over ownership of heritage objects has resulted in several countries (in Europe and North America, for example) developing new legislative frameworks that govern how heritage institutions collect, preserve and display heritage objects from ‘other’ cultures, as well as how they deal with requests for return. This new legislation emerged alongside earlier legal instruments such as the UNESCO 1970 Convention on the Means of


Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property and the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict including its two Protocols. In the beginning of the 21st century, then, museums and other heritage institutions have had to take issues of return more seriously and are searching for new, more ethical models for how to collect, care for and utilise their collections. In fact, some of these institutions have already implemented new policies and have even initiated the return of objects from their collections. Accompanying this shift in thinking about return, has been a growth in the literature that does not only critically explore cases of return, or the legal frameworks that are now in place to govern how such movements of objects are done, but also sets out new models for how heritage objects can be shared for the common good of all. This book is a contribution to this growing body of literature. Jos van Beurden, an investigative journalist and diligent advocate for the development of more equitable practices within the global heritage field, focuses on instances where Dutch heritage institutions, the Dutch state as well as individuals in the Netherlands have been involved in cases of return of cultural objects to originating communities. More than just a critique of

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the Dutch parties involved, or siding with those in the originating communities, van Beurden demonstrates the complexities of the issue of return – the multiple contingent relationships, the economic stakes, the affective involvements – as well as some of the new ways in which issues of return are being addressed by many of these institutions. We hope that this book will provide readers with not just a cogent summary of recent debates and cases, but also a starting point for further discussion and the development of more ethical practices in the future. Lejo Schenk Director of the Tropenmuseum


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The world is changing in many ways. One change is that the traditional divisions of the globe into a poor South and a rich North, into colonizer and colonized and into source countries and art and antique market countries, between ‘us’ and ‘them’, have become less dominant ideas and in some cases are disappearing or even reversing. The traditional Western ‘superiority’ is more and more undermined and replaced by relations of respect and equality or by a new balance of power. A changing world has to look anew at certain issues, and the return of cultural and historical treasures is one of these issues.1

Illicit Import, Export, and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property provided a stimulus for law enforcement authorities to put further into practice this intention.

These global changes have had an impact on heritage institutions in the Netherlands. Many of them with ties with heritage institutions in claimant countries have intensified their contacts with these foreign counterparts, and are developing new ways of cooperation. Closer cooperation has meant that heritage institutions and professionals in both the Netherlands and claimant countries are more aware of each others’ potential, acquisition policies, and collections.

In the book The Return of Cultural and Historical Treasures: The Case of the Netherlands, practices of return of cultural objects in the Netherlands will be the central issue. Are Dutch heritage institutions adjusting their thinking about return and is this resulting in more returns? To answer this question, this study will first address the global discussion about return. This is the subject of part 1. In part 2, over thirty cases of return by Dutch heritage institutions since 1970 will be analyzed.3 Because cases in which a return did not materialize can tell a lot about the complexity of returns, they deserve their own section, which is part 3. In part 4, conclusions will be drawn and the central question about whether Dutch heritage institutions are adopting to new ways of thinking about return and new practices are emerging will be answered.

For the last two decades the Dutch law enforcement authorities have shown their intention to stop the import, export, and transfer of tainted art and antiques to and from the Netherlands.2 This has resulted in a number of returns to claimant countries. The implementation in the Netherlands in 2009 of the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the


At the same time, a number of chances of return have been missed. Some claims were too weak or were not followed up by the claimant country. The heritage institution in the Netherlands was unwilling to cooperate. Or the enforcement authorities were unable to interpret the regulations in such a way that it resulted in an object being returned.

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The findings, presented in this study, are based on visits to sites and interviews with professionals in claimant countries (the first ones in the early 1990’s), interviews with heritage professionals, and law enforcement agents in the Netherlands, as well as a literature review and an analysis of the findings from a questionnaire about return that was circulated among heritage institutions in the Netherlands. Thanks also to Arlette Kouwenhoven of KIT Publishers for her accurate support. I have enjoyed interviewing so many professionals. They have shared with me their experiences and sometimes their secrets. The names of most of them are mentioned in the text or in footnotes; some preferred to remain anonymous. Thank you all. I am grateful for the confidence that KIT Publishers and the Netherlands Institute for Heritage (Erfgoed Nederland) have had in me. I would particularly like to thank Mr. Wayne Modest, Head Museum affairs of the Tropenmuseum, Mr. Paul Faber, Africa curator at the same museum, and Mrs. Astrid Weij, until May 2011 Programme manager of International Affairs at the

Netherlands Institute for Heritage and presently working as Head of Office EU Randstad Region in Brussels. You have been supportive and critical and held me on the right track. I also want to thank Mrs. Hasti Tarakat of the Indonesia Heritage Trust in the Netherlands for her comments on some Dutch - Indonesian matters and Head of Collections Mr. Koos van Brakel of the Tropenmuseum for his useful additions. All of you who have contributed in some or other way, have made the research for and writing of this book into a fascinating and enjoyable task. Return is in the air and has many more layers than I thought before. I invite you to share with me this fascination and joy. There are two things left to say. One is that I invite you to come up with comments on the contents of this study; do not hesitate to contact me via The other is that I am solely responsible for its contents. Jos van Beurden. Utrecht, autumn 2011


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1 Rethinking return

In this part 1 the concept of return is discussed. What is return and how does return look like in the 21st century? Global factors with an impact on the protection, acquisition and return of historical and cultural treasures are mentioned. Among them are instability in states and regions, new players in the art and antique markets and the increased recognition of the rights of indigenous people. Relevant changes are depicted in both the countries that have much material cultural heritage and those of the new holders. The question whether heritage professionals look differently to return than the previous generations is considered. And the impact of the discussion on other forms of return, such as that of Nazi spoliated art and of human remains is dealt with. ‘The return issue does not interest me, it makes me edgy’, states a director of large ethnographic museum in the Netherlands. ‘There is nothing here that has to be returned. There are no claims, and if they come, we will consider them seriously.’1 Another director adds: ‘Return is an empty debate’.2 According to him, his institution has had serious reasons to collect what it has and is not eager to return any objects. And another remarks that ‘by questions about return I feel forced into the defensive. Since the end of the Second World War, each acquisition has been done carefully and the provenance of each object has been investigated’.3 Return is often associated with questionable

Catches from Asia by customs (Photo: Jos van Beurden)

acquisitions, and most heritage institutions in the Netherlands claim to have nothing to do with tainted matters. A questionnaire about return was circulated among hundreds of heritage institutions in the Netherlands4, and for most – national, regional, and municipal archives, libraries, and museums - return is not an issue. They do not have the type of collection that is relevant for cross border relocation, they replied. They were also asked whether there is an object or collection in any heritage institution abroad, which they would like to have returned to the Netherlands. Some of them answered yes. Without the illusion that he had any legal grounds on which to make a claim, the keeper of the municipal records of the city of Deventer expressed his interest to see the return of some ancient drawings of his city that ‘Spanish soldiers took away from our collection at the end of the 16th century, briefly before troops of Prince Maurice of Orange reconquered the city’.5 The seizure occurred during the Dutch War of Independence (1568 – 1648), after which the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands separated from Spain. Possibly they are leading a dusty life in a cupboard in Madrid. The keeper of records never tried it though. For some heritage institutions return is an issue. A director of another large ethnographic museum named it as a major challenge for his kind of institutions: ‘In the coming years, a considerable part of the collections of our museums and of


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Deputy Director Hab Touch of the National Museum in Phnom Penh next to an ancient statue, returned by the Netherlands (Photo: Jos van Beurden)

others will have to find its way back to source countries.’6 He does not stand alone. At the UNESCO International Conference on the Return of Cultural Objects to their Countries of Origin in Athens in 2008 the atmosphere was one of ‘we have entered the age of returns’, and one conclusion was: ‘In recent years a clear tendency towards the return of cultural objects to their countries of origin has been developed on legal, social and ethical grounds’.7


Case studies were presented such as the return of the Axum Obelisk from Italy to Ethiopia, the reunification of the Stone Bird of Great Zimbabwe from Germany to Zimbabwe, and the repatriation of 35,000 archaeological and ethnographical objects from Denmark to Greenland.

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What is return? Return is a complicated and multilayered subject, coloured by the period in which it takes place. It is not an invention by the West but an old phenomenon. For instance Muslim and Hindu rulers in ancient times made rules about war booty and destruction of cultural property, before the West began to catch up.8 Return can also be an emotional subject, when both sides are strongly attached to an object or a collection. This is often the case when the two parties involved are connected through historical or colonial ties, or when the contested object is an ‘icon’ and its holder claims that it has been so long in their institution that it has become also part of the history of that institute or country. Emotions are often stronger about museum objects and collections, because of their uniqueness and meaning for the identity of peoples, than about archives, because of the option of digitization. There are enough examples to show the nature of return. Apart from icons that we all have heard about, such as the Marbles from the Acropolis in the British Museum in London or the Bust of Nefertiti in the Neues Museum in Berlin, recent examples are available as well. Several Chinese collectors, not rarely with close links to the state, are emotionally attached to and willing to pay sky-high prices for objects, which French and British soldiers took from the Summer Palace in Beijing during the Second Opium War (1856 – 1860). They consider it an insult that has to be undone. South Korea repeatedly asked for the return of 297 books of the Oegyujanggak from France. The books record rituals and daily routines during the Joseon Kingdom (1392 – 1910). French troops had taken them in 1866 in retaliation for the execution of some French Roman-Catholic missionaries. The National Library in Paris returned them in 2011 to the National Museum of South Korea. Two Korean airline companies offered to transport the treasures free of charge.9 When the books arrived in Seoul, welcome ceremonies and performances were held.10

In November 2010, Peruvian President Alan Garcia led a protest march through Lima condemning the refusal of Yale University in the USA to return 5,000 Inca artefacts, which Yale scholar Hiram Bingham had removed from the Machu Picchu citadel a century earlier. He sent a letter to his colleague, US President Barack Obama. At the end of 2010 Peru and Yale came to an agreement. Over 300,000 Peruvians visited the exhibition of the first batch of returned objects in the Government’s Palace in Lima during the first two weeks.11 That return issues can evoke emotions was visible in the Netherlands, when, in April 2011, the Greek Ambassador accepted a marble fragment, once removed from the Parthenon by a Dutch backpacker, and remarked to be ‘deeply touched’. He stated further that ‘the Embassy staff had seen and touched the piece as well and was also moved.’12 This event reminded me of a similar reaction in 1994 from the Ghanaian ambassador, who triumphantly lifted pieces of royal crockery that had been confiscated by the Dutch customs from a Dutch dealer, who had smuggled it from the West African country. Emotions also exist at the side of those who do a return. When former director Pieter Pott of the National Museum of Ethnology (Museum Volkenkunde) in Leiden had, in 1977, to give back the thirteenth century Hindu-Javanese statue of Prajñaparamita – called by some the Mona Lisa of Asia – he had four plaster casts made. The present director calls them ‘the four tears of Pott’.13 Emotions are a compliment for and expression of appreciation of these treasures. Sometimes they are needed to give a turn to the discussion about their return. Sometimes they hinder a fair conclusion. All instances of return discussed so far have a different content and context: the return of objects acquired in colonial times or during war; return to undo injustice; return after violating a partage agreement about the division of archaeological finds; return after theft; return based on a political agreement. There


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are voluntary and involuntary returns. But what actually is return? The literature shows a myriad of meanings. Return is about the relocation or mobility of material cultural and historical treasures from one place to another, often back to the place of origin. In this book, this new place will be a claimant country, and return is not restricted to tainted, stolen or smuggled objects or collections; it covers all those that for whatever reason are relocated. At the beginning of the reader, ‘Witnesses to History: Documents and writings on the return of cultural objects’, Lyndell Prott wrote about terminology. She defines return as ‘a fairly neutral term, though perhaps focussing on an action by the requested state or institution’.14 In her study The Return of Cultural Treasures, Jeannette Greenfield also sees return as a broad term, as it also can ‘refer to restoration, reinstatement, rejuvenation and reunification.’15 Recovery is another term often used. According to Prott, it is ‘also a relatively value-free term, though it clearly focuses on the interest of the requesting party’. That is also the case for expressions such as ‘retrieval’ and ‘recuperation’. Restitution is ‘more controversial’; it is a contentious word with different meanings in different legal systems. Greenfield stresses the dislike of many museum directors of the term ‘restitution’, as they cling to the idea that everything in their collection was lawfully obtained and restitution often used in conjunction with cultural property. Repatriation, according to Prott, indicates that an object or collection is handed over to its ‘patria’ or fatherland. ‘Patria’ can also be inside a state. In International Law, Museums and the Return of Cultural Objects, Ana Filipa Vrdoljak gives ample thought to intra-state repatriation. She writes about removal and return of cultural objects ‘from occupied communities during colonisation’, and refers to both external and internal colonialism. In her book she focuses on what the British, American, and


Australian governments and heritage institutions in this respect have performed within their own borders during the last two centuries.17 With these comments, mostly the conventional meaning of some notions has been given. But is that all? Thinking about the non-material and emotional sides of return, thinking of the cheering crowds in Addis Ababa, the reactions of the Greek and Ghanaian ambassadors or the persistence of Chinese collectors and the South Korean authorities, there must be more to say. What more then is return about? Are materials objects or collections really always the crux of the matter? Or are they sometimes only half of the story. ‘At a deeper level return is about respect and authority’, says Wayne Modest of the Tropenmuseum. The marble fragment of the Parthenon that was returned in 2011 to Greece was in itself of minor importance, even if it is part of a World Heritage site. It’s symbolic value was decisive. ‘Return is about restitution, and restitution means giving back, bringing back to the place where it once belonged, restoring.’ Restoring is a broad concept that encloses the return of an object to where it originates from, the restoration works into its original state of an object or a monument, or rehabilitation and healing. All in all, in this book the term ‘return’ will be used most frequently and other terms will be employed when there is reason to do so. ‘Return’ will be used for the cross-border relocation of material cultural and historical heritage to the country of origin. The instances are subdivided into categories related to (1) colonialism, including war booty, colonial collections, colonial archives, shared heritage and missionary collections, (2) theft and smuggling, including tainted objects coming from recent conflict areas, (3) returns motivated by diplomatic or economic interests, (4) partage, and (5) better belonging in another country. These categories will be elaborated in part 2.

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Parts of celestial nymphs from Angkor region, discovered in the port of Rotterdam and returned to Cambodia (Photo: Africa Asia Desk / Paul de Bruin)

Like Greenfield in her study The Return of Cultural Treasures, return in my view thus ‘need not only mean restitution in the sense of repatriation for wrongful taking’.18 It is ‘part of a wider movement’ of cultural and historical treasures. Like Wayne Modest, I consider mutual respect between the giver and taker, the recognition of the authority of the receiver, and the physical hand over as crucial elements in returns. Hopefully, the Dutch directors, who were quoted at the start of this chapter, can live with this concept.

Global factors Some general material and immaterial processes are relevant for the issue of return: globalization, technological revolution, and trade liberalization. As most readers will be familiar with them, they are dealt with briefly here. Trade liberalization has made frontiers disappear. It has increased the mobility of people, especially well-to-do people, and increased the mobility of goods, including material, historical, and cultural heritage. Among the travellers are art and antique dealers, businessmen, diplomats, UN soldiers, aid workers, cultural tourists, and others. The travel sector is more and more on a par with the car, oil, and computer

industries. For most countries this has both positive and negative consequences. The travellers give extra income. They can also endanger a country’s heritage. They purchase statues, which have been illegally excavated or stolen from monuments, sites, libraries, or archives. The Dutch customs experienced this in the 1990’s, when they regularly intercepted objects which were part of Cambodia’s or Thailand’s cultural heritage. Modern technology is helping them to more quickly get in contact with the authorities in other countries or international police forces. Heritage professionals from different countries have much more frequent contacts. As one of them said, ‘I discovered the importance of cultural heritage when I began to visit Indonesia and spoke about it with ordinary people.’19 Technological innovations help ‘the other side’ as well, people that illicitly acquire historical and cultural treasures. In this era, the political and economic relations at a global level are changing. Europe has lost much historical power and standing. The USA has to compete with new powers such as China, India, Brazil, and South Africa. This has an impact on return issues. It is becoming more difficult to say ‘no’ to an upcoming, powerful country. A return can help to strengthen economic cooperation. Globalization, technological revolution and the rise of new world and regional powers have a crucial consequence for the return debate. The traditional superiority thinking in the Western world is being more and more replaced by sensitivity for the value of cultural differences at a global level. The decolonization and the increasing recognition of rights of minorities and of ‘the supremacy of people’s interest in their own cultural heritage over external scientific, artistic, commercial and national interests’ have been crucial to this change.20 Considering the rise of populist parties in the Netherlands and other European countries this diversity means for some people a threat. For others, and among them are many heritage professionals, it is slowly changing into an asset, into ‘a source of renewal for public policies in service to development, social cohesion and peace’.21


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Mosque in Bosnia Herzegovina after restoration (Photo: Jos van Beurden)

The result is that in their world cultural plunder does not fit, and among them the eagerness ‘to expiate the sins of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries’ is on the increase.22 Instability Some changes at the global level have a direct impact on the preservation and return of material heritage. Since the end of the Cold War, the number of intra-state conflicts has risen and there has been much talking and writing about failed, failing, vulnerable, recovering, crisis, or post-conflict states. Most


vulnerable states are low income countries with an ineffective government and a lack of legitimacy. Estimates of the number of people living in such states vary from one sixth to one quarter of the world population. They have come more to the centre of attention since the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers in New York and the Pentagon in Washington.23 Among the reasons for the increased attention for these states is the threat of new violence that the Western world feels. While in the years directly after 2001 there have been other attacks, in the past few years their number and intensity are said to have diminished.

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What is striking is that most of these studies rarely portray the damage to the cultural and historical treasures and the potential of reconstruction and return of heritage for peace and development. Apparently, conflict scholars and heritage experts are not familiar with each others’ work. Even former Afghanistan minister Ashraf Ghani, author with Clare Lockhart of Fixing Failed States, scarcely touches the connection, although Afghanistan plays a central role in their study and he must know the damage to his country’s heritage from his own experience. Seth Kaplan, who puts the strengthening of social cohesion of vulnerable states central, does not mention the potential of return and restoration of cultural and historical heritage and of the involvement of the local population as a means to promote social cohesion. Recently, publications have appeared in which conflict and heritage studies are combined, be it mostly in the description of case-studies.24 New players In December 2002 eighteen major Western museums, including Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, issued a Declaration on the Importance and Value of Universal Museums. They stated that the world should ‘recognize that objects acquired in earlier times must be viewed in the light of different sensitivities and values, reflective of that earlier era. The objects and monumental works that were installed decades and even centuries ago in museums throughout Europe and America were acquired under conditions that are not comparable with current ones.’ With their declaration they wanted to close the discussion about the home base of the Elgin or Parthenon Marbles, the Bust of Nefertiti, the Rosetta Stone and numerous other icons, objects and collections. As far as they are concerned, they will all stay where they are now. In the Declaration they promised due diligence for new acquisitions. Should the Declaration be interpreted as a defensive move, and as an expression of new relations at the global level? Did the signatories feel the plans of some maturing claimant countries to regain parts of their heritage from abroad? Soon after the

Declaration came out, the People’s Republic of China issued an extensive list of objects in Western museums, which they want to regain. Since then Chinese state officials have begun visits to Western museums and Chinese private collectors have become remarkable newcomers at the international art market. ‘China insists on its right to seek the return of cultural relics that have been illegally taken abroad. It opposes to auctions of cultural relics illegally taken from China, including treasures from Yuan Ming Yuan Summer Palace. We believe that such auctions run counter to the underlying spirit of relevant international treaties and UN resolutions, and are serious infringements of China’s cultural rights and interests.’25 In 2000 Chinese buyers caused for the first time a stir in the art market, when one of them offered 4 million dollar for three animal heads from the Summer Palace, and another 2,7 million dollars for a 18th century ceramic vase, both auctioned in Hong Kong. Since then Chinese art lovers have caused a price hike. In November 2010, a Chinese paid some 60 million euro for a reticulated double-walled vase at an auction in London. Most probably it also came from the Summer Palace. Among these buyers are wealthy patriots and representatives of companies linked to the Chinese government.26 Other newcomers can be found in the Middle East, especially in the Gulf Countries and Turkey. Private collectors, such as Nasser D. Khalili, an Iranian Maecenas now living in London, whose collection of Persian and Islamic art was shown in Amsterdam and other Western cities, are prominent in the art market.27 Governments of these countries are initiating much more active protection and retrieval policies.28 In some Gulf countries spectacular museums have been set up. These governments are aware of a growing market for tainted antiquities. Looted artefacts from the Mediterranean, North Africa, the Middle East, and possibly also from Southern Europe, reach the market in the Persian Gulf, as was stated during a 2008 international meeting on art crime.29 Customs restrictions and legislation are more lenient to the trade. Once the local traders have smuggled the


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Increased mobility can endanger cultural heritage. Efeze, Turkey (Photo: Jos van Beurden)

antiquities into their own country, they can be legally shipped anywhere in the world. Dubai sees antiquities dealers from North America, Europe, and Turkey come to make purchases. There is one more thing. The world has an increasing number of nouveaux riches. Many of them travel30 and want to take home ‘souvenirs’ or buy art at galleries at home or via the Internet. The number of high net worth individuals, i.e. people who have


at least one million dollars in financial assets, increases slowly and amounted worldwide to around ten million in 2011. Over half of them live in the USA, Japan or Germany. In 2011 their number in the Asia Pacific region equalled that of Europe for the first time.31 They bring in money and are in the art and antique trade, as I have been assured by several dealers, a popular target group. But they can also cause problems with tainted purchases.

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Indigenous rights Soon after the institutionalization of Christianity in the Mediterranean region, a tradition came into existence of collecting remains and attributes of saints. During the Renaissance (14th - 17th century) the practice was extended with a secular variant. The science of anthropology that came up in the mid 19th century made the collection of human remains, bones, and skeletons for research purposes into a broad practice. Roughly one century and a half later, the collecting of human remains began to be associated with bad practices and racism. It came to an end, and a debate was opened as to what to do with all the collected remains. In Contested Cultural Property, Katja Lubina has placed this debate ‘in the greater context of the struggle for indigenous rights in the post-colonial era following World War II’.32 Only in the United States of America this debate had begun slightly earlier, in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Vrdoljak points to ‘a cognisance of both the significance of living indigenous cultures and cultural objects to the pursuit of an authentic national and hemispheric cultural identity... These processes involved an acknowledgement of the destructive policies of the past US administrations towards Native Americans and their cultures.’33 From the US the debate spread to Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. In South Africa it came up after the abolition of the Apartheid laws in the 1990s. In these countries civil rights movements and indigenous people fought for self-determination, which stretched out to their historical and cultural treasures and human remains. This led to new practices, policies, and legislation. In 1986 most Aboriginal skeletal remains from two Australian museums were handed over to the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre Inc.34 In 1990 the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act was implemented in the USA. This landmark legislation enabled native North American groups to recover human remains and funerary objects from federally funded museums. It criminalized the trafficking of these remains and objects and provided guidelines for their excavation. Around the turn of the present

century the debate had become ‘truly international in character in the sense of affecting human remains in public collections worldwide, especially in Western public collections.’35 Stronger source countries Today many distinctions are disappearing due to globalization, the mobility of people, economic changes, the distinction between a poor and a rich world, between a well-to-do North and an underdeveloped South, and between exclusively source countries versus exclusively market countries. Poor people can be found en masse in the traditionally rich world. For many it is a new phenomenon: In the country with by far the most millionaires, the USA, around 15 percent of the population live below the poverty line. China, India, Brazil and many other traditional developing countries have wealthy elites with comparable purchasing power as the elites in the traditionally well-to-do countries. The elite of some countries – such as China, India, Indonesia, Thailand, and Turkey – have become big spenders at the international art and antique market. At the same time, many of these countries realize how much of their heritage has disappeared, and they wonder how to regain some of it. They consider their own claims superior to those of the countries and institutions, which presently hold these treasures. These objects are seen to bolster national and cultural identity. These countries need them to develop their national identity and unity, to benefit more from cultural tourism, to fill their relatively empty museums and to undo earlier acts of injustice. Many have begun to improve the protection of their heritage. Mali in West Africa, for a long time known as a country that lost much cultural heritage to looters, began in the 1980’s to adopt legislation for stronger protection of its archaeological heritage. It set up awareness raising campaigns in areas with archaeological sites and strengthened the protection of the sites.36 In the Angkor Wat region in Cambodia, robbery of cultural heritage has seriously diminished. Visitors of one of Southeast


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Asia’s most extensive temple complexes got sour eyes because of the numerous voids in walls and on stands. Since the late 1990’s the government has taken up and intensified the protection of these sites. Female landless farmers are employed as temple guards. A cultural police force has been trained. Restoration projects are implemented in cooperation with foreign scholars.37 There are reports about comparable improvements in other countries. Some organize exhibitions of returned treasures. In April 2010, 26 countries including China, South Korea, India, Mexico, Greece, and Egypt joined hands during the Conference on Restitution in Cairo for the repatriation of their stolen cultural and historical treasures.38 They drafted a catalogue with priority objects. So far Peru and South Korea have been successful,39 while Mexico makes progress in negotiating with Austria for a long term loan of the early 16th century feather headdress of the Aztec ruler Montezuma.40 More than in the past, heads of state actively support return campaigns. Alpha Konaré, who was the President of Mali from 1992 until 2002, was an early example of this trend. In the 21st century President Alain Garcia of Peru has joined him, and so did Ethiopia’s President Girma Wolde-Giorgis. In February 2008, Wolde-Giorgis sent a letter to several museums and libraries in the United Kingdom requesting the repatriation of the over 450 treasures of Maqdala, taken by British soldiers following a battle in 1868 near the then capital of Maqdala. In the letter he stated ‘that Ethiopians have long grieved at the loss of this part of their national heritage. Ethiopians feel that this act of appropriation had no justification in international law. I feel, therefore, that the time has come for the return of Ethiopia’s looted treasures.’ As early as 1925 the silver crown of Emperor Tewodros was returned to Ethiopia41 and in 1965 Tewodros’ royal cap and seal were returned. Since AFROMET began to campaign, ten other objects were given back.42 In 2011 Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdo an of Turkey officially requested the French authorities to return a set of Ottoman-era tiles, which according to him were


secretly taken by French archaeologists in the 1880’s and are now in the Louvre and other museums in France.43 Almost all countries mentioned have civil society organizations that promote the protection and return of their country’s heritage. Several types of organizations can be distinguished. There is the more traditional civil society organization made up of archaeologists, curators and other heritage professionals. Some of them are more militant than others. AFROMET ardently favours the return of the Maqdala treasures to Ethiopia. Peru has its Patronato de Cultura Macchupichu.44 The Indonesian Heritage Trust had in 2011 some 50 heritage societies from all over the country as members.45 Some organizations have close links with the government of their countries; others remain more independent. Sometimes people close to a royal or presidential family set up trusts. Examples are the Syria Heritage Foundation, set up in 2010 under the patronage of the then President’s wife, and the Foundation of Architecture and Heritage (FAH) in the Kingdom of Jordan with Princess Dana Firas in the chair. Some countries now have speech-making personalities with an international audience, who publicly favour the return of their country’s cultural heritage. Among them are museum and archive directors, curators, heads of antiquities departments, and officials of the tourism ministries. Some opt for a confrontational approach and emphasize the property side of cultural and historical treasures. They are ‘ours’ and not ‘yours’. One such person was Zawi Hawass, until 2011 the Egyptian Minister of State for Antiquities. Strong in public relations, he put the return of Egyptian heritage on the international agenda and achieved results. In 2010, he negotiated with the Louvre the return of five 3.200 years old fresco fragments, which according to him had been stolen in the 1980s. He claimed back the Bust of Nefertiti and the Rosetta Stone. And he brought together a number of countries in the already mentioned Conference on Restitution.

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colonialism.46 He raised the question of how the contemporary looting of artefacts can be condemned without doing the same with colonial loot and plunder. He disagrees with the prominent British critic of the illicit trade, retired Cambridge university professor Lord Colin Renfrew. Renfrew has repeatedly stated that people who protect cultural heritage should not focus on the restitution of earlier wrongs but on stopping the looting now and taking ‘the year 1970 as its somewhat arbitrary dividing line’, referring to the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export, and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property of 1970.47 Renfrew is elsewhere quoted as warning for ‘a tide of restitutionalism’, if the earlier wrongs are too much involved in the return debate.48 For Opoku it was a shock to hear ‘that a period of hundred years is sufficient for us to forget looting and plunder of cultural objects’. He points to article 15 of the 1970 Convention, that states that nothing in the Convention shall prevent State parties ‘from concluding special agreements among themselves ... regarding the restitution of cultural property removed ... from its territory of origin, before the entry into force of this Convention for the States concerned.’49

Illicit trade in cultural heritage of Democratic Republic of Congo (Photo: Jos van Beurden)

There are also writers and journalists who make pleas. Kwame Opoku, a sharp legal advisor and retired Ghanaian living in Austria, is using his pen to defend the right of especially African countries to the cultural property that was taken during

Heritage hunters or caretakers? Is the thinking and doing of heritage professionals a factor that has to be taken into account when considering the issue of return? It is a difficult question, and I have no well-funded answer. I therefore asked some Dutch heritage professionals to shed light on it. Around 1.950 heritage professionals in the Netherlands were generally not bothered by acquisition ethics. They were supposed to enlarge the collections of their institutions and these collections would remain with them forever. Return was not in the air, and some professionals whom I interviewed for this book stated that they have not changed their thinking about the return question. More, however, admitted to have adjusted their point of view and to understand better that return is an issue to be considered. In the early 1990’s an Africa curator offered his


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expertise about boxes with ‘handicrafts’ that had arrived for a Dutch dealer from a West African country. The customs suspected that the contents had more cultural and financial value than was indicated in the documents. The experts conclusion was forceful: the objects – crockery, thrones and chairs – were ancient and authentic, had come from a royal tomb and had been exported illegally. During the conversation the curator told me to have purchased himself in the late 1980s some smuggled statues from the same country, and, half a decade after this purchase, he added that he would never do it again. Many heritage professionals show a different attitude nowadays. One of them points to the fact that, for about the past quarter century, heritage institutions have put their acquisition policy on paper50 and explicitly respect the codes of ethics of their respective professional associations. ‘Since then checking and holding fundamental discussions has become a serious possibility. De-accessing has become an option and no longer is return unacceptable.’51 Another points to the increased attention for the immaterial and the context that leads to ‘a diminishing value of an object itself; it is less relevant where it is located, and so return becomes easier. Globalization and digitisation support this process.’ A third one points to ‘the new sense of democracy in the museum and heritage field’, the space they offer is increasingly seen as ‘contact zone, a place for encounter and dialogue’, relations between these institutions and stakeholders are changing, and that all has an impact on the return debate. Most curricula for heritage professionals contain acquisition ethics.53 A fourth answers that there is a new generation of heritage professionals indeed, and ‘that return and cooperation have become more bookable on account of the increasing number of women in the heritage sector. I see so many programs that are kept going by women.’54 Although the attitude of heritage professionals should be the subject of more thorough research, one can observe a change that opens up discussions about return.


Restitution of Nazi spoliated art In its annual report of 2010, the Dutch Advisory Committee on the Assessment of Restitution Applications, in short the Restitutions Committee, deviated briefly from its usual path of the restitution of Jewish looted art, when it noted explicitly ‘a new sense of justice’ in relation to three other historical situations or events: antiquities from the Middle East and the Mediterranean; treasures taken either as valuables and catches or as war booty by European colonial powers; and the art of noble or bourgeois families confiscated during the October 1917 Revolution in Russia.55 In this latter situation, that of the Russian Revolution, individual families put a claim, and in this sense it is comparable with the claims of Jewish people covered by the Committee. In the first two situations, those of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean tainted treasures and of art and antique collected during colonial times, states, or communities make the claim or express a wish for a return. This book is not about the restitution of Nazi spoliated art, human remains, or the intra-state repatriation of cultural and historical treasures to native minorities. These three heritage categories are being covered extensively elsewhere. But it is interesting to see whether lessons can be drawn from the returns of these heritage categories about the return categories that are covered here. During the last decades, heritage institutions in the Netherlands, other European countries, and North America have been confronted by lawsuits and widespread media attention and they have restituted – and in some cases still are restituting – paintings, statues, and other works of art to the original, mostly Jewish, owners or their heirs. From 1996 onwards the fate of Jewish assets has been under discussion. It began with Jewish assets in Swiss banks.56 In 1998 an international conference adopted the Washington Conference Principles on Nazi Confiscated Art, and

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one year later the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe issued a resolution concerning Looted Jewish Cultural Property. Both declarations ‘advocated a lenient restitution policy for property looted during the war, and recommended opting for an alternative form of dispute resolution outside regular judicial procedure.’57 The Dutch Restitution Committee was set up in 2001, comprising legal advisers, historians, and art historians. It prepares independent recommendations to the State Secretary for Education, Culture, and Science. The Netherlands had a poor record as far as the protection of people was concerned that were persecuted by the Nazis. In May 1940, when German troops occupied the Netherlands, around 140.000 Jewish people were living here. During the war, over one hundred thousand of them were killed. As in other countries, Jewish families were forced to hand over their art treasures or to sell them far below market prices. After the war the Dutch government began to recuperate these works of art but did not restitute it to the families that had lost them, as they often could not be found – they had been killed or emigrated – but to publicly funded heritage institutions. ‘The national interest and society as a totality’ counted at that time more than individual victims.58 It is one of the more painful episodes in the Dutch history.59 It was not until 2005, that the Dutch government apologized to the Jewish community for their cooperation with the German occupier. From early 2002, the Restitutions Committee has been investigating and assessing applications by individuals for the return of works of art, of which they had relinquished possession involuntarily. It thereby applied a liberalised restitution policy. That meant that sales of works of art by Jewish private persons in the Netherlands was treated as forced sales, unless there was express evidence to the contrary, and that rightful claimants were earlier than before given the benefit of the doubt.60 At the start, the Committee was expected to get to deal with between thirty

and fifty claims, and to operate between three and five years. It will be busy until 2012. As of July 2011, 123 applications had been received, and 100 of these have been assessed and advice given to the Dutch government.61 Some claims involved only one or more works of art. There were also larger claims, the two largest being the restitution of a collection of objects of applied art, family silver, and paintings to the heirs of banker and art collector F.B.E Gutmann in 2002, and that of two hundred and two mostly classical paintings to the heirs of art dealer Jacques Goudstikker in 2006. His heirs sold many of them at an auction in 2007 for almost $10 million. The Netherlands Museum Association has requested its members to investigate their acquisitions during a longer period than merely the Second World War – i.e. between 1933 and 1948. Many museums are still in the process of investigation, and the Restitution Committee might have to continue its work for several years. In general the Committee’s work has been praised for its fairness and thoroughness. What lessons can be drawn from it? First we should point to differences between Nazi spoliated art and treasures that are the subject of this book. One is a difference in the period that has to be investigated. For the Nazi spoliated art it is relatively short. The Committee investigates possessions, involuntarily relinquished between 1933 (when in Germany Adolf Hitler came to power) and 1948, so three years after the end of the Second World War. Another difference is that claimants are private owners and their heirs. Many of them are well-to-do and equipped to hire specialized lawyers. They really go after their interests. Whereas in the case of the return of treasures, dealt with in this book, mostly states or heritage institutions and minorities in these states are the claimant party. A third difference is, that the Jewish heirs have been invited to come up with claims and have clear procedures to go about them. A pro-active policy has been conducted towards them, while most directors of heritage institutions whom I spoke to are opposed to a pro-active policy in regard of return issues


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in this book. Many claims that are dealt with here are barred by the statute of limitation. Finally, the number of successful claims for the restitution of Nazi spoliated art is much larger than the number of instances of return, which we found roughly three times as many. The conditions of colonial relationships and imperial encounters make the issue more complicated than that of the Nazi spoliated art. What more can be learned? The Jewish people are known for their well organized lobby for compensation and mitigation of the painful consequences of the Holocaust. Their suffering as a people and the right of dispossessed families to regain their art treasures has been widely recognised. Lobbying and recognition could certainly be a point of attention for states and communities that are after return of their colonial or archaeological treasures. There are some lobbies or platforms for the latter. The best known is the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in case of Illicit Appropriation, set up in 1978. Its role has been one of mediation and alternative dispute resolution. It has ‘emphasised bilateral negotiations as the primary method of resolving claims’ for return.62 Initially most claims were about treasures removed during colonialism or taken illicitly following the 1970 UNESCO Convention. Later, claims for treasures, removed and/or destroyed during more recent armed conflicts, and claims by Successor states following the dissolution of e.g. the Soviet Union and other federations came on the agenda. In May 2010 the UNESCO Return Committee, together with the International Council of Museums ICOM, mediated successfully in a claim of Tanzania for the return by the Musée Barbier Mueller in Geneva of a Makonde Mask. Another lobby is the already mentioned 2010 Conference on Restitution in Cairo, which brought together claimant countries that listed their return priorities. Its members are less focussed on mediation and more claim-oriented.


The recommendation of two international bodies for a lenient restitution policy and the use of alternative forms of dispute resolution outside the regular judicial procedure for Nazi spoliated art and the liberalised restitution policy of the Netherlands Restitution Committee can be interesting points for the discussion about the return of objects, as meant in this book. A lenient return policy would require a constructive and flexible disposition of both heritage institutions in the holder countries and claiming states and communities. It would make a confrontational approach of claiming countries less necessary. The suffering of the Jewish people during and around the Second World War has been amply documented. Without wanting to start a discussion who has suffered most, there is a question why other groups of people who have suffered, do not have similar rights. Why is a country such as Korea – also a victim of the Second World War - not entitled to regain the 100,000 objects that Japan took between 1910 and 1945? Why are former colonial countries not allowed to lay claim to treasures that were taken by the colonial powers? What is the difference in the forced sale at far below market prices of precious family jewels, ritual objects, or religious manuscripts when the victims are from the Jewish holocaust, famine, or violent conflicts that I observed in Ethiopia during the drought in the 1980’s, or which occurred in Sudanese refugee camps in northern Kenya in the 1990’s?63

Restitution of human remains In comparison with the USA, Canada, and Australia, the Netherlands has no (well organized) native groups and here the debate about the fate of human remains started later, around the year 2000. Some incidents caused controversy and most had to do with remains that had come from former Dutch colonies or from areas, where the Dutch East India Company and the West India Company had been active. At an exhibition in 1998/99 in

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Mounted ancestral skull, collected during expedition on the Sepik River in what was then the German part of New Guinea. Early 20th century. Gift: A. Franssen Herderschee, 1920 (Photo: Collection KIT Tropenmuseum, inv. no. 85-1)

the Kunsthal museum in Rotterdam, the tanned remains of an Inuit hunter and his kayak were shown. Greenland signalled its intention to protest, but the museum director shrunk from creating a precedent and ‘did not want to open the door for an exodus of human remains from museums.’64 Later on, it turned out that museums in Greenland exhibit Inuit remains too and that it was uncertain whether the remains at the Dutch exhibition were really of an Inuit. The case was closed but the discussion about human remains had been opened. The second incident started in 2002, when during a visit to the Te Papa Museum Tongarewa of New Zealand, the National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden was asked whether a return

from Leiden of a mummified, painted, and tattooed head was possible.65 It had been New Zealand’s policy to regain as many skulls, which had been sold during the 19th century to European traders, and to pass them to Maori communities. The Leiden Museum applied two principles to answer the request.66 For the question as how to deal with human remains and whether or not to exhibit them, the common practice in source countries sets the norm. And the title of the claimant group or individual outweighs the formal property rights of the museum. Initially the museum proposed a long term loan, as it ‘was not ready to waive the right to the skull’. Finally the skull was returned unconditionally. One newspaper was very critical and described it as foolish for a museum to let go an object that could attract so many visitors.


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In 2009 there were two incidents. One was the return by the Anatomical Museum in Leiden of a number of Aboriginal skulls and bones to Australia. The other was the return of the preserved head of King Badu Bonsu II to Ghana. This ruler, who had his Kingdom at the then Dutch Gold Coast, had killed two Dutch emissaries in 1838, was handed over by his own subjects to Dutch traders and subsequently hanged. The Dutch took his head to the Netherlands. In 2009 the Dutch writer Arthur Japin brought it to public attention, after which this case became a Case. The Ghanaian government sent a formal request for return, a delegation of the Ahanta people came to the Netherlands to collect the head and the Netherlands Foreign Minister created a nice press moment. Historian Fenneke Sysling mentions three reasons why nowadays the collecting of human remains is considered unethical in the Netherlands. Acquisition often occurred without the consent from the source community. That would be unacceptable today. Acquisition became worse when people whose remains were collected, were treated badly during their lifetime. And even more egregious were cases when the human material was used for research that aimed to classify races.67 With the raising awareness of mass murders, genocides, and acts of ethnic cleansing during the 20th century inside and outside Europe, research to classify races was not done anymore.68

remains’ with a limited scientific value. The museum used the analysis results to initiate a public discussion and opted for a pro-active return policy. The human remains issue ‘has given rise to a global debate involving international organizations, national governments, museum associations, academic forums, committees and specific bodies set up to support the requests and demands of indigenous people’.69 Again there is the question of which aspects of the return of human remains in the Netherlands are relevant for the return categories in this book. There are a few. One very important one is the primacy of the claimant communities. The holders, the academics and curators of ethnographic and natural history museums in the Netherlands have had to give up their privileged positions in favour of the people, who claim that the remains belong to their ancestors. That the remains were once human is more important than that they are research objects. Another is that these communities have become partners in negotiations about return, and that these negotiations no longer are the exclusive dealing right of states or heritage institutions linked to the state. A third lesson is the choice of a pro-active position of an heritage institution in the Netherlands that had to come to a decision about the fate of its human remains collection.

Conclusion The discussion about foreign human remains received an input from a report of the Tropenmuseum, published in 2007 about its own collection. In 1973, the museum had decided that human remains, acquired between 1906 and 1969, had to be de-accessioned. They were given on a long term loan to the museum of the Medical Faculty of the University of Amsterdam. Due to new insights the Tropenmuseum began to retrieve the loaned collection in 2002 with the intention of returning the remains to the countries of origin. Based on an internal analysis, it turned out to be a rather ‘disparate accumulation .... of human


Return of cultural and historical treasures has been defined both in a material and immaterial way. As discussed here, it can relate to tainted objects but also to mobility and flexibility, and to respect and restoring. As the world is changing, the nature of returns is changing as well. Vrdoljak defines return as a matter of delayed decolonization. The world has to liberate itself from ‘an unilinear scale of civilisation’.70 The renewed attention for return issues began in the 1930’s with discussions about the return of human remains and artefacts of indigenous communities. It continued

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with debates about the return of Nazi spoliated art, and has reached now a phase in which return also covers other categories, such as cultural and historical treasures taken during colonialism, archaeological excavations, and violent conflicts. The advocates of return have the wind behind them. Crucial factors are the changing political and economic relations in the global village and the realization that no one is any longer superior to others. Much more than before, cultural diversity is replacing superiority thinking. ‘The belief that every people should be able to see at least a representative collection of their own cultural achievements, has led to renewed interest into his topic in the 21st century’.71 Lubina concludes in general terms that the return of Nazi-spoliated art and of human remains has been helpful in pushing the debate about other forms of return. I do agree with her that all the return debates have popped up in the 20th and 21st centuries, but have difficulty in finding direct causal links between the different categories of return. One can conclude that the general climate in the global village has become more favourable to returns. I agree with her finding that the cases of Nazi spoliated art and human remains have not opened the ‘floodgates’ leading to the return of all objects from public collections. The fear of the director of the Kunsthal museum about an exodus of human remains, and other treasures, is not

based on reality. The exodus-argument can hide the unwillingness of people to reflect upon their own acquisition behaviour and to go into the return option. Sometimes voices in claimant countries demand the return of ‘all’ lost treasures. When coming to practical solutions, I do not know of heritage professionals in a claimant country, who really wanted to get back ‘all’ lost treasures. They are too well aware of how difficult that would be. Another matter is to what extent claimant countries have authority over these lost treasures. Lubina also notices a certain reorientation with regard to the standards applied in deciding upon restitution of Nazi looted art and human remains ‘by not focussing solely on the question in how far an acquisition might have been illegal, but by according relevance also to the question in how far the continued presence of an object in a museum is (still) appropriate’.72 Return requires case by case study and that generalizations are to be avoided. In the discussion about return of both the Nazi-spoliated art and human remains the use of alternative solutions has been encouraged. In some cases advisory committees have been introduced. In others assistance was sought for the production of evidence or concessions were made with regard to the evidence required.73


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2 Dutch return cases

In this part return cases by heritage institutions in the Netherlands are categorized and analyzed. Half of them are returns after seizures by the Dutch law enforcement authorities. Returns related to acquisitions in colonial times are numerous as well. The description of the different categories helps in answering questions about the nature of return in the Netherlands and whether Dutch heritage institutions are changing their thinking and acting as far as returns are concerned. A full list of Dutch return cases is added at the end of the chapter. In the literature one can find several ways to categorize instances of return. In general the differences are small and often related to the situations an author is writing about. The categorization applied here is based on the analysis of 34 cases of return by heritage institutions in the Netherlands. There are four categories. The first category covers returns related to acquisitions in colonial times. ‘Colonial’ has two meanings. Sometimes it covers European colonialism, which lasted from the early 17th century until after the Second World War. Some missionary colonial collections in the Netherlands fit in this use of the word colonial, as they originated from French, British, or Belgian colonies. Sometimes it is limited to Dutch colonialism and Dutch colonial possessions. Under the latter come not only Indonesia, Surinam, and the Dutch Antilles, but also trading posts in the coastal areas

of West Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia, run by the Dutch East India Company or the Dutch West India Company. So, return of colonial possessions includes the return of colonial war booty, colonial collections and archives, and missionary colonial collections. Almost one third of the return cases fits in this category. Most of these returns were done voluntarily. Some were based on pre-existing agreements. The second category is that of returns of objects that were the result of theft and smuggling since 1970; returns of objects coming from recent conflict areas have been made a subcategory here. Half of the 34 returns fit in this category and make it the biggest one. All of them have been forced returns. The Dutch customs, the Cultural Heritage Inspectorate, and the police have played important roles in these. The third category comprises returns in which diplomatic or economic interests dominated. Two return cases fall within it. There is a fourth category of returns because of new insights in the principle of partage, the arrangement about the division of objects found during excavations at archaeological sites or explorations in underwater shipwrecks. Two instances can be ascribed to the fourth category. There are two cases which do not fit in one of these categories and therefore form a rest-category.

Display case with skulls in the museum of the Colonial Institute (now Royal Tropical Institute), Amsterdam (Photo: Collection KIT Tropenmuseum, inv. no. 60054941)


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Table 1: Division of return instances per category Related to ...

Total number ...

Table 2: Division of return instances per year

Nr. per subcategory




number Colonialism

Theft and Diplomatic/ Partage Other smuggling

War booty





Colonial collections





Colonial archives





Missionary activities












1 1

Recent theft and smuggling






From conflict areas







1 1

Diplomatic or economic interests







































Dutch colonialism By far the most important returns of colonial objects and collections are those to Indonesia in the 1970’s; they will be elaborated extensively. Much can also be concluded from a return of ancient archives to Surinam. Before going into it, some general remarks about Dutch colonialism are made. Around 1600, the Dutch Republic conquered Portuguese and Spanish settlements in Asia, Africa, and South America. At some places large territories were occupied, at others the Dutch limited themselves to the opening up of trading posts. The Dutch East India Company (VOC, 1602 - 1799) and the Dutch West India Company (WIC, 1623 - 1792) in Asia, Africa, and Latin America were set up and charged with the administration of the new territories. The VOC and the WIC acted as a quasi-governmental


economic interests



1 1













institutions. Apart from conquest, the Dutch made exploratory voyages and discovered new sea passages for whale fishing, e.g. via Spitsbergen. And they put much effort in to new ways of channelling goods to the Republic or inside Asia. During the second half of the 17th century the Dutch dominated much of the global trade. From the second half of the 18th century France and England began to break Dutch hegemony. In 1815 the Kingdom of the Netherlands was established. It remained with few colonial possessions: the Indonesian archipelago, Surinam, and the Dutch Antilles. The trading posts

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were absorbed into the colonial possessions of other European powers. Dutch hegemony in the Indonesian archipelago was twice interrupted, one time by the British (1811 – 1816) and one time by the Japanese (1942 – 1945). Indonesia declared itself independent in 1945. The Netherlands recognized the new state in 1949. The Netherlands lost West Papua New Guinea to Indonesia in 1962.

director of the Society went through it and selected objects to be kept in the museum of the Society. As a result of the Society’s efforts, many treasures that were found have always remained inside the colony. Contemporary Indonesian heritage experts still appreciate these efforts.2


Sometimes this policy remained a dead letter, as some individual Dutch administrators, soldiers, businessmen and others frequently paltered with it. From the end of the 18th century onwards, they are known to have begun to collect antiquities from ancient sites, and especially ‘during the years of war and revolution (1941- 1948) many infractions of the rules must have taken place’.3 As a result, many treasures ended up in private collections in the Netherlands. Some of them are still in those families, while others have been channelled to the art and antique trade or ended up in collections of museums. In this way, Museum Bronbeek in Arnhem, that shows the Dutch past in Indonesia, got hold of part of the equipment of Indonesia’s national hero Pangeran Diponegoro.

Thanks to an extensive court culture at most islands of the archipelago, and because of the presence of numerous Buddhist and Hindu monuments, Indonesia has long been a cultural and historical treasure trove. From the 17th century onwards, the colonial administration understood this and got hold of many items: after expeditions, as gifts from local rulers, and as war booty. In 1778 the colonial administration set up an institution that played a remarkable role in the preservation of these treasures: the Royal Batavian Society of Arts and Sciences (Koninklijk Bataviaasch Genootschap van Kunsten en Wetenschappen).1 It also had Indonesian members, among them the painter Raden Saleh. From 1858 the Society was commissioned keeper of this wealth that the colonial government owned. All finds from archaeological sites, temple complexes and other monuments were to be rendered to the Society. During punitive actions on the islands of Lombok and Bali the Society sent an agent to accompany the Dutch troops to ensure that all booty went to the Society’s headquarters. And every time a load arrived, the

After Indonesia’s independence the two countries had to redefine their cultural relations. It started as a tiring process with an assertive new country and a former colonial power that had difficulty in accepting the new reality. The Indonesians criticised the Dutch for ‘cultural imperialism’. They soon came with return claims and some Dutch high ranking officials supported their claims. Legêne and Postel-Coster have described how these claims became part of the post-colonial negotiations. In 1949 a Round Table Conference took place on the transfer of sovereignty and the future relations. During the Conference a committee on cultural affairs was convened. It came with a draft cultural agreement that had a paragraph about the handing over of valuable cultural objects that originated from Indonesia and had come in the possession of the Netherlands government or of the former Netherlands East Indies authorities.4 The agreement, however, led to nothing. In the years thereafter other efforts to come to a cultural covenant failed as well.

Surinam became a Dutch colony in 1667. It gained independence from the Netherlands in 1975. The Netherlands Antilles were from 1954 onwards an autonomous country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. In 1986 Aruba became a separate country within the Kingdom. The relations were readjusted in October 2010, when Aruba and Curaçao became special countries inside the Kingdom, while Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba received the status of special municipality.


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In 1963 the Dutch government set up a coordinating committee for cultural relations with Indonesia that had to study how to help Indonesia and Indonesians overcome resistance to the Dutch culture. Indonesia’s deputy prime minister saw an opportunity in it for the return of valuable Indonesian documents in Dutch archives and museums, in addition to claims for the return of unique cultural objects in Dutch collections. Unlike some officials in his department, the Dutch Minister of Education, Arts, and Science vehemently opposed return. In 1964 the two countries came to an agreement on scientific and economic development and cooperation, a sign of a rapprochement. To depict the atmosphere of the time, in that same year UNESCO made a first proposal to combat the illicit trade in cultural objects. In 1968 the Netherlands and Indonesia came to a cultural agreement, in which the transfer of some important objects to Indonesia was mentioned.

When the Indonesian delegation had been provided with lists of ten thousand objects, its response was clear: all ten thousand had to be returned, whether robbed or not. It stoked the fear that one return could open the floodgates for many to follow and that museums in the Netherlands would fall empty. In November 1975 the two parties met in the Museum Nasional in Jakarta. As some recall, they occasionally behaved as quarrellers. 6 The Dutch delegation stated that if the Indonesians stuck to their demand of ten thousand objects, the Dutch would immediately go home. It refused to talk about ‘return’, as it would point to illicit acquisitions, while ‘there was no question of deliberate or irregular alienation of cultural property by the Dutch administration from its former colonies’.7 Apart from the extremely rich Lombok treasure and the Bali treasure, which were considered war booty, many other objects had been purchased or received as gifts. Therefore the term ‘transfer’ was used instead.

Several authors, all connected with the National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden, published about the return debate between the two countries in the 1970’s. An important role was played by some media reports, in which ethnographic museums were asked whether the Netherlands did not have a legal and otherwise moral duty to immediately return cultural goods that had been taken in the past from Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.5 The Indonesians felt encouraged by the publications to go deeper into the issue. In September 1974 a large Indonesian delegation arrived at the Dutch Foreign ministry and asked permission to visit all storage rooms for objects that had been taken during colonial times. For the Dutch authorities the visit came as an unpleasant surprise; they felt accused of robbery.

Finally, in 1977 an agreement was reached that Indonesia would receive a considerable number of treasures in Dutch government possession that could be linked directly to persons or events of great historical or cultural importance. When such treasures were in private hands, the Dutch government would do its best to stimulate the owners to hand them over to Indonesia. In addition, a joint commission was established to prepare a program for passing visual documentation about important cultural and archaeological objects. And finally the Dutch National Archive (Nationaal Archief) was to make copies of all archives material that were relevant for Indonesia. After Indonesia’s independence the Dutch had already left ten kilometres of archives behind. The archives of both countries have cooperated since the mid 1960’s.8

Dutch government officials mapped the history of Dutch acquisitions and studied whether any condemnable acts had been committed. They discovered that some Dutch dignitaries had Javanese antiquities in their residencies, coming from the Buddhist Borobudur or the Hindu Javanese Prambanan temple complexes.

Surinam and Antilles Surinam and the Dutch Antilles were considerably smaller in size and population than Indonesia. Yet they had a rather diverse cultural heritage. Without any claims of completeness, I would like to mention monuments and objects related to colonialism,


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Why was this so? Possibly the Dutch government and the Dutch officials, plantation holders, and others in the colonial Surinam and Dutch Antilles attached less importance to the historical and cultural treasures in these colonies. Possibly they considered many of the treasures that were found in Indonesia as ‘high art’, and those in Surinam and the Antilles more as ‘popular art’. They showed less respect to the traditional religions, to which many Surinamese and Antillean people adhered. If someone converted to Christianity, and asked converts to get rid of all objects that reminded of their ‘heathendom’.10 There were fewer transfers of objects to the Netherlands. Some Dutch families had works of art made by local artists and artisans, such as the famous dioramas by the 19th century local artist Gerrit Schouten. They were Surinamese but made for Dutch customers.11

View on square in Paramaribo. Gerrit Schouten, undated. (Photo: Collection KIT Tropenmuseum, inv. no. 0-348)

the plantation economy of the time, and slavery; ritual objects of the Afro-Surinamese Winti religion and of Surinamese Indians; wood carvings by Maroons, the descendants of runaway slaves; drawings and paintings of local situations by Surinamese and foreign artists; and remnants that remind of the so-called Jews Savannah, set up in the 17th century by Jewish groups some fifty kilometres from Paramaribo. Although there has also been much traffic of cultural and historical treasures from Surinam and the Antilles to the Netherlands, these countries have never gone for as big a deal as Indonesia’s in 1977.

There are several cultural treaties between the Netherlands and these former colonies, but the return of cultural and historical treasures is not part of these deals. In these ex-colonies relatively fewer people involved themselves with the return of their historical and cultural heritage. In the post-colonial relations between Surinam, the Dutch Antilles, and the Netherlands, archives and shared heritage have been prominent. The Netherlands government has supported the restoration of shared monuments in the Surinamese capital Paramaribo. The return of archives, begun in 2010, was agreed upon already in 1913. Finally, in the Dutch relations with its colonies in the West Indies there was much emphasis on the disparity between the underdeveloped colony that Surinam was and the prosperous mother country. This resulted in large redemption money at the time of independence and continuing dependency upon the Netherlands. The Netherlands remained for many years the measure of most matters in the former West colonies.12 Moreover, through the years large proportions of the population of these former colonies in the West moved to the Netherlands.


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War booty The list has only one case of returned war booty, i.e. the Lombok treasure. But more war booty was collected. As was said above, individual Dutch administrators and military personnel collected – outside the control of the Royal Batavian Society – treasures during military expeditions, and took them home. And at least one Dutch museum, the National Museum of Ethnology, possess an important Bali treasure that was gathered during punitive actions. In the 19th century some Balinese rulers opposed Dutch rule, while others submitted to it. As proof of loyalty, the latter gave impressive presents, and these ended up either in the museum of the Royal Batavian Society or were shipped to the Netherlands. The rulers, who kept resisting the Dutch, were subjugated by force, as Francine Brinkgreve described.

The Dutch colonisers had a problem with one local ruler. In August 1894 violence broke out, and some Dutch were killed, among them an army general. Five thousand soldiers were ordered to attack the palace of this ruler. A battle followed, in which both sides suffered heavy losses: 175 casualties on the Dutch side, and several thousand on the Indonesian side. Dutch soldiers plundered his palace and took over one thousand golden objects, among them kerises and betel sets, 230 kilograms in gold money and 7.199 kilograms of silver coins. Also the Negarakertagama palm leaf manuscript with ancient narratives was taken. Shortly thereafter another palace was captured, and its treasures were taken as well, among them rings, spearheads, golden tobacco boxes and opium pipes, and head dresses. Dutch soldiers also took valuables from killed enemy soldiers.

Although the fighting had started halfway into the 19th century, decisive battles were fought between 1906 and 1908. During and immediately after the battles large quantities of precious objects were taken from the palaces of the defeated rulers. An agent of the Royal Batavian Society took care that ethnographic objects were also collected. This agent, W.O.J. Nieuwenkamp, was shocked by the brutal behaviour of Dutch soldiers. From numerous precious carved works, holy places, statues, and furniture, they left only the charred remains. Almost half of a load of three boxes with 410 objects that arrived in the spring of 1907 in the Netherlands ended up in the National Museum of Ethnology.13 The Bali booty was not included in the 1997 return-deal between the former colonizer and its colony and later Indonesia never laid claim to it.

The Royal Batavian Society kept most treasures in its museum in Jakarta, and prepared others for shipment to the Netherlands: all in all 75 boxes with gold, silver, and gems. Most were delivered at the National Bank of the Netherlands in Amsterdam, and some were distributed over Dutch museums. When a Dutch minister proposed to fuse some coins, as the gold and silver were needed to pay for the punitive action, a Dutch Member of Parliament urged the government to first show the treasures to the public. In 1897, the Dutch Royal family and some other dignitaries saw them. Later on the Lombok treasure was exhibited in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam and attracted 23.000 visitors. In July 1898, part of the Lombok treasure was sent back to the Royal Batavian Society in Indonesia. At first the Minister of Colonies had proposed to exchange the gems for fakes, but the Society thought that unacceptable. In 1937 the Rijksmuseum handed part of its Lombok treasures to the National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden.

Like neighbouring Bali, Lombok is a medium-sized island. The Lombok treasure, gathered together in 1894, was the result of a punitive action and comparable with the Ashanti gold and the Benin bronzes captured after punitive actions in 1874 and in 1897 by the British army in West Africa, and with the valuable books with records of royal rituals, formalities, and daily routines, taken in 1866 by French troops in Korea.


In 1977 the return operation could begin. The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam sent its share to National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden. This museum added their own, and all in all 243 Lombok treasures, among them the Crown of Lombok set with rubies,

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Rings from the Lombok treasure (Photos: National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden)

were returned. The formal transfer took place on April 24, 1978, in Jakarta at the occasion of the two hundredth birthday of the Museum Nasional. It received about half of all Lombok objects in the Netherlands. Based on the 1977 agreement, many Lombok treasures remained in the Netherlands. They can be seen in the Leiden museum. It cannot be excluded that other objects that were looted at Lombok but miss nowadays a clear provenance, are in other museums in the Netherlands.14 Colonial collections On two occasions colonial collections were returned. One concerned archaeological materials for the Antilles island of Aruba in the period that Aruba became an independent country within the Kingdom. In 1985 the National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden returned 4.500 pre-Columbian fragments to Aruba. As a number of fragments had unintentionally not been returned, the National Archaeological Anthropological Memory Management (NAAM) of the Netherlands Antilles and the museum are in 2012 negotiating about it.15 The other was for Indonesia. Next to the Lombok treasure, the 1977 shipment contained the 13th century stone Prajñaparamita that the National Museum of Ethnology had to let go. The departure of this top piece of the Leiden museum – a portrait of

one of the most important queens of ancient Java, called by some the Mona Lisa of Asia – caused pain.16 The statue acquired a prominent place in the Museum Nasional in Jakarta. Several regional museums in Indonesia are showing copies. The Indonesians are lending it out every now and then to the Netherlands. Museum Bronbeek in Arnhem had to let go what it had in its collection of the outfit of the Indonesian national hero, Prince Pangeran Diponegoro: a red saddle with stirrups, the bridle of his horse, a pajong or umbrella, and Diponegoro’s spear. Diponegoro had led a revolt against the Dutch colonizers between 1825 and 1830. When he was arrested, he handed in his weaponry and regalia. The museum had acquired the objects from private collections in 1865 and 1869. The Dutch state returned them in 1978 to Indonesia. The case followed the same line as those of the Lombok treasure and the Prajñaparamita. It deserves mentioning for what was not returned of Diponegoro’s outfit, his keris, although the Museum Bronbeek explicitly denies to have ever held it. The keris is dealt with in part 3 of this book. Finally, the painting Arrest of Pangeran Diponegoro by the Indonesian painter Raden Saleh went to Indonesia. When Diponegoro had died in 1855, Raden Saleh asked permission


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were sold. The Tropenmuseum received a subsidy from the Dutch government, to purchase some of them, under condition that it would hand over the collection to the Surinam Museum as soon as this a storage room for it. In 2006, the room was finished. The reasoning behind it was that the paintings belong more to Surinam than to the Netherlands. Possibly, the Tropenmuseum now regrets this return, as it has recently started to collect contemporary art.

Peter Pott, director of the National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden, during the official return of the stone Prajñaparamita in 1977 (Photo: collection National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden)

from the Dutch authorities to make the painting but they ‘believed that it was not yet the time for the natives to remember the bitter battles of that distant war’.17 This did not prevent Raden Saleh from making his tribute. He finally donated his work to the Dutch King William III. In 1967 the Royal Family gave it as a loan to Museum Bronbeek in Arnhem. A decade later it allowed the return of this gift to Indonesia. There is one collection that was not really colonial but its return had much to do with colonial relations. In 2006 the Tropenmuseum handed over 45 works of art to the National Museum of Surinam. Among them were paintings, sculptures, photographs, and silk screen printings, all from before Surinam’s independence in 1975. The works of art were a legacy of STICUSA, the Foundation Cultural Cooperation that had been founded in 1948 to promote cultural cooperation between the partners in the Dutch Kingdom. When it was dissolved in 1989, most works of art


Colonial archives The only example of return of archives to former Dutch colonies is that of 2010 to Surinam. I have not found any returns of archives to former colonial trading posts. In 1949, the Netherlands had left ten kilometres of archives of the Dutch East India Company and the colonial administration in Indonesia; among them were colony-wide documents but also municipal records. As Surinam always had missed a proper building to store archives, the colonial authorities in Paramaribo and those in The Hague had signed an agreement in 1913, that the archives were ‘temporarily’ to be sent to the Netherlands ‘awaiting a new archive building’ in Surinam, but ‘remain property of the colony Surinam’. The agreement was reconfirmed several times. The Surinamese archives took up a space of 800 running metres and were subdivided into over 40 archives. In 2002, Surinam began, with Dutch aid, to construct its own storage room. Surinamese personnel were trained in management, preservation, and digitization of archives. The archive law was modernized. When Surinamese President P.R. Venetiaan opened the new archive building in Paramaribo in 2010, the Dutch Keeper of Public Records handed over the first 100 running metres of archives, mostly baptism, marriage, and funeral records, notarial archives, and the first population census of 1921. Both countries consider the archives as shared heritage as they tell the story of a three centuries long colonial relationship. Over the coming seven years the remaining archives will be returned.

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Working on archives before their return to Surinam (Photo: Frans van Dijk, National Archive, The Hague)

A point of discussion between the Dutch and the Surinamese institutions is access. To serve the large number of Surinamese and interested people in the Netherlands, the Dutch National Archive has digitized all archives that go back. It offers rather unlimited access. The Surinamese are inclined to limit the access, as the archives might contain documents that are private and for some people’s eyes only. Missionary collections from colonial areas Two trends in the 19th century attracted the coming of large ethnographic collections from Dutch and European colonial places to the Netherlands. The first one was the increase in activities of both Roman-Catholic and Protestant missionary orders in colonial areas. Dutch missionaries not only settled in Dutch colonies but also in those of other European powers. That would go on until after the Great War in Europe (1914 – 1919). In that same period, and that was the second trend, anti-clerical legislation in France and Germany forced missionary orders to move from these countries to the Netherlands.

From the start the missionaries collected ethnographic objects. They did so out of curiosity or used them as teaching material for new missionaries and for exhibitions for their own folks in the Netherlands. From around 1920 until the 1970’s, some 250 exhibitions of these objects were held.18 Special museums were set up, such as the Missionary Museum in the village of Steyl, an initiative of a German congregation in the Netherlands; the museum still exists and displays a varied mix of Melanesian statues and masks. Another one, the Netherlands Missionary Society, a Protestant institution, set up in Rotterdam in 1797, was known for its collection of Indonesian batiks; they finally gave them as a long term loan to the World Museum (Wereldmuseum). The Protestant Hernhutters, founded in the fifteenth century in what is now the Czech Republic with an establishment in the Dutch city of Zeist, collected objects from the West Indies, especially Surinam. The fathers of the Dutch wing of the Society of African Missions collected enough ethnographic objects in Ghana to set up the Africa Centre in Cadier en Keer (Afrika Centrum) in the southern part of the Netherlands. The colonial collections of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit and of the Franciscans formed the basis of the Nijmegen Ethnographical Museum. After the 1960’s, religious orders saw the number of vocations rapidly decreasing, while other organizations began to compete with them in raising financial support for projects in developing countries. Several monastic museums had to close down. Some orders that had their origin in Germany, France or other European countries, returned their ethnographic collections to the headquarters of their orders. Others sent it to the Africa museum in Berg en Dal near the city of Nijmegen, or to the Missionary Museum in Steyl. Around 1990, an investigation was done into the collections that missionary institutions had taken from colonial areas.19 One of the questions was about their thoughts about return of its collections. About half of the respondents did not exclude that


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option, the other half opposed it. So far however, only one return of missionary colonial collections has taken place: the Order of the Capuchins in the city of Tilburg. In the 1980’s Capuchin mission procurator Huub Boelaars was already wondering whether the textiles, clothing, handicrafts, ritual objects, and tools for agriculture, hunting, and fishing should be returned to where they came from: West Kalimantan in Indonesia. He had practical and idealistic reasons. ‘It was difficult to store them, and, after all, they are theirs.’ Boelaars’ order supported the idea, but ‘in West Kalimantan there were no people to preserve and exhibit the objects, nor equipment to store it.’20 In 2006, when the collection had been described and photographed, ‘we showed the documentation in West Kalimantan and had long discussions.’ By coincidence the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam had had a partnership with the administration of Sintang in West Kalimantan since 2004. The head of the administration was strongly in favour of a museum to show ritual and other objects of the three population groups in his area: Dayak, Chinese, and Muslims. With the advice of Tropenmuseum, a museum was opened in 2008. The Tropenmuseum itself gave four objects and invited the Capuchins to select some. They gave 18 objects to the new museum. It turned out to be a good decision. The museum regularly received school classes and had over 15.000 visitors in its first two years. The Chinese are particularly happy with the museum. They had arrived as gold-diggers in the 18th century, and objects representing their burial customs and other traditions had never been publicly shown. The ongoing loan by the Capuchins Order and the Tropenmuseum will be extended for another five years. After that the museum has to be ready to receive the whole collection as a gift. The Capuchins also possess a Sumatra collection. In 2009 they sent part of it to Museum Pusaka Nias in Guning Sitoli.21 According to the Indonesian museum this has been the best return so far.22 The Museum Pusaka Nias has a collection of


artefacts but also shows much of the traditional architecture of Nias and has its own publications. Colonial legacy There has to be here a rest-category, and I have found one case that fits into this one. It is about a tattooed and painted Maori head that was acquired in the global colonial era. So, it was both a human remains and a work of art. In 2002, during a visit to the Te Papa Museum Tongarewa of New Zealand, the Ethnographic Museum in Leiden was asked whether a return of the head was possible. It had been New Zealand’s policy to regain skulls that had been sold in the 19th century to European traders, and to pass them to Maori communities. The Ethnographic Museum based its decision on two principles. For the question as how to deal with human remains and whether or not to exhibit them, the common practice in source countries was the norm. And the title of the offspring outweighed the formal property rights of a museum. During an impressive ceremony in 2006, the head was returned.23

Returns after theft and smuggling Seventeen returns of tainted objects have been found. The objects concerned were stolen or smuggled, their holders began to regret a past deed or received new information which made them conclude that what they had acquired was tainted. The first case dates back to 1992, and since that year there has been one almost annually. That raises a question: What about return cases in the 1970s and 1980s? Where there none? Insiders do not exclude that there have been, but they miss details. In those years there was no explicit policy for customs and police to go after smuggled or stolen cultural and historical heritage. It was at the bottom of their priorities. They missed the means and the knowledge to deal with it.

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Cultural objects, returned to Ghana (Photo: Africa Asia Desk / Paul de Bruin)

The first case occurred shortly before the establishment of Cultural Heritage Inspectorate in the Netherlands in 1993. The Inspectorate was set up in reaction to the independence of state financed museums in the Netherlands and to the acceptance of the European Directive 93/7 of 1993 on the return of cultural objects unlawfully removed from Member States.24 Although the Inspectorate’s main focus is preservation and protection of Dutch heritage inside the borders of the Netherlands, it also became a focus and information point for police, customs, and others who had dealt with the illicit import, export, or transit of objects. Since 1997 the Inspectorate has offered systematic training to customs officials. For the general public it produced a brochure and other information about the subject. Over the years matters have

improved, although one conclusion of an investigation by the Dutch Ministry of Justice in 2007 was that fighting art criminality still is not a priority for the Dutch enforcing authorities.25 For many years, the Dutch police had only one specialist to fight art crime. In the past few years he has more assistance, but it is unknown how street-wise the enforcing authorities are. That the Inspectorate has had only few cases of stolen and smuggled objects and therefore only few returns, also has to do with the legal basis for their work. ‘We can only be effective, if the country of origin has laws that forbid the export of an object involved. There has to be an offence according to the Dutch law, such as a presumption of theft or receiving. And the country of


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origin has to cooperate in retrieving the object or at least to declare that it was exported illicitly.’26 In some cases it has been difficult to get the cooperation of non-European countries. To give an example, on March 21, 2000, the police seized five Nok statues, which an art dealer offered for sale at the TEFAF art fair in Maastricht. Nok statues have been protected objects in Nigeria for decades. Their export is forbidden. Initially, the Nigerian Embassy in The Hague claimed back the statues and involved a Dutch lawyer. After some time however they lost faith in a positive result, and they didn’t provide sufficient evidence against the dealer. In the end the Dutch police had to return the five objects to the art dealer.27 Had the Nigerians offered more evidence, there had been a good chance that the five Nok statues had been returned to Nigeria. To prevent this sort of experiences, the Dutch government could do more to pass information to the Embassies of claimant countries about how international regulations are implemented. Crucial role government officials The list shows peaks in the returns of tainted objects in the 1990’s and after 2008. Neither the Cultural Heritage Inspectorate nor other heritage professionals could explain the first peak or the drawback thereafter.28 Some insiders pointed to one or two arduous (customs) officials. They are the individuals that sometimes make the difference. Of the seven cases, five involved returns after catches in the port of Rotterdam, and two after catches at Amsterdam Schiphol airport. One case deserves, because of its far stretching consequences, to be elaborated. It was about antiquities from Cambodia and Thailand. In October 1995 a consolidated container arrived from Bangkok in the port of Rotterdam. A customs official did not trust the documents and notified the Cultural Heritage Inspectorate. An expert concluded that the load contained two early 13th century sandstone statues of celestial nymphs from the Angkor Wat region,


one 90 and the other 60 centimetres high. Other boxes contained thirteen ancient Buddha heads, eleven bronzes, and two made of sandstone, all coming from the Ayutthaya region in Thailand. Both Angkor Wat and Ayutthaya were and are on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The antiquities dealer declared that he ‘did not know that the export of these objects was prohibited’, and showed export certificates and proofs of purchase. The customs official did not trust him, but how could the customs prove that the dealer was not telling the truth? The news came in the Dutch media, questions were raised in the Dutch Parliament,29 and there was a general outcry that dealing in stolen or smuggled objects from Angkor Wat and Ayuthaya was not done. The Thai and Cambodian governments sent requests for the return of the objects. For fear of a bad name the dealer decided to hand over the objects. Eventually all objects were returned to South-East Asia: the Cambodian ones in 1996, those for Thailand in 1997. The whole affair resulted in the acceptance by the Netherlands of the 1995 UNIDROIT Convention on Stolen or Illegally Exported Cultural Objects. Article 4 of this convention contains a reversed onus of proof: The holder of an object has to prove that he did enough to get to know whether it was not stolen or illegally exported. The Netherlands never ratified or implemented the UNIDROIT Convention but acceded to the 1970 UNESCO Convention instead. At a seminar in November 2009 concerning this accession, an official of the ministry for Education, Culture, and Science referred to the discovery of cultural treasures to Cambodia and Thailand ‘as a turning point in the history of the fight against art crime in the Netherlands’. The same customs official who discovered the smuggling from Cambodia and Thailand played an important role in the find and subsequent return of Koma statues in 1992 and of royal crockery and furniture in 1994 to Ghana, and of 79 bronze Buddha objects

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Celestial nymphs, returned to Cambodia (Photo: Africa Asia Desk / Paul de Bruin)


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to Thailand in 1998. In that period the Dutch customs had its own cultural heritage expert team based at Amsterdam Schiphol airport. It made, amongst others, two catches of ancient atlases. They were returned to Russia and to Ukraine. These thefts had occurred in the period after the end of the Cold War and the disappearance of the communist regimes in Eastern Europe, when libraries, churches, chapels and monasteries experienced a plague of art and antique theft. Many stolen icons, books, and prints ended up in the Western art trade. Atlases and books with etchings were popular because individual etchings were easily sellable. Many must also have been smuggled into the Netherlands, but they came by car and entered the European Union at crossing points, where control was limited. The same is said about tainted art and antiques coming from the Middle East; they usually enter the European Union via Cyprus or Malta.30 One of the atlases that was returned to the Ukraine was a rare Ortelius Atlas and had been printed by Plantin of Antwerp. A customs official at Schiphol Airport told me at the time: ‘A problem was that the thieves had removed the owner stamps, but they had done it in an unprofessional way and it was easily to find out what the stamps had been like. The correction fluid, which they had used, had damaged some of the engravings. With the help of experts of the Dutch Royal Library the provenance of the atlases could be traced.’ Among the objects returned to Russia were two parts of the Big, new, extended sea-atlas (Groote nieuwe vermeerderde zee-atlas), made in 1710 by the Dutch Gerard van Keulen. Van Keulen was one of the map-makers of the Dutch East India Company (VOC). In February 1998, the customs had found them in the luggage of a passenger, arriving from St. Petersburg. The passenger turned out to be an old acquaintance, who had been caught smuggling antiquities from Russia, three times in 1994 and once in 1996. He was unconditionally imprisoned for ten months and had to pay a fine of DFL 100.000 (Euro 45.000). The goods were confiscated and returned to St. Petersburg.31


That from the year 2008 there was another peak in returns can be ascribed to the implementation in the Netherlands of The Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict of 1954 and the First Protocol in 2007, and of the 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export, and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property in 2009. It also has had to do with new ways of thinking about heritage preservation. In fact, ‘we as enforcing authorities had begun to work in the spirit of these Conventions years before’.32 Crucial role heritage institutions The list has several return examples in which the role of Dutch heritage institutions and their officials is crucial. They are about the shabti or funerary figurine of a woman returned to Egypt, drawings from around 1700 to Spain, an ancient police register to British Guyana and a Parthenon fragment to Greece. They offer evidence of a change in thinking and acting about return. In 2008 a Dutch businessman asked the Dutch National Museum of Antiquities to shed light on a shabti from Egypt that he was about to purchase. The curator who did the investigation recognised the over three thousand years old small figurine of the woman called Hener, as he had excavated it himself. It had been stolen from the storage near the site. Quickly the Dutch businessman, the German art dealer who offered it for sale and the museum in Leiden agreed that the piece should return to Egypt. And so it happened. In this instance a heritage institution was willing to mediate and a heritage professional mixed his own expertise and dedication with luck. The second case, the return of ancient Dutch drawings to Spain, demanded much initiative. The story goes back to 1973, when a staff member of the Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales in Madrid began to smuggle prints and drawings to a nearby antique shop. The antiquarian sold a few of them to a British student, who soon discovered that they were worth a fortune, and

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who bought the rest. In 1984 the Brit visited the library of the Artis Zoo in Amsterdam that later was integrated into the department of Special Collections of the University of Amsterdam. The librarian of the Artis Zoo was interested and the Brit left eleven drawings, so both sides could make up their minds. Soon after, the Brit discovered that the drawings had been stolen, but it took until 1993 for the Amsterdam librarian to fully understand this. The museum in Madrid was contacted and the librarian was allowed to hold the drawings for some time for study. In 2006 the new head of the Special Collections department in Amsterdam began to speed up the return of the eleven drawings on sight but also the other ones. In his view it would be obsolete to delay the return of the drawings, and on the Spanish side he had a likeminded colleague. At first, the Brit heavily hesitated but when the University of Amsterdam threatened to send all evidence against him to Madrid and to advise the Spanish museum to alert the British police, he changed his mind and returned over two hundred other drawings. In this instance, a heritage institution made a statement and a street-wise curator gave a decisive push.33 The third case is also an example of sharpness, research, and a bit of luck. In 2005, an official of the Dutch National Archive (Nationaal Archief) discovered in an antiquarian bookshop in British Guyana’s capital, Georgetown, some ancient Police registers. He knew that they had been stolen, but before he could do anything, the shopkeeper made them disappear. A few years later the same official discovered by chance one of the registers on the website of a second-hand and antiquarian bookshop in Amsterdam. The shop had purchased it from a private person and offered it for sale via the Internet. The shop concerned fully cooperated, and the register was returned.34

Shabti of Hener returned to Egypt (Photo: National Museum of Antiquities,

The last instance is about a holder who regrets a past deed and requests a heritage institution to arrange a return. In 2009, an ageing man began to feel ashamed about a marble fragment, most probably part of a cornerstone of a pillar of the Parthenon, that



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Ancient drawings returned to Spain (Photo: © University of Amsterdam, Special Collections)

he had taken as a backpack tourist around 1960. The Dutch National Museum of Antiquities could not accept the fragment as a gift, as it had been collected illicitly at the time, but was willing to take charge of the fragment and asked whether the man would allow it to go back to Greece. He agreed, and a deal was quickly


made. In April 2011, the museum organized a ceremony in which the marble fragment was handed over to the Greek authorities. Although according to the museum the fragment was ‘not exhibition worthy’ and the handing over had ‘first of all a symbolic value’, the Greek ambassador in The Hague was visibly pleased.

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neighbouring countries and from there to art and antique markets in the world. Because of the importance of Iraqi cultural heritage for the country and for mankind, the UN Security Council adopted on May 22, 2003, Resolution 1483, of which Article 7 was innovative for the preservation of heritage. It decided that all Member States were to facilitate the safe return of Iraqi cultural property and other items of archaeological, historical, cultural, rare scientific, and religious importance illegally removed from the Iraq National Museum, the National Library, and other locations since 1990. The trade in and transfer of Iraqi heritage items was forbidden. Soon the Resolution was translated into European and Dutch national rules. By then, reports had come from the USA and Great Britain about catches at their borders of Iraqi treasures. For the time being it remained relatively silent in the Netherlands, but the silence was broken in 2009, when there was a catch of 69 ancient clay tablets. Among them were small terra cotta statues, cylinder seals, and cuneiform clay tiles. They had been smuggled from Iraq to the USA. When two Dutch dealers purchased them via the Internet, Interpol came into action and notified the Dutch police. And at the end of 2009, the Dutch police discovered another illicitly sold clay tablet, dating from 2500 years BC. All 70 items were returned. They joined over 30,000 other objects that had been returned to Iraq from other countries. Police register, returned to British Guyana (Photo: National Archive, The Hague, Roelof Hol)

Returns of catches from conflict areas In the wake of the Anglo-American military invasion of Iraq in 2003, organised gangs began to loot the country’s material cultural heritage. This continued after the troops’ arrival, and later on the Iraqi Department of Antiquities and some of the foreign troops were blamed for insufficiently protecting the country’s treasures.35 Soon Iraqi valuables began to stream into

Diplomatic or economic interests In several instances, returns were motivated by more considerations than those of heritage and justice alone. In these cases a Dutch self-interest played a role. This was so in the major returns to Indonesia in the 1970’s. It occurred several times when the Dutch government needed a present for another state. In those cases, the state and heritage institutions easily had frictions about it. In 1985, the Dutch ambassador in Indonesia suggested that


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Parthenon fragment returned to Greece (Photo: National Museum of Antiquities, Leiden)

the Netherlands returned the keris of Indonesia’s national hero Diponegoro to Indonesia, at the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the country’s independence. But the National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden was strongly opposed to the idea.36 In a case ten years later the roles of ambassador and museum director were reversed. When Queen Beatrix prepared a state visit to Indonesia in 1995 for the 50 year anniversary of independence, it was the then director of the Tropenmuseum who suggested that she take an 8th century stone Buddha head from the depot to be reunited with the rest of its body at the Borobudur temple complex.37 At that time, the Dutch Ambassador for International Cultural Cooperation and later Ambassador in Indonesia was dead against it, as he feared that the head would never reach the Borobudur and find a place in the palace of President Suharto.38 In neither case did the return materialize.

Foto: in the material is a poster for an exhibition of clay fragments, to be returned to Iraq, and from the post one can take a few examples (Photo: National Museum of Antiquities, Leiden).


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But a return did occur in 2006, when the timing of the announcement of the return of the ANCODS archaeological collection was determined by the visit of the Dutch minister for Education, Culture, and Science to Australia at the occasion of four hundred years of Australian-Dutch relations. Another factor in this case was that this return had been pending for quite some time and the officials at the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture used the visit of the Minister for Economic Affairs to speed the case up. (More about the ANCODS collection is explored on page 47). In two more cases diplomatic factors played a role. One was in May 2011, when during a visit to China the Dutch deputy Prime Minister returned a rare 18th century iron incense burner. It had been in the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Beijing since 1911. The Chinese hosts were visibly pleased. The other was in 2005, and concerned the transfer by the World Museum in Rotterdam of 185 Wajang puppets to the Museum Wayang in Jakarta. This case offers a rare view of how politics can work. The World Museum needed time with the Rotterdam municipality to present a plan for a drastic reshaping of the museum. The museum director knew that the municipality, for its part, wanted to strengthen its relations with its sister-city Jakarta, also a large seaport. The museum then raised the option of sending a delegation with the Lord Mayor and representatives of companies in Rotterdam and to take the wajang shadow puppets as a present. The visit materialised. Jakarta was happy with the acquisition. Rotterdam tightened its economic relation with Jakarta and received a wajang puppet that represented the Lord Mayor. And the museum was assured of a new future. As in the case of the STICUSA collection that the Tropenmuseum returned to Surinam, one can wonder whether the World Museum really returned the wajang puppets; it has more the feel of a donation.

Incense burner returned to China. Jurrien van der Horst (Photo: Ministry of Economic Affairs)


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Wajang shadow puppets handed over to Indonesia (Photo: World Museum, Rotterdam)

Partage Throughout history, there have been many ways to divide objects found during excavations at archaeological sites or in shipwrecks. Often foreign scholars or professional or amateur treasure hunters


just took what they wanted. At a certain moment, source countries wanted to have their share and agreed with scholars and treasure hunters about a fixed division, a partage, of objects found. But quite often Western institutions and professionals have abused partage. They did their work in a no man’s land or water, where

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the local government representatives were either absent, unreliable, or corrupt. A famous abuser was Luigi Palma di Cesnola, US consul in Cyprus. Between 1866 and 1876 he took 35,000 archaeological objects from the island, and gave the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, of which he was the first director, its centrepiece archaeological collection.39 A famous contested object is the Bust of Nefertiti in the Egyptian Museum in Berlin. A partage, concluded in 1913, was ‘incorrect insofar the Egyptian Antiquities Authority never consciously agreed to the removal of the bust of Nefertiti to Berlin’.40 The positive side of the abuse of this principle of partage is that numerous treasures have been saved in Western museums, which otherwise might have been lost. In recent decades the thinking about partage has changed, as is confirmed in the Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage of 2001. Archaeological finds are to remain in situ, near the place where they were found. That heritage institutions in the Netherlands support this trend is shown by the return of the Smeerenburg collection to Norway. From the late 16th century onwards, Dutch whalers had explored the Spitsbergen region for a passage, and a place for storage, and working facilities. Dutch whalers built wooden rooms on brick foundations and so Smeerenburg (literally: Blubber town) was born. From the late 1970’s onwards Dutch archaeologists, working in Spitsbergen, sent most finds to the Netherlands for further research and preservation. When the Norwegian government opened up the Svalbard archipelago for Norwegian and foreign tourists in the second half of the 1980’s, Norway regained interest in the Spitsbergen finds. In 2002 Norway and the Netherlands agreed about the divided ownership of the Smeerenburg Collection and the return of the major part of it. The formal transfer was concluded in 2006 with the condition that both Norwegian and Dutch researchers have free access to the collection.41 The return in 2006 of the ANCODS collection to Australia is another expression of the new trend. The story behind this

collection started in 1606, when a vessel of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) landed at an unknown coast. Aboriginals had been living there for some 50,000 years, but in the West the landing marked the beginning of Australia’s recorded history. This trip was followed by many others and some landings ended in losses of ships and lives. When in the 1960s the wrecks of four of them were discovered off the West Australian coast, the Western Australian State Government introduced legislation to prevent looting and clarified issues with the Dutch government, which was in 1800 the inheritor of the assets of the bankrupt VOC. In the resulting bilateral agreement of 1972, the Netherlands transferred all its rights on the shipwrecks to Australia in exchange for Australia’s recognition of the Dutch ongoing historical and cultural interests. Finds from the wrecks were to be divided over West Australia, the Commonwealth of Australia, and the Netherlands. Each party appointed an expert to effectuate the division. The Australian Netherlands Committee on Old Dutch Shipwrecks, ANCODS, was set up. The collection consisted of bricks, lead ingots, pipes, skulls, elephant tusks, canon balls, navigational instruments, and coins. The coins, which were assigned to the Netherlands, ended up in the Money Museum (Geldmuseum) in Utrecht, the other objects in the National Maritime Museum (Scheepvaartmuseum) in Amsterdam. For many years the two institutions had indicated not to object return, under condition that the collection would remain accessible for the Netherlands. In the 1980’s the thinking about partage changed. ‘From then on new finds were divided only on paper. All objects remained in Australia. But to make the division of previously distributed objects actually undone and to return the Dutch part of the collection to Australia, needed more time.’42 The two sides have been writing to each other, but for neither it was a high priority. ‘The whole process sped up, when the Dutch Minister for Education, Culture and Science was to visit Australia in 2006. Her


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present was the promise that the Dutch collection would soon be reunited with the collection in Australia.’ The Western Australian Museum in Perth established a Shipwreck Galleries. The Batavia vessel is being reconstructed. The Australian National Maritime Museum also holds 700 objects of the ANCODS collection. A database has been set up. Australia’s Minister for Heritage, Peter Garrett, said that ‘each Dutch shipwreck off the coast of Australia is as important to the heritage of the Dutch people as it is to the story of the European discovery of Australia.’ It was ‘the largest maritime artefact endowment Australia has ever received.’43

Others There are two cases that are difficult to categorize. One is the transfer in 1999 by the Aletta Institute for Women’s History in Amsterdam of the archive of the Women’s Organization for Equality in Brussels, to its sister organization in the Belgian capital. In fact, the Aletta Institute had functioned as a ‘safe haven’ as long as there was no storage facility in the Belgian capital. The second was a return in 2005 by the Dutch National Archive of a personal archive to Hungary. From the end of 1956 onwards some 200.000 Hungarians fled their country, after troops of the Warsaw Pact had invaded to break a popular revolt. Several thousand of them ended up in the Netherlands. Among them was Sári Marton, widow of Imre Rákozcy, a descendant of a prominent noble family in Hungary. The Hungarian had taken a modest family archive with her and requested the Dutch National Archive to preserve it. In a note attached to the archive Sári Marton wrote ‘that the documents should not end up in any archive in Hungary as long as it is under a communist regime’. She died in 1975. The entire archive fits in a box of 9 centimetre broad and contained among other things an official document of the King of Hungary, dating from 1322, in which he allotted a certain region to the Rákozcy family. For the Dutch National Archive ‘it


was more a gesture than an important return. For Hungary the box contains unique materials. It caused a lot of positive publicity for the Netherlands that proved to be a reliable partner.’44

Conclusion We have found 34 return cases since 1970. That is less than one per year, and one third of the number of the 99 restitution instances of Nazi spoliated art between 2002 and 2011. By far the most important return instances date from 1977 and followed from an agreement with Indonesia about the transfer of war booty and colonial objects. Since then some objects, collections or archives that were returned, were essential for the heritage of another country, while others had more symbolic value. So, through the years the number of returns has not increased, while the importance of returned objects never reached the peak of the 1970’s. There has been a change in thinking about return. Since the 1990’s it has been much more accepted. In 2007, Director Stefan Engelsman of the National Museum of Ethnology, when confronted with a request of the Oba of Benin for the return of some Benin bronzes, stated that his museum’s collection ‘was not a grab bag’. Asked about the same request in 2011, he no longer ruled out a positive reaction, ‘if the Oba comes up with a formal return request’, but still he hides behind the British, since they ‘should be the first ones to do that, since they were the ones who took away everything at that time.’45 Director Lejo Schenk of the Tropenmuseum names as a major challenge for his sort of institutions in the coming years that ‘a considerable part of the collections of our museums and of others will have to find its way back to source countries.’46 Whether that is by return, transfer or loan is of less importance to him. Taco Dibbets, the Director of Collections at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, confessed that nowadays he would not as easily sign a statement like the

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Return of a personal archive to Hungary (Photo: Frans van Dijk, National Archive, The Hague)

unilateral 2002 Declaration on the Importance and Value of Universal Museums. ‘I prefer a dialogue with museums abroad with certain needs. In that dialogue I would take into account the historical ties with a country such as Indonesia and that many people here have their roots in that country. That can also mean

that I prefer to keep certain objects here in order to enable people here to get to know them.’47 As we will see in part 3, Dibbets would even be willing to discuss the return of a stone Buddha head of the Borobudur.


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Most heritage professionals I spoke with oppose a pro-active return policy. ‘We are reactive’, said Engelsman. ‘Others have to submit a request, after which the museum will formulate a provisional point of view. Then it will ask the Ethical Commission of the ethnographic museums for advice.’ This approach differs from the position that has been taken in relation to Nazi spoliated art and the position that institutions such as the Tropenmuseum took in relation to the de-accession of its human remains. The fact that they ask for a formal request for a return, is also meant to ensure that the requesting state, institution, or minority is well organized and has the capacity to deal with a return and with

preservation and access. If this capacity is not there, Dutch heritage institutions slow down a return process. In some cases they did so with the consent of the claiming party, an example being the moment of the return of archives to Surinam. In others, the holders looked for more hidden ways to postpone a return. In general, many source countries have become stronger in their claims for return and in their ability to preserve cultural and historical treasures. Possibly the Cultural Heritage Inspectorate could play a more pro-active role and inform the embassies of the relevant claimant countries about the possibilities for return that are available in the Netherlands.

Cases of return by Dutch government institutions and heritage institutions

forced, etc.), the present nature of the contact with the recipient, and whether there are objects which they would like to see returned to themselves. If their replies led to further questions, they have been visited or approached by telephone. This has resulted in a list of thirty-four return cases. The list does not have the pretension of completeness, but shows a wide variety of returns. When in the list ‘Dutch government institution’ is mentioned as the agency involved in the return, it can relate to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Public Prosecutor or the Cultural Heritage Inspectorate.

Via the mailing list of the Netherlands Institute for Heritage a questionnaire was circulated among Dutch museums, libraries, archives, and other heritage institutions about returns in which they had been involved since the year 1970. They were asked whether they had returned any objects or collections to institutions abroad, the date of these returns, the nature and volume of the returned objects, the nature of the return (voluntarily,


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Dutch heritage institution

Objects concerned


National Museum of Ethnology

243 Lombok treasure to Nasional Museum, Jakarta, Indonesia. Part of it came from the

(Museum Volkenkunde), Leiden

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.


National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden

Prajñaparamita stone statue to Nasional Museum, Jakarta, Indonesia.


Museum Bronbeek, Arnhem

Horse equipment of Diponegoro to Nasional Museum, Jakarta, Indonesia


Netherlands Royal Family

Painting by Raden Saleh of Diponegoro’s surrender to Nasional Museum,


National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden

4.500 pre-Columbian fragments to Aruba, Dutch Antilles


Dutch government institution

83 Koma statues to Ghana


Dutch government institution

Royal crockery and furniture to Ghana


Dutch government institution

2 celestial nymphs from Angkor region to Cambodia


Dutch government institution

11 bronze Buddha heads from Ayuthaya to Thailand


Dutch government institution

6 Rare atlases to Ukraine


Dutch government institution

79, mostly Buddhist, bronze and wooden objects to Thailand and Cambodia


Aletta Institute for Women’s history

Archives to sister institute in Brussels, Belgium


Dutch government institution

Ancient sea-atlases to Russia


Dutch government institution

11th century stone statue from Angkor region to Cambodia


Dutch government institution

Stone statue of pharaoh Amenhotep III to Egypt


Dutch government institution

2 ancient Hindu statues to Indonesia


Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

17th Century Smeerenburg collection of over 1.700 objects from Dutch East India


National Archive, The Hague

Jakarta, Indonesia

Company ships to Norway Box with personal archive to National archive, Hungary.

(from private collector) 2005

World Museum (Wereldmuseum), Rotterdam

Wajang puppets to Indonesia


National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden

Toi Moku to New Zealand


Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam

45 works of art to Surinam


Dutch government institution

27 archaeological objects to Moldavia


Dutch government institution

Shabti of Hener (ca. 1205 – 1186 BC),


Order of Friars Minor Capuchin

18 ethnographic objects to Museum in Sintang, Indonesia.



4 pieces of porcelain crockery to Museum in Sintang, Indonesia.


Amsterdam University, Special Collections

11 ancient drawings to Museo de Ciencias Naturales, Madrid, Spain.


Order of Friars Minor Capuchin

33 ethnographic objects to Museum Pusaka Nias, Indonesia.


Dutch government institution

69 clay tablets to National Museum, Iraq


National Archive, The Hague

Archives to National Archive, Surinam


National Archive, The Hague (via book antiquarian)

18th century Police register to Guyana


Dutch government institution

1 clay tablet to National Museum, Iraq


Dutch government institution

ANCODS collection to Australia


National Museum of Antiquities (private collector)

Parthenon marble fragment to Greece.


Dutch government institution

Ancient incense burner to China

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3 Non-materialized Dutch return cases During the research 15 potential return cases have been discovered that, for whatever reason, did not materialize. Among them are Papua collections that cannot be sent back, a prayer niche that is to be returned to Afghanistan but is still here, stone Borobudur heads that remain in the Netherlands but show a change in thinking, and most prominently, the mysterious keris of Indonesia’s national hero Pangeran Diponegoro. The analysis of these cases adds to the understanding of the complicated nature and limitations of return. The previous part mentioned some returns that could have already taken place. In this part non-materialized Dutch return cases will be put together and roughly categorized into the same return categories as those that have been applied in part 2. Not all categories of part 2 are represented, but the 15 cases are divided into the themes ‘related to colonialism’ and ‘related to recent theft and smuggling’. As can be read in Table 3, four cases are related to the Dutch colonial period in Indonesia. They raise the question as how to deal with differences in priorities of claimant countries and countries that hold certain objects. Two other cases concern collections from colonial areas, that is, from Papua in Indonesia and from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Why have chances been missed for a more fruitful return of this sort of collections? There are six cases of alleged theft and smuggling. What does that tell us about the dilemmas in the world of Dutch heritage institutions

and enforcement authorities? And finally, there are three cases of objects coming from conflict areas. Why did return not happen in two cases, and will the third one be resolved in the near future?

Related to Dutch colonialism In part 2, it was said that the Dutch government agreed with Indonesia in 1977 that it would do its best to stimulate the private owners to hand over objects to Indonesia that they had taken in the colonial period and that could be linked directly to persons or events of great historical or cultural importance. As far as I know, there is not one case in which this commitment led to a return. This can be considered a opportunity for return that has been missed by the Dutch authorities. There are also opportunities that have been missed by the Indonesians. Let us start with two relatively ‘light’ cases. They are about objects that the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam tried to hand to Indonesia. To neither of them Indonesia had laid a claim. In the vision of the Dutch museum, both could be interesting for Indonesia and to part with them would not really mean a sacrifice for the Dutch side. The first case is about 44 aquarelles and paintings, made during a bombardment of Yogyakarta by Dutch warplanes in December 1948. The bombs were the start of a second range of cruel military actions1 against independence fighters, in fact the final Dutch

Head of a Buddha statue from the Borobudur, andesite (vulcanic stone), Central Java, ca. 800. This head was acquired in 1934 by the Colonial Museum, the present Tropenmuseum, from the Royal Batavian Society of the Arts and Sciences (Photo: Collection KIT Tropenmuseum, inv. no 860-82)


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Table 3: Non-materialized return cases Related to ...

Dutch heritage institution

Claimant country

Nature of object

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam


Paintings Mohammad Toha

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam


Album with photographs, made by President Sukarno

Three national museums


Buddha heads of Borobudur



Keris of Diponegoro

Religious order

DR Congo

Ethnographic objects

PACE, Foundation Papua

Papua, Indonesia

Several Papua collections

Dutch government institution


Ancient Chinese porcelain

National Museum of Antiquities, Leiden


Etruscan cuirass

Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam


Stone statue Durga

Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam


Koma statues

Allard Pierson Museum, Amsterdam

Greece, Italy

15 ancient Greek and Roman objects

National Carillon Museum


Ancient temple clock

Dutch state institution


Seal ring

Dutch state institution


15 clay tablets

World Museum


Prayer niche


Missionary collections from colonial areas

Private collections from colonial areas

Cultural Heritage Recent theft and smuggling

From conflict areas

(Wereldmuseum), Rotterdam

efforts to hold the colony. The maker of the art works was an 11 year old boy, Mohammed Toha, who, disguised as a cigarette vendor, went out to make the drawings. It became one of the very few visual witnesses by Indonesians of the military actions. Later Toha became prominent and was often seen near Indonesia’s


first President Sukarno. In 1996 Toha gave his works to the Rijksmuseum, ‘because in Indonesia they might be in for an uncertain future and his personal circumstances were poor’.2 In 2009 the Rijksmuseum exhibited his works. ‘Since the museum looked here and there in Indonesia for possibilities for the

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aquarelles and paintings, as that is where they belong. But it has not found them. At a certain moment the museum stopped hearing anything’.3 The second case is of an album with photographs made by President Sukarno himself of foreign visiting dignitaries and others. The museum wanted to offer it to Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono during his visit in October 2010 to the Netherlands. One day before his arrival, the visit was cancelled, because a Moluccan exile organization in the Netherlands had started a court case against the Indonesian dignitary because of human rights violations. ‘We think the museum should offer the album to the state of Indonesia,’ said Taco Dibbets of the Rijksmuseum.4 So far this has not occurred. Sometimes countries seem to let chances go. Some miss the financial means to ship them back or the capacity to preserve them. Or, and that can be frustrating for the holders, certain items do not fit in with priorities that the Dutch would set. This seems to have happened in these first two cases. They carry a lesson of ‘Try again later’. Usually this sort of failed cases remains hidden for the outside world. Borobudur stone heads The case of stone Buddha heads of the Borobudur in resp. the Rijksmuseum, the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam and the National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden is rather challenging. It shows a change in thinking on the Dutch side, and also that return, if it is not about stolen or smuggled objects, is not a quick-fix. The Tropenmuseum owns eight Indonesian Buddha heads. Possibly half of them once were taken from the 9th century Buddhist Borobudur temple complex. During a debate about the pillage of cultural heritage in 20035, Tropenmuseum Director Schenk was asked whether a Borobudur Buddha head, one of those four and prominently shown in that exhibition, could go

back to Indonesia. He answered: ‘In this case, theft or illicit trade is not under discussion. The object is the result of colonial collecting and the museum’s ownership is reasonably legal’, then continued that ‘under certain conditions a return is possible’, but made some conditions: ‘If Indonesia can prove where the head belongs, if the head then can be fixed and managed decently.’6 He would like it best of all ‘to do the fixing myself ’. What irony! This Buddha head was the same as the one that Schenk’s predecessor had been willing to yield in 1995 to Indonesia, when Queen Beatrix had needed a present for a state visit; at that time the object was kept in a storage room. When shortly after the debate, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, which had a similar Buddha head, was approached with the same question, I was pointed to the Declaration about the Importance and Value of Universal Museums that the museum had issued with seventeen other museums. It said that the acquisition of objects in the past could not be considered the same as the illicit trade in art and antiquities today. Therefore, a return of the Buddha head was out of the question. Less than one mile away, the Tropenmuseum and the Rijksmuseum thought differently about the fate of two similar objects with a comparable provenance. When I had this story published7, the cultural attaché of the Indonesian Embassy in The Hague informed the Tropenmuseum that he would like to come and fetch the Buddha head. Looking back in 2011, Schenk remembers his reaction: ‘I answered that that was premature and that the museum wanted to deal with it seriously. For a return it had to become part of something bigger. The story should be added about how this head had ended up in our collection, and where other Borobudur objects had landed in the world. I expressed the willingness of the Tropenmuseum to help to map that and make a virtual restoration of the Borobudur. And for the international discussion about that, “our” head could be the starting point.’8


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The attaché was content and the museum confirmed the proposal even by letter. Schenk in 2011: ‘We realize more and more that as a museum we are first of all users of objects and collections, we are passers-by. Sometimes others take them over and they migrate to another country. The issue of the Borobudur head was about professionalism and handling public property. Searching for the lost objects of the Borobudur could become a training in new professional behaviour. Private collectors and other museums should be involved in it. It has to be more than incidentalism.’ Compared with 2003, Schenk’s point of view had remained unchanged in 2011. The National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden, owner of two Borobudur heads, holds the same position as the Tropenmuseum: ‘We have never received a request for such a return’, said Director Engelsman. ‘If it would come, we will consider it seriously and consult the Ethical Commission of the ethnographic museums in the Netherlands and almost certainly come to the same conclusion as the Tropenmuseum.’9 What position does the Rijksmuseum hold in 2011? ‘To return a Buddha head just like that is not possible. Where precisely was it located before its disappearance?’, wonders Taco Dibbets.10 Recently he visited the Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia, which is comparable with the Borobudur. ‘Did you see the havoc and the disappearances there! If one is going to put back all these Buddha heads, complexes such as Angkor Wat and the Borobudur become attraction parks. Do not try to rewind history! Do not make return a system and principles.’ Dibbets has more considerations. ‘Is the object concerned part of an old collection of the Rijksmuseum? Does it have a function in an exhibition room? If the answer on these two questions is negative, than we are more easily inclined to give them on a long-term loan, on the condition that the receiving institution really exhibits the object.’ The Borobudur Buddha head does have


a function in the Rijksmuseum, yet Dibbets says: ‘I do not exclude a return of the Borobudur head’. He concludes: ‘We are not against return, we are against general rules for it and want to study return case by case. A decision about it has to be made reasonably.’ There is an obvious change in the position of the Rijksmuseum. Although Indonesia would have no immediate legal grounds to claim the four stone heads, it could put forward a request with an explanation why and where they are dearly needed. That will be complicated and maybe it is not Indonesia’s priority, as Engelsman further explained: ‘The Borobudur complex has a site museum with around three hundred stone Buddha heads. So far they have been unable to match these heads with torsos in the complex, except for three.’ He discussed this with the site museum officials and ‘they assured me that as long as there was no better equipment to match heads and torsos, there is no need for more Buddha heads to be returned. If they would find a match between the heads in the National Museum of Ethnology and torsos in the complex, and they ask for their return, one cannot say no.’11 Keris of Pangeran Diponegoro The most complicated non-materialized return case is about a keris of Indonesia’s national hero Pangeran Diponegoro. A keris is an important weapon. In Indonesia a keris of an important person can be considered a pusaka, ‘an inherited object endowed with the supernatural power to protect, heal, and revenge’.12 It is ‘central to the sense of identity of their owners’13 and of all the objects created by the rich tradition of the palaces of Central Java, ‘none is more likely to be a pusaka than the keris, the famous Javanese dagger’.14 The importance of a keris was common knowledge for Dutch administrators in Indonesia. If a local ruler surrendered, he turned in his regalia; usually his keris was one of the more important ones. In 1830 Diponegoro, a Javanese noble who had been leading for some years a rebellion against the Dutch, was invited by a Dutch army general to come and

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negotiate under a flag of truce. But he was taken prisoner and had to surrender to the Dutch administration. On the occasion he handed over his equipment. But a Javanese Prince of the level of Diponegoro usually had more kerises.15 For Diponegoro kerises at three locations are mentioned. There could be one in Austria. Several Dutch experts mentioned it.16 George Lodewijk Weijnschenk, a Dutchman, is said to have donated it to the Austrian Ethnographic Museum (Museum für Völkerkunde) in Vienna in 1886. His choice for a museum in Vienna might have to do with the place where he was born, a village close to the Austrian capital.17 The Head of the Insular Southeast Asian collection of the Austrian Ethnographic Museum, Jani Kuhnt-Saptodewo, confirms the presence of the 50 centimetre long keris of Diponegoro in the museum.18 It was once the property of Sultan Hamengku Buwono and came after his death in 1822 in the hands of Pangeran Diponegoro.19 Her predecessor, Heide Leigh-Theisen, cannot ascertain that it belonged to Diponegoro. ‘The only indication we have was made by the collector and we – so far – do not know how reliable it is. He did not mention from whom he got the keris and the information, and collectors tend sometimes to make their collection items more interesting’ than they are.20 There might be a keris of Diponegoro in the Netherlands. If it is here, one can wonder whether it should not have been returned to Indonesia in 1977. The case of this keris is much more of a mystery. No one has seen it recently. No one can fully assure that it still exists or where it is. In their analysis of the negotiations about cultural and historical heritage between Indonesia and the Netherlands, Legêne and Postel-Coster mention in a footnote that ‘the Indonesian authorities still attach great importance to locating and recovering the keris’ of Diponegoro.21 Apparently Haryati Soebadio, the Indonesian heritage expert whom they quote, is convinced that there is still a keris of Diponegoro in the Netherlands. Legêne has further dealt with the whereabouts of

this ‘appearing and disappearing’ weapon in several lectures.22 She mentions the existence of a certificate of authenticity, according to which a high ranking Dutch military donated a keris of Diponegoro to King William I of the Netherlands, who put it up in the Royal Cabinet of Curiosities. ‘From there it has gone lost or disappeared in anonymity.’ Many ethnographic objects of the collection of this Royal Cabinet ended up in National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden, while others have remained in the collection of the Royal family. Where could the keris be, if it is still in the Netherlands? One possibility is Museum Bronbeek in Arnhem that was said (in part 2) to have yielded in 1977 objects from its collection that also had belonged to Diponegoro’s equipment. The Dutch state returned these in 1978 to Indonesia. But Director Pauljac Verhoeven is outspoken: ‘The keris was not and is not in Museum Bronbeek’.23 Retired Tropenmuseum curator and keris-expert David van Duuren studied kerises in several museums but in none did he find one that had belonged to Diponegoro.24 The National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden has a keris in its safe with a number that links it to Diponegoro. He saw it once, but ‘I could not connect it with Diponegoro, as it was a Surakarta type of keris, and Diponegoro came from Yogjakarta and had a Yogjakarta type. There are differences between the two types. Moreover, its blade was rusty and an itself respecting museum like the one in Leiden would never let such an important object to rust.’25 So the keris carrying that collection number is in his view not one that belonged to Diponegoro. Such confusion about collection numbers is not exceptional. It was not rare that object registration in the past was done inaccurately. Cards were handwritten. An object that was exhibited outside the institution, would get a special number. As a result, it could have three or four numbers and that could make people think there were three or four of such objects. Another complication is theft. The National Museum of Ethnology in


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The arrest of Prince Diponegoro, painting of Nicolaas Pieneman (1809-1860). 1830-1835. On loan collection Rijksmuseum Amsterdam (Photo: Collection KIT Tropenmuseum, inv. no. 6001-3)


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Leiden experienced a nightmare in the 1960’s when it discovered that half of its most precious Balinese kerises had been stolen26, and another crisis when it had to lodge an official complaint in 1996 that 12.000 of its objects had disappeared.27 For the sake of clarity, at the time many others museums were reported missing objects as well. The Leiden Museum has numerous kerises, but of most the original owner is unknown. Curator Pieter ter Keurs, once responsible for the Indonesia collection of the Leiden museum, doubts whether the keris is in the Netherlands, let alone in this museum. Director Engelsman is equally vehement: ‘[The notion] that Diponegoro’s keris is in our museum is a rumour. I do not believe it.’28 Initially, Indonesia curator Francine Brinkgreve of the Leiden museum had the same opinion: ‘There is no Diponegoro keris here, and we never had one.’ There is one in Vienna and according to an early 20th century catalogue the Museum Nasional in Jakarta should have one, which makes Jakarta the third possible location, but Brinkgreve ‘has never seen it.’29 During the last decade the collection history of the Museum Nasional was drawn up. From 1850 onwards the museum’s predecessor, the Royal Batavian Society of Arts and Sciences, had registered important treasures. According to curator Brinkgreve ‘many kerises that once had been registered could not be found anymore. In 1972, all golden objects of the museum were registered again, and again these kerises could not be found.’30 And yet after some discussion, she modifies her stand: ‘In theory it is possible that there was a keris of Diponegoro in the Royal Cabinet of Curiosities, and that it came to our museum in 1883 and has been registered under number 360. It is also possible that Dutch military got hold of valuable objects such as a keris of Diponegoro and took it home. And being at home they might have handed them over to the museum, but the museum might have never recognised it as a keris of Diponegoro.’31 In the 1970’s Pieter Pott of the National Museum of Ethnology

discovered a Javanese text with the keris, written by Diponegoro’s former master sergeant Sentot. Sentot was said to have handed over his master’s keris to the Dutch authorities several years after his arrest. Former curator Ter Keurs: ‘The text should have confirmed that it was really Diponegoro’s keris. I had it reread by an expert in old Javanese, and he read that “the keris, as far as I know, belongs to Diponegoro”. It is quite well possible that the expression “as far as I know” meant that the former master sergeant did not dare to say that it was not Diponegoro’s keris.’ Ter Keurs comes up with the example of the inhabitants of the Sunda islands, who, when a Dutch expedition arrived in 1828 to gather rare artefacts, quickly put away their most precious treasures, expressed their willingness to help the expedition and fobbed them off with less precious objects. This might have occurred more often. All in all, Ter Keurs thinks there is ‘an eighty percent chance that there is no keris of Diponegoro in the Netherlands’. Inquiries bring me finally to Frans van Dongen, Dutch Ambassador in Indonesia from 1983 till 1987. ‘In 1985 the Republic Indonesia was to celebrate its 40th anniversary. Being aware of President Suharto’s broad cultural interest, I wrote to Director Pieter Pott of the National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden, once a fellow student of mine at Utrecht University, and suggested also the Foreign Affairs Ministry in The Hague to make a large gesture and to return Diponegoro’s keris. It would have a symbolic meaning for the whole of Indonesia and a special meaning for its President. But Pott sent me a note that a return was undesirable. I know for sure from my correspondence with Pott that at that moment the keris was in the National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden.’32 The presence of a keris of Diponegoro in either Vienna or Jakarta does not solve the mystery of one of his kerises in the Netherlands. All in all, some questions wait to be answered:


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1 Was the keris, once handed over by Diponegoro’s sergeant master, really Diponegoro’s keris, or did the sergeant master give a minor type? 2 What did Pieter Pott know about the keris that we do not know anymore? Is there information in archives or in other places or with other persons that can tell us more? 3 It appears that the keris was in the 1980’s in the safe of the National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden. If so, what happened to it after that? 4 The safe of the Leiden museum has a keris with a number, linked to Diponegoro, but according to an expert, this cannot be Diponegoro’s keris. Does that mean that two collection numbers have been changed? And if so, did this happen by accident or did someone do it purposely so as to prevent that the museum had to yield it, or for another reason? The Netherlands and Indonesia should make a final effort to investigate the whereabouts of a keris of Prince Diponegoro that is supposed to be in the Netherlands. ‘It would be very good, if the National Museum of Ethnology would set up a committee to renew the investigation’, argues Legêne.33 She is confident that the keris can be found. Steven Engelsman ‘will not oppose such an investigation and the National Museum of Ethnology will fully cooperate and open its archives and depots, but we do not have any money or manpower for it.’34 Catrini Kubontubuh of the BPPI Indonesian Heritage Trust is in favour of an investigation and of a return: ‘The keris is significant Indonesian heritage and should come back to Indonesia to be integrated in the Diponegoro collection. One of Diponegoro’s descendants should be added to a committee with Dutch and Indonesian experts’.35 She will not be the only Indonesian heritage-lover, who thinks along this line. Porcelain discovered by Dutch customs and ready for return, but source countries showed no interest (Photo: Jos van Beurden)


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Missionary collections from colonial areas As was mentioned in part 2, around 1990 ethnographic museums in the Netherlands ordered an investigation into missionary colonial collections. The collections of the 29 missionary organizations that participated in the investigation were rather varied in quantity, quality, and origin. Their condition was generally reasonable-to-good, but registration and accessibility were weak. The investigation contained a question about return. The overruling impression from the findings is that for most return was a relatively new option. Of the 29 organizations, thirteen did not exclude it. For twelve, return was not under discussion or they were opposed to it. Return was ‘a question of the long term’ and difficult because ‘the countries of origin cannot offer sufficient guaranties for good guardianship’. For two, the collections had too little value to discuss return. And in the case of two others, return was declined as the objects were once donated, and sending them back could be considered an insult. At the same time, some argued, thanks to their close relations with the indigenous population they had ‘more chance to get to know their points of view’ and thus could contribute to information exchange and support of initiatives ‘that can result into collection formation’. And finally, some pointed to the cultural and historical meaning that objects can have for the Netherlands. Loans therefore could be a good alternative for return.36 Although some of the findings were instructive and remarkable, nothing was done with it.37 That was in 1992. In 2008 and 2009 the Order of the Capuchins returned two consignments of objects to regional museums in Indonesia (see part 2). That is the only case of actual return of missionary colonial collections. The Africa Centre in Cadier and Keer that has collections from Ghana, has expressed its willingness to consider return, ‘under condition that a request comes from a regional museum with links with the religious order that runs the museum and that preservation and access are ensured’.38 But

so far nothing has been achieved. Whether by now other religious institutions have an intention to return ancient collections is unknown. The way in which almost nothing was done with the results of the 1992 investigation can be considered a missed opportunity between missionary orders in the Netherlands that are looking for a new home for their colonial collections, and regional museums in former colonial areas. In many of the latter there must be museums which are eagerly looking for objects. When talking to some of them with collections coming from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), they did not know about the 2010 initiative for a new ethnographic museum in Kinshasa, located in the garden of a former palace of President Mobutu Sese Seko, and supported by national and international stakeholders. Of course, they have the duty to have regard for their collections and the DRC still is an unstable country, but sometimes return is a long term exercise.

Private collections from colonial areas Papua is home to 250 ethnic and linguistic groups, each with its own material culture of livelihoods and architecture.39 It was a Dutch colony until 1963, when it was handed over to Indonesia. Some Dutch government officials and missionaries collected ethnographic objects. A few of them made studies. Some museums in the Netherlands sent expeditions to the area to collect ethnographic materials.40 Most of the Dutch left after 1963 and took their collections with them to the Netherlands. Although their private collections fall outside the scope of this book, they have to be included as many of them have been accommodated in a heritage institution, the Papua Heritage Foundation (PACE).


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In the 1990’s owners began to wonder what would happen to their collections after their death. And some Papuans in Papua began to realize how little cultural heritage of their own they had. Could some of the heritage in the Netherlands be saved for study and exhibition purposes for them? Against this background PACE was founded in September 2001. So far, it has digitized 400 Papua collections of artefacts, documents, books, movies, pictures, oral history and other material heritage. For some ‘collection’ might be a big word, as they consist of only few objects, but others certainly contain valuable artefacts. One of PACE’s aims was to return all material to Papua, and to this end it was expanding its network in Papua and helping institutions there in capacity strengthening. PACE could do all this thanks to the generosity of some major donor agencies and private individuals. However, in March 2011 it suddenly ceased to exist, as there were no more subsidies to continue.41 The collections, that PACE has stored at two places in the Netherlands, consist of some 600 more valuable ethnographic objects, and twenty to thirty cubic metre of less important objects. ‘As a result of the cessation of activities’, says director Sjoerd Jaarsma, ‘all at once PACE had an increased interest in an accelerated return’.42 Papua’s government gives importance to the cultures of the people in its area. The Loka Budaya Uncen Museum, set up in 1973 and owned and managed by the Cenderawasih University near Jayapura city, is one option. Jaarsma says: ‘The museum has financial problems and climate control is weak, but the staff is committed and skilled. Objects are exhibited in an old fashioned way, but at least they can be seen. But PACE cannot finance the transport.’ As in the case of the missionary collections, there is an opportunity, but so far it has been missed. Etruscan cuirass, almost ready for return to Italy (Photo: National Museum of Antiquities, Leiden)


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After alleged theft or smuggling Some returns of tainted objects have not materialized because of the legal limitations of the enforcement authorities. Sometimes, these authorities are rather sure that an object has come from theft or smuggling, but they cannot prove it; in that case, they have to let it go. Sometimes, the priorities in the Netherlands differ from those in claimant countries. An example are some finds in the 1990’s by the customs in Rotterdam of Chinese porcelain - skilfully decorated plates, dishes, vases, and jugs with pouring spouts.43 They came from shipwrecks in the territorial waters of the Philippines or other Southeast Asian countries and Dutch dealers tried to import them. In one case, the Philippine authorities were contacted, but they never came to retrieve it, as it was not important for them. An apparent change in priorities resulted also in the non-return to Italy of an Etruscan cuirass. The case is important as it typifies the new attitude of a Dutch heritage institution. In 2004, a Dutch judge ruled that the National Antiquities Museum in Leiden had done nothing wrong in early 1998, when it purchased an ancient bronze cuirass, helmet, fragments of a belt, and two leggings of an ancient soldier from a Swiss antiquities dealer at the prestigious TEFAF art fair. In 2000, the Italian Ministero per i Bene e le Attivitá Culturali had began a criminal procedure to force the museum to return the cuirass, as it had come from a clandestine excavation. This all occurred in a period when Italy had began court cases against some art dealers and a curator of the J.P. Getty Museum in Los Angeles and pushed some top museums in the USA to return tainted antiquities. A repetition of this result with the Leiden museum could mark the start of a comparable ‘victory’ in Europe. The Dutch judge considered Italy’s evidence too meagre. It was based on a note of 9 October 1999 by two members of the Comando Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale, coming from

a ‘confidential source’ that they did not want to disclose. The Carabinieri considered the Swiss dealer as someone ‘who has not the reputation of a saint’, since he once was convicted in Italy for ‘receiving stolen property’.44 And earlier the National Museum of Antiquities had been criticized for exhibiting unprovenanced antiquities from the collection of the Miho Museum in Japan.45 The Italian art crime squad complained that the Dutch judge ‘had insufficient understanding of the illicit trade in art and antiquities’.46 Many smuggled Italian antiques are laundered in Switzerland. The Leiden museum was not amused with the attitude of the Italians, who ‘did everything with a lot of fuss and display of power and tried to criminalise the museum’.47 Yet in 2005 the museum could ‘well imagine the dilemmas and frustrations of the Italians. With hindsight maybe that purchase was naïve. With the present standards one can say that information could have had more substance. Now we also know more about the role of Switzerland in the illicit trade. In the museum one thought long that the illicit trade was something of shady back rooms and not something of prominent traders in prominent places such as the TEFAF.’ With the decision of the Dutch judge, the case was not over. In the years thereafter the museum indicated that it was willing to return the Etruscan cuirass, under condition that the Italians stopped ‘their power display and doing everything through lawyers’ and would avoid negative publicity about the museum. That brought the Italians all at once in a hurry to get the cuirass back to Italy. They never admitted it, but I think this had to do with the exhibition of ancient objects, returned from the USA at the beginning of 2008. When the Leiden museum needed more time to wind up this process and was unable to meet the January 2008 deadline, the Italians lost their interest. The cuirass still is in Leiden. In 2007 the museum had an exhibition about contested objects. The Etruscan object was a major case and discussed during a seminar.


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The five tainted Koma statues from Ghana, held by the Tropenmuseum (Photo: Collection KIT Tropenmuseum, inv. no. 5187-1)

Sometimes a return does not occur, as the provenance research was done superficially or new information about the provenance is not followed up. Two examples were found. They are about an ancient temple bell from Cambodia and about a Hindu statue from Bangladesh. First the Cambodian bell. In 2004 the National Carillon Museum in the Dutch village of Asten bought an ancient temple bell from Cambodia. According to the Belgian antique dealer the bell had been sold out of Cambodia in 1969, in other


words before the magic year of 1970, the date of the adoption of the UNESCO Convention that arranges the protection of stolen or unlawfully exported cultural heritage. Since 2003 it had been in Belgium. According to the Carillon Museum, such bells can be purchased in Thailand without any problem, and an export permit from Thailand is not required. These bells can indeed easily be found for sale on the internet. One of the sponsors of the Carillon museum wanted an advise of the Ethical Committee

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of the ethnographic museums in the Netherlands, and this Committee accepted the dealer’s explanation. It did not contact the authorities in Cambodia to check the Cambodia law (which has prohibited the export of such ancient objects). When I called the Belgian dealer, he said ‘I am certain myself of the year 1969, but I cannot prove it’.48 Both the Ethical Committee and the museum accepted the dealer’s word too easily. They should also, according to the ICOM Code, redo their homework and discuss with the cultural authorities in Cambodia what to do with the bell. Cambodia has well developed institutions that do answer such questions, as I experienced in an e-mail exchange with museum professionals in the country. The second case starts with Enamul Haque in Bangladesh, founder and first Director general of the Bangladesh National Museum in Dhaka. He is known for books about Hindu and Buddhist sculptures and other treasures from his region that are no longer in the country, and, he says, ‘many of the objects described were looted from here’.49 In 1979 the Intergovernmental Committee for Promoting the Return of Cultural Property to its Countries of Origin or its Restitution in case of Illicit Appropriation (UNESCO Restitution Committee) wanted an assessment of the losses of badly affected developing countries and asked Bangladesh, Mali and Western Samoa to make a study of it. The Committee did so in cooperation with the International Council of Museums (ICOM). In the report, submitted in April 1980, Enamul Haque described the dramatic decrease in his country’s heritage during the British period, and the new peak that the plundering reached during and after the 1971 War of Liberation. He mentioned one foreigner by name, a US citizen, who ‘is known to have collected and exported about one hundred sculptures of bronze and stone and quite a few pieces of medieval rare furniture from Bangladesh between 1971 and 1975’ and who did so ‘without any permission of the appropriate authority’.50 In the report, the Bangladesh Director further praised the Fogg Art Museum of Harvard University for having contacted his museum in Dhaka and

enquiring about claims of this US citizen regarding the fulfilment of the legal requirements in connection with the substantial transfers of treasures from Bangladesh; as a result, the American museum did not accept the treasures for exhibition purposes. The name of this one American was David R. Nalin, medical doctor in the Cholera Research Hospital in Dhaka. At that time, government control in the newly independent state was minimal, there was much chaos and foreigners had a degree of freedom that does not exist anymore. The website of the Rijksmuseum shows the statue of a late 11th or early 12th century Durga, a Hindu goddess, killing a buffalo demon.51 It is one of the thousand masterpieces of the museum and comes from Bangladesh. At the bottom of the invoice of the Peter Marks Gallery in New York, where the museum purchased the statue in 1992 for $ 65.000, it says: ‘Ex Collection: David Nalin’. I informed the museum that it is possible that the statue was exported illegally after 1970 from Bangladesh and the answer they sent is: ‘Nice to know,’ no more and no less.52 I trust that the Rijksmuseum acted in good faith, when it purchased this masterpiece, although Bangladesh’s instability of the early 1970’s and its impact on provenances should be general knowledge for insiders. The question is, whether the museum should reinvestigate its acquisition with this new information. Many more museums will have objects with questions about them such as the three museums mentioned above. In brief, in 1988 the Tropenmuseum itself purchased five ancient Koma statues from Ghana from a runner who had not acquired them in a rightful manner. The museum wrote a letter to the embassy of Ghana to discuss a possible return. The embassy never replied. A Dutch journalist published an article in 2009 about the questionable provenance of fifteen Greek and Roman objects in the collection of the Allard Pierson Museum, the archaeological museum of the University of Amsterdam.53 Two years later, the museum director informed me, ‘we are busy starting up research


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into the provenance of objects acquired after 1970’. In other words, nothing has been done yet.54

Prayer Niche, to be returned in the future to Afghanistan (Photo: World Museum, Rotterdam)

From conflict areas There are three instances of non-materialized opportunities to return objects from conflict areas. In two cases, Iraqi heritage was involved, and in the third one heritage from Afghanistan. In the first case a Dutch soldier, who had come back from Iraq, showed an ancient seal ring in a TV show; he had taken it in his luggage. When asked, both the Cultural Heritage Inspectorate and a spokesperson of the Ministry of Defense vaguely remembered the case but neither knew what had happened to the seal ring or the soldier. The second case is from 2006, when some independent Dutch heritage professionals informed the Cultural Heritage Inspectorate about an art dealer in the south of the Netherlands, who had a cardboard box with fifteen ancient clay tablets from Iraq in it, wrapped in thin paper.55 He had purchased them in Germany and offered them for sale via the internet. In fact, someone had persuaded him to stop it, as they should go back to Iraq. The heritage professionals proposed to look for a safe haven, such as a museum in the Netherlands. However, because of UN Security Council Resolution 1483, the Cultural Heritage Inspectorate said that museums are punishable if they have Iraqi material in their possession. It was a rather formal and un-pragmatic position. Finally, the clay tablets were returned to the art dealer. Nowadays the Inspectorate has added the option of an ‘incident report’ on its website to facilitate the reporting of this sort of find by outsiders. The third case concerns a mihrab or prayer niche from a regional mosque in Afghanistan that the World Museum in Rotterdam purchased some years ago. The museum did so with the intention ‘to return it’.56 If it had not purchased it, the niche would most probably have disappeared in a private collection. The museum


received the approval of the Foundation Collection Ethnographic Museums in the Netherlands (SCVN). The purchase is like a safe haven, and the return intention is obvious. The rather intense contacts between the cultural heritage world in Afghanistan and the Netherlands should guarantee a safe return in time. Opponents of such acquisitions argue that a purchase like this helps to maintain the illicit art and antique trade.

Conclusion In six of the fifteen cases of non-materialized returns, there was nothing fishy about the objects involved, they were not tainted. In some of the nine others, tainted objects are involved, and in others the tainted nature has to be investigated. That these returns did not go on is due to different factors. An important factor is differing priorities. If the Dutch enforcement authorities confiscate large quantities of Chinese

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probably lost some goodwill by not continuing the contacts with the National Antiquities Museum in Leiden; in a way, the return of the ancient cuirass could have become a victory for both of them. For the Leiden museum as proof of its new attitude, for Italy the start of more successful return claims in Europe. That another Erechtheion marble, that is property of the same museum, still is in Leiden, also is a matter of priorities for the Greek cultural authorities.

The Erechtheion fragment still in possession of National Museum of Antiquities (Photo: National Museum of Antiquities, Leiden)

porcelain that was illicitly taken from shipwrecks, they might think to have done a good job. But for the Chinese cultural authorities and for the authorities of the countries in which territorial waters these wrecks were found, porcelain has little priority. For them it is an ancient mass produced article that was made for Western markets, in fact comparable with the plastic plates that are nowadays mass produced in China. The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam could not find an institution in Indonesia that would like to take care of Sukarno’s photo-album and works of art of the painter Mohammad Toha. The museum was surprised by it, but better times might come. The Italians

Another factor is the lack of willingness among Dutch heritage institutions to do thorough provenance research. Some institutions formally meet the requirements that their code of ethics have formulated. But provenance research can be expensive and time-consuming, and this in a period that many heritage institutions are faced with budget cuts. But sometimes, they inquire no further because they might receive unwanted answers. This was the case with the ancient temple bell from Cambodia, purchased by the National Carillon Museum. Should the Rijksmuseum do more provenance research into their Durga from Bangladesh, since they know that the collector, from whom the American gallery had purchased it before selling it to the Amsterdam museum, might have illicitly taken it? They could easily contact the cultural authorities in Dhaka to discuss the matter. A third factor is missed opportunities. I am sure that the cases analyzed in this part 3 are only the tip of the iceberg of missed return opportunities. There must be many others, among them missionary colonial collections, Papua collections, and ancient Indonesian treasures in private collections in the Netherlands.


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4 Return in an impasse?

In this part the central question will be answered: Are Dutch heritage institutions adjusting their thinking about return and is this leading to more returns? What lessons can be learned from the Dutch return practice? Has an era of return begun? Are Dutch heritage institutions ‘up’ for it? And what about their counterparts in claimant countries? Can conclusions be drawn for a better regulation of returns? And if return is out of the question, what other options do exist? There certainly is renewed attention for return issues but it is not really new as it began already in the 1930’s with discussions about the return of human remains and artefacts of indigenous communities. After the Second World War it continued with debates about the restitution of Nazi spoliated art. And from around the year 2000 it has been reaching a new peak in which return also covers categories, such as cultural and historical treasures taken during colonialism, archaeological excavations, or violent conflicts. There is more awareness of the damage caused by the theft and smuggling of these treasures. New international rules and national laws in both requested and claimant states have made it easier to claim recently stolen or smuggled treasures. Both in the discussion about the concept at a global level and in the analysis of Dutch return cases, that have or have not materialized, return has been defined in a much broader way

Some jewels from the Lombok treasure (Photos: National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden)

than only the cross-border relocation of tainted objects and collections. Return can also relate to mobility and flexibility of objects, and to respect and restoring. It has been defined both in material and immaterial ways. The relations in the global village are changing and more and more people realise that no one is any longer superior to others. Vrdoljak writes about return as a matter of ‘delayed decolonisation’, the world has to liberate itself from ‘an unilinear scale of civilisation’.1 It is accepted, as Prott states, that every people on earth should be able to see representations of their own cultural achievements.2 From the discussions with directors of heritage institutions and other professionals in the cultural sector, it has become clear that also in the Netherlands there is new awareness and that heritage institutions have defined their acquisition policies more sharply than in the past. They do not exclude return as an option. Tropenmuseum director Lejo Schenk was the most outspoken, when stating that ‘a considerable part of the collections of our museums and of others will have to find its way back to source countries’, but his remark is not being echoed in the collection policies and approaches for the years 2008 – 2012.3 So whereas one can conclude that there is a change in thinking, this new view has remained un-translated into practice. The most important and extensive return since 1970 has been that of colonial treasures to Indonesia and dates from 1977 and 1978.


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More recently there have been some promising cases in which a new attitude became visible. One can think of the ancient Seba drawings that were returned by the University of Amsterdam to a museum in Madrid or of Etruscan cuirass that could have returned from the National Antiquities Museum in Leiden to Italy. But one can as easily argue that these examples are rather marginal. It is fighting excesses more than planning new policies. Most heritage institutions in the Netherlands oppose a pro-active approach of the return question. They wait and express their willingness if a heritage institution in a claimant country knocks at their door, and this rarely happens. And if someone knocks at a door, a long term loan is the best he or she can get. Return as such is at an impasse in the Netherlands.

Doubts remain Why is there an impasse? One factor behind it is the conviction of some heritage professionals, and with them art and antique dealers, collectors, and other art lovers in the Netherlands that claimant countries are unable to preserve returned historical and cultural treasures. Although some of them use it to hide their unwillingness to consider the issue, they also have a point. An often mentioned example is what happened to the over one hundred ethnographic objects that Belgium returned between 1976 and 1982 to Zaire, today known as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In those years, President Mobutu Sese Seko appealed to the international community for the restitution of colonial art and antiques. He also had ethnographic objects collected from the different ethnic groups in the country, resulting in a national collection of 30.000 objects, a remarkable number in Africa at the time. The Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren supplemented it with special objects from its wellstocked, underground storage rooms and organised trainings for Congolese researchers and museum staff. The Belgians considered it as ‘an initiative without precedent in the context of


Sub-Saharan Africa.’4 The whole undertaking could indeed have been something of today. But many of these objects disappeared from the Congolese museums. It is not the only example of a poorly managed return. During the reign of President Suharto (1967 – 1998) it was a public secret that some valuables, such as Raden Saleh’s painting of Diponegoro’s surrender, that should have been accessible for everyone, ended up in the private chambers of the President and his wife. And not all wayang shadow puppets that the World Museum in Rotterdam took to Jakarta in 2005, are, according to an Indonesian newspaper, well preserved or really accessible.5 Those who favour return will point immediately to cases of poor management of cultural and historical treasures in Western heritage institutions. They have a point as well. They will also mention the improvements in many countries, and are right to do so. As we saw in part 1, claimant countries have strongly improved their protection and preservation policies. They understand well their own interests. But in general are well to do countries better equipped to preserve and show these treasures than countries that are less developed or in conflict? The issue of management raises the question, what do we know about the conditions of objects and collections that Dutch heritage institutions returned after 1970? In some cases they have no information at all, but often they are still in touch with the foreign institution that accepted these objects. Most Dutch professionals I interviewed were confident about it. The returns that they had been involved with had been unforced, well prepared, or previously agreed upon. In many instances they were a link of a larger chain, including knowledge sharing and collection exchange. The most precious one, the Prajñaparamita in the Museum Nasional in Jakarta, has a prominent place. There is less information about returns that followed catches by police or customs. To a certain extent this is understandable, as

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Dutch enforcement authorities’ responsibility ends with the actual hand over of an object they confiscate. But the atlases that were returned to the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine and to a state library in St. Petersburg in Russia in 1996 and 1999 are most probably safe; they were the result of constructive cooperation between the Netherlands and the claimant country and welcomed during official ceremonies. There must be more cases of safe returns. I investigated the case of the two celestial nymphs of the Angkor region that were returned to Cambodia in 1996. In 2004, Chau Sun Kerýa, Director for Cultural Tourism at Cambodia’s Ministry of Culture and in 1996 the secretary of State Minister Vann Molivan who had type-written the return request to the Dutch authorities for the two nymphs, remembered the case clearly. ‘At that time it was rare that Cambodia regained something. We thought that no foreign country was interested in us. The Netherlands was the first country that took such an action. Since then other countries have followed the Dutch example.’6 Asked where the objects were, she said to be sure that they were not in the Angkor area. Returned objects are usually kept in the National Museum in Phnom Penh. That kept registers of all objects acquired, including those captured by the police and customs and those returned from abroad. The museum had an exhibition room for returned objects. Two long pieces of a wall relief dominated; they had come from a temple in Banteay Chhmar, a temple complex not far from the Thai border and comparable with Angkor Wat. The police in Thailand had captured the thieves and two lorries. In the room were further three Buddha heads from the Angkor region, mentioned in ICOM’s One Hundred Missing Objects. In the basement was a Khmer statue, confiscated by the Dutch customs and returned by the Netherlands in 2000. However, we could not find the two nymphs. Chau Sun Kerýa remained certain that the two were within Cambodian territory, but ‘at the time they arrived it was

still chaos here. Cambodia was just arising from its traumatic experiences of the Khmer Rouge. Trust me, they must be somewhere.’ Although it was undeniable that Cambodia has made much progress, the Cambodian official admitted the meagre possibilities of her country to preserve heritage. Also heritage professionals from other claimant countries express silently or openly that their countries ‘are not ready’ to deal with returns.7 Exhibition rooms and storage facilities are inadequate, the know-how is insufficient and there are governance problems, they assert. That makes no sense to those who oppose return and fosters the return impasse. In the Dutch return cases there have been several delays. This was the case with the archives for Surinam, where the delay was a decision that was jointly made. It also happened with the archaeological Smeerenburg collection to Norway. The Tropenmuseum returned four rather common objects to the regional museum of Sintang in Indonesia, but delays the return of more excellent objects until the museum has strengthened its resource and preservation capabilities. In the case of the Smeerenburg collection and the objects for the museum in Sintang the decisions to delay the return were made rather one-sidedly. In part 3, the case of the Afghan prayer niche was described. It had been stolen from a regional mosque in Afghanistan. The World Museum in Rotterdam purchased it in order to prevent that it would be sold in the art and antique market and disappear from the public domain.8 The return intention is obvious. Return is delayed until it is safe in Afghanistan.

Acting upon request Most Dutch heritage institutions are making their collections transparent and accessible via the internet, and each claimant country or heritage institution in such a country can do the


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research it wants, study these collections and take initiatives to reclaim certain treasures. The Dutch institutions will not offer precious objects for return. From the study of both materialized and non-materialized return cases, it has become clear that they only react to a claim, if they receive a formal request from another state, or from a heritage institution or minority in that state. There are exceptions, especially when an object or collection of a Dutch heritage institution has become superfluous or has little value for the Dutch side. Their arguments for formal requests as a condition for return are the prevention of an exodus of objects and a guarantee that the claimant party is able to handle an object with care. For most heritage institutions in the Netherlands return is not a priority. Many9 busy themselves more with long term loans and cooperation. ‘I will not return anything, because there is nothing in the World Museum that has been acquired illicitly. We lend out over the whole world and study each request upon international standards of safety, maintenance and visibility’.10 Return is a bridge too far. It involves the question of whose property an object or a collection is, and that is an issue that Dutch institutions like to avoid, as much of what they have is state property. And it goes against their tradition of holding what has once been acquired. They prefer to set up joint projects with institutions in claimant countries and in these projects objects and collections can be exchanged.11 An example are the joint activities of the National Research and Development Centre of Archaeology in Jakarta, the National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden and the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam for the site museum of the Borobudur.12 Exchange of knowledge and objects and long term loans of objects help to preserve and intensify contacts with heritage institutions abroad. An investigation whether exchange and long term loans also serve to hide the unwillingness among Dutch heritage institutions to face the new realities in the global village is dearly needed. One can wonder whether the long term loan is an intermediate stage to more returns.


Many Dutch heritage institutions demand, sometimes openly, sometimes tacitly, a minimum of ‘good cultural governance’ from their counterparts in the other country. Good governance is a much used and much debated term in the development literature. Translated to the sector of historical and cultural heritage, good governance means among other things transparency of policies and practice, accountability, and safety, preservation, and accessibility of objects and collections. Some heritage professionals are outspoken: ‘One never can impose these sorts of conditions, as the returned object becomes their property. The only thing one can do is to anticipate and to help them to get good preservation and exhibition circumstances.’13 From the analysis of return cases however, it has become clear that in many cases good cultural governance has played a role.

Cry for joint decision making In August 2011, Dutch media reported about plans to investigate the possibilities of selling the Africa and America collections of the 125 year old World Museum in Rotterdam. Director Stanley Bremer said that he had to investigate this option in order to keep the museum’s promise to its main sponsor, the Rotterdam municipality, to become financially more independent. The ongoing economic crisis and severe cuts in government subsidies made it even more necessary. Because of the strength of their Asian collections, the World Museum should become an Asia Museum; there are sufficient Africa museums in the Netherlands and surroundings.14 The Africa collection consists of hundreds of objects from Angola, Cameron, Ghana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Nigeria, Benin, and other African countries. The news aroused many reactions among heritage professionals in Africa. Kwame Opoku’s concern was ‘the selling of African art objects that may have been looted, stolen, or extorted during the colonial area. As we all

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less important than his master, and so are his objects. Most critics think that the World Museum should not sell any African object without consulting the African country where it has come from.

Ghanaian Ambassador Alex Abankwa accepts cultural objects from the Dutch authorities that had been captured by the Dutch customs. (Photo: Jos van Beurden)

know, the legal status of many African artefacts is still disputed by the African owners and the European museums that are holding them’.15 He is disturbed by the trade of objects that are sacred to many Africans. He calls for embassies of African countries in the Netherlands to ask the World Museum, which of these objects are tainted. Rudo Sithole, Executive Director of the International Council of African Museums (AFRICOM), endorsed Opoku’s concern and asked for ‘comprehensive information’ on these objects. ‘In cases where the objects were looted, stolen or extorted, they should be returned free of charge and maybe even with some form of compensation’, since the World Museum has benefitted from them for a long time.16 A Ghanaian colleague wonders whether a country such as Ghana should ‘buy her own heritage pieces from those who took them away without a price?’ A Tanzanian museum official talked about ‘neo-slavery and greed to accumulate wealth’, and the Rotterdam museum hardly cares about the consequences. Neo-slavery might sound melodramatic or sloganeering to many in the Netherlands, but it does not in countries from where people were abducted as slaves. A slave is

I am afraid that fewer objects in the Africa and America collections of the World Museum than they think fall into the strict category of having been ‘looted, stolen, or extorted’. According to former World Museum director Hein Reedijk ‘the Rotterdam collections were acquired during the first decades of the former century through donations of private collectors of what were called at the time “exotics” from countries with which this international port city had diplomatic, trade, or missionary relations.’ Later on, much was brought together during scientific collection trips. Of the recent donations of the end of the last century, the provenance has always been studied carefully.17 That means that legal claims have little chance. Reedijk’s conclusion about relatively few looted items is confirmed by academic research into how Dutch museums acquired ethnographic collections from West Central Africa in the second half of the 19th century. ‘It is a serious misunderstanding that the provenance of ethnographic collections from West and Central Africa in ethnographic museums in the Netherlands, Germany, Portugal, and other colonial countries, which were then gathered together, is wrapped in mist. There is clarity. Most of the objects were purchased or they were part of barter.’18 Of course, the African salesmen tried to get as much money as they could for the objects, while their Dutch clients tried to pay as little as possible. The discussion shows that more research is needed on the acquisition history of many objects and collections. But the African cry for their own objects and for a say in their future is not the first one of its kind. It is more than understandable and needs to be respected. The cry of many Africans and inhabitants of other continents that have lost many of their own cultural and historical treasures is echoed in the appeals of


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Director Wim Weijland of the National Museum of Antiquities hands over a Parthenon marble to a representative of the Greek ministry of Culture. (Photo: Jos van Beurden)

heads of state, civil society organizations, or the Oba of Benin who requested Western museums to give some of the Benin bronzes for his own people and their museum. One cannot get around them anymore. But how may the gap be bridged between the impasse in returns in the Netherlands and the cries on other continents for return?


Shared authority In the last phase of the negotiations between Indonesia and the Netherlands in the 1970’s the dialogue between the two countries became more fruitful, officials from both sides began to work together, sometimes roughly and with daggers drawn, but there was mutual respect. In the end both parties had to give in and offer something: the Indonesians their claim for the restitution

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are able to share authority, return becomes much easier. ‘For return in this sense it is not necessary that an object or collection physically moves’, said Wayne Modest of the Tropenmuseum. ‘The receiver can decide with the requested party about the place where it best is. That can even be the country of the returner.’19

Khmer heads from the Angkor Wat region (Photo: E. van der Veen/ Africa Asia Desk)

of ten thousand objects, the Dutch their wish to hold as many objects as possible in the Netherlands. And up to today the mystery of Diponegoro’s keris has not been solved. That the two parties respected each other can also be said about the Australian Netherlands Committee on Old Dutch Shipwrecks ANCODS that consists of both Australian and Dutch experts and is responsible for collections coming from Dutch shipwrecks in Australian territorial waters. It can be said about the different stakeholders who dealt with the ancient female figurine from Egypt, the shabti of Hener, or about the World Museum that bought a prayer niche with the intention of returning it to Afghanistan. What can be learnt from these examples is that return has better chances when the parties involved are strong and self-conscious, when they know what they want, and when they act less as opponents fighting for the same prey and more as colleagues sitting around the same table and having to solve a common problem. This common problem is the future of our historical and cultural treasures. Where are they best off? If the two parties

In a number of cases, shared authority can help to bring a solution. Take the case of the four ancient Buddha heads of the Borobudur in three Dutch museums.20 The Dutch institutions have to keep in mind that much ‘restoring work’ still has to be done. They should be more self-critical. I realized the need for more selfreflection again in 2010, when I saw several Khmer heads in an exhibition room in the Insel Hombroich Foundation, between Düsseldorf and Neuss in Germany. They had come from the Angkor Wat region. The museum island, set up by a successful German businessman, combines nature, architecture, and art. The heads reminded me of all the damage that looters had inflicted upon Angkor temples and these heads in Germany must have been acquired in or shortly before 1983. How did they end up here? The museum is unclear about their provenance.21 And institutions in claimant countries should be more open and specific about their needs. They should be more pro-active. But let them avoid complaints about objects that were stolen in colonial times. In most cases it will be fruitless. The question should be, where is an object best placed?

Conclusion In this book I have restricted myself to the fate of cultural and historical treasures that are in Dutch heritage institutions and whose return to claimant countries might have to be considered in the future. Scarcely anything has been said about treasures in private collections and art shops. They probably contain numerous objects that with the views and insights of the 21st century could be considered for return to the countries of origin. Sometimes


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such returns take place and one can catch a glimpse of it. In this book, the cases of fragments of the Parthenon in Greece were mentioned, and in one case the holder had begun to feel uneasy and was willing to return it. A famous case was that of father John and son Joseph Sisto. In 1958 John had moved from Bari in Italy to the U.S., taking with him a small collection of ancient documents. Later on he received more old documents, among them letters from King Charles V and King Ferdinand II and two 16th century papal documents. After his death his son contacted the FBI, as he was suspicious about the origins and source of the collection. The FBI determined that of the 3,500+ items in the father’s collection 1,600 had been illegally removed from Italy. They were returned.22

of confrontation, and look for likeminded institutions and professionals in countries with a surplus of their treasures. Sometimes confrontation is needed to speed up a return process. But the best option is a dialogue about where an object or collection is best located. A dialogue that is based on respect and shared authority and that takes the lessons from the restitution of Nazi spoliated art and human remains into consideration.

The distribution of many crucial cultural and historical treasures among states, institutions, communities, and individuals has been determined by differences in power and money. Behind such differences are history and emotion. They make return a complicated and multilayered process. Return is rarely a quick-fix. It is about restoring and about material and immaterial matters. Return can only be done case by case, as each case has its own peculiarities, its own unique story. As with Nazi spoliated art, return requires a lenient policy with understanding for the history and points of view of both sides. As with human remains, in discussing the possible return of colonial collections and objects, the interests of claimant countries deserve extra attention.

Return is a matter of doing. There is an urgent need for a wider relocation of cultural and historical treasures, so that people all over the world get access to it. The institutions involved should help and stimulate each other to preserve the treasures in a responsible way. More research is needed into what happens to objects after their return. The Netherlands and Indonesia should, with the help of a descendant of Pangeran Diponegoro, set up a joint committee to unravel the mystery of a keris of Indonesia’s national hero that still should be in the Netherlands. If it is located, its future should be discussed with Indonesia. The Oba of Benin and the National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden should contact each other to study the possibility of some Benin objects in the Leiden collection to move to the museum of Benin city. The Nigerian museum has to be ready to exhibit these objects. A generous gesture can inspire heritage institutions in other countries to do the same. The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam should contact the relevant authorities in Bangladesh and discuss the future of their Durga statue.

Claimant countries will benefit from a more pro-active approach of countries where their treasures can be found. Those claimant countries without much power should opt for a dialogue instead

All in all, there is a strong need for a much more thorough discussion among heritage institutions in the Netherlands and in claimant countries about what return means in the 21st century.


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12 John Economides, Ambassador of Greece in the Netherlands, April 12, 2011.

1 Return in this book is a broad concept that covers much more than issues such as the handing

13 National Museum of Ethnology (Museum Volkenkunde), Jaarverslag 2005 (annual report), p. 9.

over of a stolen object. It is elaborated in part I. 2 ‘Tainted’ in this book is used in the sense of an insufficiently clear provenance of a cultural or

14 Prott, Paris, 2009, p. XXI – XXIV. 15 Greenfield, 2007, p. XIII.

historical treasure. The word has been borrowed from the way the UK Department for Culture,

16 Greenfield, 2007, p. 367.

Media, and Sport has been using it in the Guidance on the Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences)

17 Vrdoljak, 2008, p. 1.

Act 2003 that uses it in a narrower sense: removed or excavated contrary to heritage legislation.

18 Greenfield, 2007, p. XIII.

See:, p. 4.

19 Pieter ter Keurs, Head Collections and Research, National Museum of Antiquities, interview May 24,

3 1970 is the year in which the General Conference of UNESCO adopted the Convention on the


Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Owner-ship of

20 Vrdoljak, 2008, p. 301.

Cultural Property. Many in the heritage sector consider the year as a turning point in awareness

21 UNESCO, 2009.

about ethical issues.

22 Waxman, 2008, p. 6-7. 23 See e.g. Kaplan, 2008, and Ashraf Ghani & Clare Lockhart, 2008. The World Bank and several

Part 1

(governmental) aid agencies have published about the issue.

1 Stanley Bremer, director World Museum (Wereldmuseum) Rotterdam, interview April 26, 2011.

24 Exceptions are Stanley Price, 2007; ICOMOS, 2008; Klein Goldewijk, 2011.

2 Pauljac Verhoeven, director Museum Bronbeek, Arnhem, interview May 24, 2011.

25 Statement by China’s Ambassador Liu Zhenmin on Return or Restitution of Cultural Property to

3 Erik de Groot, director Heritage, including Museum Nusantara, Delft, interview May 26, 2011. 4 The National Heritage Institution took care of the circulation.

the Countries of Origin at the 64th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations, November 16, 2009. Via MSN.

5 Eddy Tulp, Keeper of records Municipal Archive Deventer, e-mail February 26, 2011.

26 The Art Newspaper on line, November 12, 2010.

6 Lejo Schenk, Director Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam, interview April 13, 2011.

27 Rogers, 2010; Khalili, 2006.

7 International Conference on the Return of Cultural Objects to their Countries of Origin, Athens,

28 In 2009 Saudi Arabia began to do so, in 2011 Egypt and the city of Istanbul announced programs

March 17-18, 2008, laws/pdf/Conclusions_Athens_ en.pdf

to stop the robbing from their mosques.

8 Prott, 2005, p. 228.

29 Confidential source, known to the author.

9 Korea Times, March 9, 2011. Via MSN.

30 The US Federal Aviation Authority foresees an annual growth of 3,7 percent for the USA until 2015,

10 Korea Herald, June 12, 2011. Via MSN.

11 President Alan Garcia, during a press conference on April 25, 2011, see: http://www.presidencia.

2011-2031/media/Forecast%20Highlights.pdf. The UN World Tourism Organization forecasts an

over 4 percent growth worldwide,


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31 Capgemini and Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management, 2011. 32 Lubina, 2009, p. 190. 33 Vrdoljak, 2008, p. 150.

55 Advisory Committee on the Assessment of Restitution Applications, 2010, p. 13-15, points to court-case started by the heir of a immigrant family in Paris against the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York for a Cézanne painting.

34 Lubina, 2009, p. 198.

56 Bower, 1997.

35 Lubina, 2009, p. 194.

57 Advisory Committee on the Assessment of Restitution Applications, 2008, p. 5.

36 Beurden, 2000. According to well informed sources, these improvements are sustainable.

58 Muller & Schretlen, 2002, p. 257.

37 Interviews with the cultural and enforcement authorities in Angkor Wat and Phnom Penh, 2004.

59 Two others being the Dutch role in the slavery and two Dutch military actions in Indonesia

Reports since then indicate that protection programs are being extended to other temples in the country.

between 1947 and 1949. 60 Advisory Committee on the Assessment of Restitution Applications, 2006, p. 13.

38 E.g. in Phnom Penh, Beijing, Kabul, Bagdad, Nicosia, and Rome.

61 Restitution Commission,

39 For Greece it is the Parthenon Marbles in the British Museum, for Egypt the bust of Nefertiti in

62 Vrdoljak, 2008, p. 234.

Berlin and the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum. Libya asks for the Apollo at Cyrene, also in

63 I learned about it from a Dutch art dealer, who was selling jewellery from Sudanese refugees.

the British Museum. Peru is after a large Machu Picchu collection in the Peabody Museum in Yale

64 F. Sysling, 2010, p. 56.

University. Nigeria is asking for Benin bronzes. Mexico is after the Montezuma headdress, which is

65 Because of the paint and tattoos, this case is also mentioned in the List of Return Instances.

now in the Ethnology Museum in Vienna. And Korea is after the Oegyujanggak books in the

66 Engelsman, 2007, p. 130-134.

National Library of France. See Korea Herald, Cultural repatriation, December 4, 2010. Via MSN.

67 Sysling, 2010, p. 58.68

40 See ArchNews, January 24, 2011, 99s-headdress-to-return-home.html

68 To mention some: the Armenian genocide, 1915 – 1917; Holocaust in the 1930’s and 1940’s; genocides in Rwanda, 1994, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 1995, and Darfur, 2003; and the Apartheid (1948 – 1990).

41 Quoted in The Independent, November 23, 2008.

69 Duuren, 2007, p. 38/9 and p. 45.

42 Out of 468 items, ten have been returned so far. AFROMET, Association for the Return of The

70 Vrdoljak, 2008, pp. 1, 73 and 103.

Maqdala Ethiopian Treasures, (visited on June 21, 2011)

71 Prott, 2009, p. III.

43 Worldbulletin net, October 6, 2011.

72 Lubina, 2009, pp. 32 and 477.


73 Lubina, 2009, p. 478.

45 46 See for some of his articles:

Part 2

47 Renfrew, 2000, p. 10/11. Renfrew repeated this point of view at the end of 2008 in the Financial

1 After the Indonesian independence the Royal Batavian Society of Arts and Sciences was renamed

Times. 48 Waxman, 2008, p. 252.

the Lembaga Kebudajaan Indonesia. In the 1960’s it was formally dissolved and its collections were transferred to Museum Nasional in Jakarta.

49 Kwame Opoku, 2008.

2 Bambang Sumadio, 1992, p. 23.

50 Surprisingly, almost nothing is written about return issues in the acquisition policy papers of the

3 Pott & Amir Sutaarga, 1979, p. 38, p. 40.

Tropenmuseum. See: KIT Tropenmuseum, 2003, p. 64; and Brakel & Legêne, 2008. The return

4 Legêne and Postel-Coster, The Hague, 2000, p. 272.

option is mentioned only in the first paper (p. 64).

5 Dutch daily Nieuwe Rotterdamse Courant of March 22 and 29, 1974.

51 Kees van den Meiracker, Founder and director of the Power of Culture, e-mail 01 July 2011.

6 Van der Straaten, 1985, p. 33.

52 Astrid Weij, former international policy officer Netherlands Institute for Heritage, e-mail July 6, 2011.

7 Van der Gulik, 1989, p. 52.

53 Mijer – van Mensch, 2011, p. 114.

8 Roelof Hol, Program-director Shared Cultural Heritage at the Dutch National Archive, interview

54 Laura van Broekhoven, National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden, interview March 22, 2011.


June 20, 2011; e-mail June 23, 2011.

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9 See e.g. Anda Suriname

36 Frans van Dongen, former Ambassador in Indonesia, interview June 1, 2011.

10 See e.g. Legêne, 1998, p. 374.

37 Since 2003 the head has been exhibited in the Asia department.

11 Medendorp, 2008, p. 9 ff.

38 Wouter Gortzak, former Director Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam, e-mail June 20, 2011.

12 Jansen van Galen, 2000, pp. 230.

39 Marangou, 2000, p. and p. 293 and p. 367.

13 Brinkgreve, 2005, p. 130, p. 128.

40 Siehr, 2006, p. 134

14 Vanvugt, 1994, p. 99.

41 J.P. Sigmond, former Director Collections Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, e-mail May 8, 2011.

15 Ieteke Witteveen, director National Archaeological Anthropological Memory Management in

42 Andrea Otte-Klomp, Cultural Heritage Agency in the Netherlands, interview May 19, 2011.

Curacao. E-mail June 15, 2011.

43 Peter Garret, Minister for Cultural Heritage, Australia, media release, January 22, 2009.

16 Steven Engelsman, Director National Museum of Ethnology, Annual report 2005, p. 9.

44 Frans Van Dijk, National Archive, the Hague, interview January 25, 2011; e-mail June 15, 2011.

17 Prince Raden Saleh Foundation, Jakarta,

45 Steven Engelsman, interview 2007; e-mail March 23, 2011.

18 Calculation by Archaeologist Frans-Karel Weener, interview May 27, 2011.

46 Lejo Schenk, director Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam, interview April 13, 2011.

19 Pesch, A.M.C van, and Campbell, H.W., 1992.

47 Taco Dibbets, Head Collections, Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam, interview April 19, 2011.

20 Boelaars, Huub, mission procurator OFM Capucins, Tilburg, several contacts in March and April 2011. 21 22 Johannes Hämmerle, father OFM Cap, Director Museum Pusaka Nias, Indonesia, e-mail April 14, 2011.

Part 3 1 In the Netherlands they are called Politionele acties or police actions, and in Indonesia Agresi Militer Belanda or Dutch Military Aggressions. 2 Eckhardt & Sigmond, 2009, p. 27.

23 Engelsman, 2007, p. 134.

3 Taco Dibbets, Director Collections, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, interview April 19, 2011.

24 In full: Directive 93/7 of the Council of the European Communities of 15 March 1993 on the return

4 Taco Dibbets, Director Collections, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, interview April 19, 2011.

of cultural objects unlawfully removed from the territory of a Member State.

5 At the occasion of the a new exhibition Eastward Bound! Art, Culture and Colonialism

25 B. Bieleman, 2007, p. 134.

6 Lejo Schenk, Director Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam, interviews April 13 and June 17, 2011.

26 Cultural Heritage Inspectorate, 2004; Cultural Heritage Inspectorate, interview July 6, 2011.

7 In Dutch national daily Trouw, February 23, 2003.

27 Based on press clippings and interviews at the Nigerian Embassy in the Hague, March and April

8 Lejo Schenk, interview, April 13, 2011.

2000, and with the Dutch lawyer, 2001.

9 Steven Engelsman, Director Museum Volkenkunde, interview March 23, 2011.

28 Cultural Heritage Inspectorate, interview July 6, 2011.

10 Taco Dibbets, Head of collections, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, interview April 19, 2011.

29 October 20, 1995.

11 Steven Engelsman, e-mail, June 15, 2011, interview June 17, 2011.

30 Cultural Heritage Inspectorate, 2004.

12 Haryati Soebadio, Ed., 1992.

31 See a.o. Ad Leerintveld, Illegale Praktijken, in: KB Centraal, January 2000, Vol. XXIX, p. 11 – 13;

13 Wahyono Nartowikrido, in: Haryati Soebadio, 1992, p. 129 – 132.

Frederique Hermie, FIOD brengt gestolen Russische cultuurgoederen terug, in: FIOD ECD Magazine,

14 Suwati Kartiwa, in Haryati Soebadio, 1992, p. 160.

December 1999, p. 9 – 10; De Telegraaf, FIOD lost grote antieksmokkel op, December 3, 1999.

15 Pieter Ter Keurs, Head collection and research, National Museum of Antiquities, Leiden; formerly

32 Cultural Heritage Inspectorate, interview July 6, 2011. 33 Garrelt Verhoeven, Chief curator Special Collections, Amsterdam University, interviews and e-mails in 2010. 34 Roelof Hol, Director Mutual Cultural Heritage Program Dutch National Archive, interview June 20, 2011. 35 For details, see: Stone & Farchakh Bajjaly, 2008.

staff member Museum Volkenkunde, Leiden, interview May 24, 2011. 16 Among them Director Pauljac Verhoeven of Musuem Bronbeek (e-mail May 30, 2011), keris-expert David van Duuren and researcher Caroline Drieënhuizen. 17 Caroline Drieënhuizen, University of Amsterdam, e-mail June 21, 2011. 18 Jani Kuhnt-Saptodewo Head of the Insular Southeast Asian collection of the Austrian Ethnographic Museum, Vienna, e-mail September 15, 2011.


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19 Inventory number MVK 22976.

45 Renfrew, 2000, p. 73.

20 Heide Leigh-Theisen, e-mail October 10, 2011.

46 Fernando Musella, head of the operational section of the Carabinieri art crime squad, interviewed

21 Legêne and Postel-Coster, The Hague, 2000, p. 359, note 15. 22 Legêne, Susan, lectures, 1997, 2006a and 2006b. 23 Pauljac Verhoeven, Director Museum Bronbeek, interview May 24, 2011, e-mail May 30 and June 24, 2011.

in September 2005. 47 Steph Scholten, then Head Collection management, National Museum of Antiquities, Leiden, several interviews 2005. 48 Beurden, Jos van, 2006.

24 David Van Duuren, 1996.

49 Enamul Haque, interviews 1998 and 2005.

25 David Van Duuren, ret. curator Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam, interview May 23, 2011; e-mail May 30,

50 Enamul Haque, 1980, p. 7. Haque gave me a copy of the full report in 1998. A summary can be

2011. 26 Ewald Vanvugt, 1994, p. 101. 27 Marjan Agerbeek, Ruim miljoen stukken uit musea zoek, Trouw, September 13, 2000.

found in L. Prott, 2009, p. 182 - 186 51 &context_id=Term_00022444_nl Object number AK-RAK-1992-1.

28 Steven Engelsman, e-mail June 15, 2011.

52 Kees Schoemaker, Secretary of the Board of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, e-mail April 19, 2011.

29 Francine Brinkgreve, e-mail June 15, 2011.

53 Theo Toebosch, Twijfel over collectie van Allard Pierson, in: NRC Handelsblad, April 3, 2009, p.8.

30 Francine Brinkgreve, interview, June 23, 2011. The object-number of Diponegoro’s spear point

54 Wim Hupperetz, Director Allard Pierson Museum, Amsterdam, e-mail May 5, 2011.

was 1662. 31 Francine Brinkgreve, interview June 23, 2011. Her reference is F.R. Effert, Royal cabinets and

55 I was a witness to it myself. 56 Stanley Bremer, Director World Museum Rotterdam, interview April 26, 2011.

auxiliary branches : origins of the National Museum of Ethnology, 1816-1883, Research School CNWS, Leiden, 2003.

Part 4

32 Frans Van Dongen, retired Dutch Ambassador in Indonesia, interview June 1, 2011.

1 Vrdoljak, 2008, pp. 1, 73 and 103.

33 Interview Legêne, June 17, 2011.

2 Prott, 2009, p. III.

34 Interview Engelsman, June 17, 2011.

3 Brakel, Koos van, Legêne, Susan, 2008.

35 Catrini P. Kubontubuh, Executive director of the BPPI Indonesian Heritage Trust, interview June 22,

4 Wastiau, 2000, p. 5.


5 Kompas (Indonesian daily), September 2, 2009.

36 Pesch, A.M.C van, and Campbell, H.W., 1992, p. 81-84.

6 Chau Sun Kerýa, Ministry of Culture, interview in Phnom Penh, January 19, 2004.

37 Frans-Karel Weener, interview May 27, 2011. See also: Weener, 2010a and 2010b.

7 For example, retired Ethiopian curator Girma Fisseha of the National Museum of Ethnology

38 Kim Leenders, Curator Africa Centrum Cadier en Keer, Interview July 15, 2011. 39 Papua is the Indonesian half of the island of New Guinea. In the past it was known, among other names, as Dutch New Guinea, Irian Jaya, or West Papua New Guinea. 40 See e.g. Duuren, David van, 2011, p. 9. 41 Aware of the financial problems, the PACE collection had been accommodated in a foundation, the

(Staatliches Museum für Völkerkunde) in Munich, interview in Munich, February 16, 2009. 8 Stanley Bremer, Director World Museum Rotterdam, interview April 26, 2011. 9 Among them the directors of the Tropenmuseum, National Museum of Ethnology and World Museum. 10 Bremer, interview April 26, 2011.

Foundation Collection PACE, set up in the beginning of 2010. For the sake of convenience I keep

11 Steven Engelsman, National Museum of Ethnology, interview March 22, 2011.

using PACE.

12 Since 2003 they have developed the

42 Sjoerd Jaarsma, director PACE, interview October 2004 and April 26, 2011; travel report November 2010. 43 Beurden, Jos van, 2001, p. 47. 44 Peter Watson & Cecilia Todeschini, 2006, pp. 164-165.

virtual site The Hidden Base of Borobudur. In 2008, the National Museum of Ethnology opened a gallery exhibition on the lower part of the Borobudur, based on photographs, made by Kasian Cephas in 1890’s. The photographs have been digitalized and can be seen on the website. 13 Rogier Bedaux, retired Africa curator National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden, interview January 21, 2011.


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18 Willink, 2006; interview with the author, September 2006.

15 Kwame Opoku, Dutch Museum to sell African collection, in: Modern Ghana, August 25, 2011.

19 Wayne Modest, Head of the curators, Tropenmuseum, interviews April 13 and May 25, 2011.

16 Rudo Sithole AFRICOM-L Digest, Vol. 74, Issue 18, August 29, 2011.

20 There must be more such Buddha heads in the Netherlands. In May 2011, I discovered at least two

17 Hein Reedijk, former Director World Museum, discussion platform Netherlands Museum Association, id=1848475&commentID=49784681&goback=%2Egmp_1848475%2Egde_1848475_member_ 67342512%2Eamf_1848475_9669268&trk=NUS_DISC_Q-subject#commentID_49784681

of them in art shops and probably there also are in private collections. 21 Kling, 2004, p. 14, p. 63. Also, I approached the museum in 2010 with questions about the provenance but never received a satisfactory answer. 22 Chicago Tribune, Italian treasures in Berwyn home worth millions, June 8, 2009. Via MSN.


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Sources P.s. Newspaper articles and websites that have been quoted are mentioned in footnotes. If such a source was found via the Museum Security Network (MSN), org/, ‘via MSN’ has been added in the footnote.

Books and articles Advisory Committee on the Assessment of Restitution Applications. Report 2006, Report 2008, Report 2010, The Hague Aguirre, Emiliano. ‘Dibujo zoográfico y tetracromía: La iconografía zoological en el siglo XVIII y el Real Gabinete de Madrid’. Mundo Científico, nr. 78, 1988, p. 268 – 275 Anquandah, James & Van Ham, Laurens. Discovering the Forgotten “Civilisation” of Komaland, Northern Ghana. Africa Instituut, Rotterdam, undated (probably 1984 or 1985) Ashraf Ghani & Clare Lockhart. Fixing Failed States: A Framework for Rebuilding a Fractured World. Oxford University Press, 2008 Bambang Sumadi. ‘Indonesia’s Cultural Evolution’. In: Haryati Soebadio, Ed., 1992, p. 19 – 24 Beurden, Jos van. ‘Mali – Losing the race to preserve its cultural heritage’. The Courier , no. 181, European Commission, Brussels, June-July 2000, p. 74 – 77 Beurden, Jos van. Goden, Graven en Grenzen: Over Kunstroof uit Afrika, Azië en Latijns Amerika. KIT Publishers, Amsterdam. 2001


Beurden, Jos van. ‘A tainted temple bell from Cambodia?’. Culture Without Context. Cambridge University, UK, Autumn, 2005 Beurden, Jos van. ‘The Dutch Treatment of Tainted Objects’. In: Scholten, 2010, p. 16 – 23 Bieleman, B., e.a. Schone kunsten: Preventieve doorlichting kunsten antiekhandel. Intraval, Groningen - Rotterdam, 2007 Bower, Tom. Blood Money – the Swiss, the Nazis and the Looted billions. Macmillan, London, 1997 Brakel, Koos van, Legêne, Susan. Collecting at cultural crossroads: Collection policies and approaches (2008-2012) of the Tropenmuseum. Bulletin 381. KIT Publishers, Amsterdam, 2008 Brinkgreve, Francine. ‘Vorsten van Bali en koloniaal gezag: Collectievorming en politiek’. In: Endang Sri Hardiati & Pieter ter Keurs, Eds., 2005, p. 122 – 145 Capgemini and Merrill Lynch Global Wealth Management. World Wealth Report 2011, New York, 2011 Corbey, Raymond. Tribal Art Traffic: A Chronicle of Taste, Trade and Desire in Colonial and Post-Colonial Times. KIT Publishers, Amsterdam. 2000 Cultural Heritage Inspectorate. Analyse van 105 dossiers van de Inspectie Cultuurbezit m.b.t. de Invoer van Cultuurgoederen, ICB, Den Haag, 2004 Cultural Heritage Inspectorate. Verslagen van het Toezicht (annual reports), ICB, Den Haag Duuren, David van. De Kris: Een aardse benadering van een kosmisch symbool. KIT Publishers, Amsterdam, 1996

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Duuren, David van, Ed. Physical Anthropology Reconsidered: Human Remains at the Tropenmuseum. Bulletin 375. KIT Publishers, Amsterdam, 2007 Duuren, David van, Oceania at the Tropenmuseum, KIT Publishers, Amsterdam, 2011 Eckhardt, P. & Sigmond, P. Kind in de Oorlog: Mohammed Toha schildert Yogyakarta 1948 – 1949. Catalogue, Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 2009 Enamul Haque. Return of Cultural Property to their Countries of Origin: Bangladesh. ICOM ad hoc Committee for the Return of Cultural Property, Paris, 1980 Endang Sri Hardiati & Pieter ter Keurs, Eds. Indonesia: De ontdekking van het Verleden. Catalogue, KIT Publishers, Amsterdam, 2005 Engelsman, Steven. ‘De Toi Moko van Volkenkunde’. In: Hanna Pennock e.a., Eds., Erfgoedverhalen voor Charlotte van Rappard. Erfgoedinspectie, Den Haag, 2007, p. 130 – 134 Faber, Paul, e.a. Africa at the Tropenmuseu. KIT Publishers, Amsterdam, 2011 Gulik, Willem van der. ‘Holding or Losing: The return of cultural property’. In: Zoest/d’Arts, Rob van, Ed., Generators of Culture: The Museum as a Stage, AHA Books, Amsterdam, 1989, p. 49 – 53 Greenfield, Jeannette. The Return of Cultural Treasures, Cambridge University Press, 2007 Haryati Soebadio, Ed. Pusaka – Art of Indonesia. Archipelago Press with National Museum, Jakarta, 1992 Hermie, Frederique. ‘FIOD brengt gestolen Russische cultuurgoederen terug’. FIOD ECD Magazine, December 1999, p. 9 – 10 ICOMOS. Heritage at Risk: ICOMOS World Report 2006/2007 on Monuments and Sites in Danger. E. Reinhold Verlag, Altenburg, 2008 Jansen van Galen, J. ‘A Testing Ground for Dutch Development Cooperation Policy: Surinam 1975 – 1982’. In: Nekkers, J.A.M. and Malcontent, P., Eds., Fifty Years of Dutch

Development Cooperation 1949 – 1999. Sdu Publishers, The Hague, 2000, pp. 227 – 249 Kaplan, Seth. Fixing Fragile States: A New Paradigm for Development. Praeger, Santa Barbara, 2008 KIT Tropenmuseum. Collectienota 2003 – 2007: Erfgoed en Toekomst; een werkdocument. Bulletin 355, KIT Publishers, Amsterdam, 2003 Klein Goldewijk, B., Frerks, G., & Plas, E. van der. Cultural Emergency in Conflict and Disaster. NAi Publishers/Prince Claus Fund, Rotterdam/Amsterdam, 2011 Kling, Thomas. Karl-Heinrich Müller – Drei Gespräche. DuMont Literatur und Kunst Verlag, Köln, 2004 Kwame Opoku. Can we condemn contemporary looting of artefacts without condemning colonial loot and plunder? Comment on Lord Renfrew’s Statement on Looted Artefacts., December 3, 2008 Leerintveld, Ad. ‘Illegale Praktijken’. KB Centraal, January 2000, Vol. XXIX, p. 11 – 13 Legêne, Susan. De Bagage van Blomhoff en van Breugel: Japan, Java, Tripoli en Suriname in de negentiende eeuwse Nederlandse cultuur van het imperialisme. KIT Publishers, Amsterdam, 1998 Legêne, Susan. Waar is de kris van Dipanegara? Lecture, Groningen, April 10, 1997 (unpublished) Legêne, Susan. Wat deel je eigenlijk als je erfgoed deelt? Lecture, Amsterdam, February 25, 2006a (part of the exhibition Indonesia: De Ontdekking van het Verleden) (unpublished) Legêne, Susan. Waar is de kris van Dipanegara? Lecture, Nieuwe Kerk, Amsterdam, April 6, 2006b (part of the exhibition Indonesia: De Ontdekking van het Verleden) (unpublished). Legêne and Postel-Coster. ‘Isn’t it all culture? Culture and Dutch development policy in the post-colonial period’. In: Nekkers, J.A.M. and Malcontent, P., Eds., Fifty Years of Dutch Development Cooperation 1949 – 1999. Sdu Publishers, The Hague, 2000, pp. 271 – 288 Leigh-Theisen, Heide and Reinhold Mittersakschmöller, Eds. Indonesien. Kunstwerke – Weltbilder. Linz, 1999, pp. 86 – 87


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Lubina, Katja. Contested Cultural Property: The return of Nazi spoliated art and human remains from public collections. PhD, Maastricht, 2009 Marácz, László. ‘Hongaars Archief in Ballingschap’. Nationaal Archief Magazine, 2006, nr. 2, p. 4 – 9 Marangou, Anna G. Life & Deeds. The Consul Luigi Palma di Cesnola 1832 – 1904. Popular Bank Cultural Centre, Nicosia, 2000 Medendorp, Clazien. Kijkkasten uit Suriname: De diorama’s van Gerrit Schouten. KIT Publishers, Amsterdam, 2008 Merryman, John Henry, Ed. Imperialism, Art and Restitution. Cambridge University Press, 2006 Meijer – van Mensch, Léontine. ‘New challenges, new priorities: analyzing ethical dilemmas from a stakeholder’s perspective in the Netherlands’. Museum Management and Curatorship. Routledge, London, Vol. 26, No 2, May 2011, p. 113 – 128 Muller, Eelke, & Schretlen, Helen. Betwist Bezit. De Stichting Nederlands Kunstbezit en de teruggave van roofkunst na 1945. Waanders, Zwolle, 2002 Nasser D. Khalili. Tijdslijn van de Islamitische Kunst en Architectuur. Salomé – Amsterdam University Press, 2006 Pesch, A.M.C van, and Campbell, H.W. Missionaire collecties in beeld: Een onderzoek naar de omvang en herkomst van verspreide volkenkundige collecties van missionaire oorsprong. Maarssen, 1992 Pott, Peter & M. Amir Sutaarga. ‘Arrangements concluded or in progress for the Return of Objects: the Netherlands – Indonesia’. Quarterly Review, UNESCO, Paris, Vol. XXXI, 1979, p. 38 – 42 Prott, L. V. ‘The International Movement of Cultural Objects’. International Journal of Cultural Property. International Cultural Property Society, 2005, Vol. 12, p. 225 – 248 Prott, L.V., Ed. Witnesses to History: Documents and Writings on the Return of Cultural Objects. UNESCO Publishing, Paris, 2009 Renfrew, Colin. Loot, Legitimacy and Ownership. Duckworth, London, 2000


Rogers, J.M. The Arts of Islam: Masterpieces of the Khalili Collection. Thames - Hudson, London, 2010 Scholten, Steph. Sense and Sensitivities: The Dutch and Delicate Heritage Issues. ICOM Netherlands, Rotterdam, 2010 Siehr, Kurt. ‘The Beautiful One Has Come – To Return’. In: Merryman, John Henry, Ed., 2006, p. 134 Stanley-Price, Nicholas, Ed. Cultural Heritage in Postwar Recovery. ICCROM, Rome, 2007 Stone, Peter G., Joanne Farchakh Bajjaly. The Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Iraq. The Boydell Press, Woodbridge, 2008 Straaten, Harald van der. ‘Terug of houden zo? Restitutie van cultuurschatten’. In: Verre Naasten Naderbij. Museum Volkenkunde, Leiden, Vol. 19, nr. 1, April 1985, p. 19 – 36 Suwati Kartiwa. ‘Pusaka and the Palaces of Java’. In: Haryati Soebadio, 1992, p. 159 – 164 Sysling, F. Dead Bodies, Lively Debates: Human Remains in Dutch Museums. In: Scholten, 2010, p. 52 – 61 UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Guidance on the Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003, London, 2003 UNESCO. World Report on Cultural Diversity, New York, 2009 Vanvugt, Ewald. De schatten van Lombok: Honderd jaar Nederlandse Oorlogsbuit uit Indonesië. Jan Mets, Amsterdam, 1994 Vrdoljak, Ana Filipa. International Law, Museums and the Return of Cultural Objects. Cambridge University Press, 2008 Wahyono Nartowikrido. Heirlooms of the Outer Islands. In: Haryati Soebadio, 1992, p. 129 – 132 Wastiau, Bori. Congo – Tervuren, Aller – Retour: Le transfert de pièces ethnographiques du Musée Royal de l’Afrique centrale á l’Institut des Musées Nationaux du Zaïre 1976 – 1982. Musée Royal de l’Afrique centrale, Tervuren, 2000 Watson, Peter & Todeschini, Cecilia. The Medici Conspiracy: The Illicit Journey of Looted Antiquities from Italy’s Tomb Raiders to the World’s Greatest Museums. Public Affairs, New York, 2006 Waxman, Sharon. Loot: The Battle over the Stolen Treasures of the Ancient World. Times Books, New York, 2008

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Weener, Frans-Karel. ‘Volkenkundige missiecollecties. KNR Bulletin, 2010a, nr. 1, p. 18 – 19 Weener, Frans-Karel. Missionary exhibitions in the Netherlands, 2010b (unpublished article) Wengen, Ger van. “Wat is er te doen in Volkenkunde?”; de bewogen geschiedenis van het Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde in Leiden. Rijksmuseum voor Volkenkunde, Leiden, 2002 Willink, Joost. Stages in Civilisation, Dutch museums in quest of West Central African collections (1856 – 1889). CNWS Publications nr. 35, Leiden, 2006


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Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) KIT Tropenmuseum KIT Publishers P.O. Box 95001 10920 HA Amsterdam The Netherlands E E

Š 2012, Jos van Beurden, Utrecht, The Netherlands and KIT Publishers ISBN 978 94 6022 1842



Andrew Gebhardt


Wil Agaatsz BNO, Meppel, The Netherlands


Hightrade, Zwolle, The Netherlands

Cover photo: See p. 55 The Royal Tropical Institute (KIT), Amsterdam, The Netherlands, is an international institute, which is specialised in the generation and sharing of knowledge and expertise through institutional cooperation. The objectives of KIT are to contribute to sustainable development for poverty reduction; information dissemination; and, the preservation and exchange of culture.

Omslag Return_HT_Return 21-12-11 23:20 Pagina 1

In The Return of Cultural and Historical Treasures: The Case of the Netherlands, Jos van Beurden researches cases in which the Dutch state and Dutch heritage institutions have been handing over cultural and historical treasures that were acquired in colonial times and more recently. He investigates the dynamics of their return practice and gives his analysis extra depth by including cases in which return has not materialized. The most remarkable of these is that of a keris or traditional sword of Indonesia’s national hero Diponegoro. Where is it? In addition to library study, many heritage directors and experts have been interviewed. That makes The Return of Cultural and Historical Treasures: The Case of the Netherlands an indispensable addition to the literature about return by the Netherlands of Nazi-spoliated art and human remains. Jos van Beurden is a Dutch research journalist who has published extensively on the protection and endangerment of cultural and historical treasures. For the Tropenmuseum he has written Goden Graven en Grenzen: Over kunstroof uit Afrika, AziÍ en Latijns Amerika (KIT Publishers 2001).

The Return of Cultural and Historical Treasures: The Case of the Netherlands

Jos van Beurden

ISBN 978-9460221842

The Return of Cultural and Historical Treasures: The Case of the Netherlands

The return of cultural and historical treasures touches on a number of political and cultural issues, and often inspires controversy. As the world is changing, the concept of return is changing as well. The shrinking divisions between a poor South and a rich North, colonizer and colonized, and source countries and art and antique market countries impact our thinking about return. How do Dutch heritage institutions deal with this new reality, when the return of their objects or collections comes under discussion? That is the central question in this critical book.

Jos van Beurden Tropenmuseum

9 789460 221842


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