Cultural goods from a colonial context

The colonial past has left its mark in the public collections of museums and other cultural institutions. In a context of colonial rule, cultural, historical and religious objects have been taken from their original owners. Some of these objects were looted, confiscated, or handed over or sold under duress.  Many of these objects are still in Dutch institutions today. This is what we refer to as collections from colonial contexts.

Cooperation with countries of origin is vital for handling objects from a colonial context carefully and justly. It is an important step towards redressing historical injustice. International cooperation provides the context for a collective process for the possible return of these cultural objects. Requests for restitution are submitted to an advisory committee. When it is clear that the objects were either dispossessed involuntarily or are of special significance for the country of origin, the decision is made in favour of return. Objects are then returned to the country of origin.

Information and advice

The Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed | RCE) contributes to the implementation of this restitution policy by exchanging knowledge within and outside the Netherlands, as well as by providing advice and practically applicable knowledge to collection managers. The RCE furthermore manages a part of the Dutch State Collection.

By gathering and disseminating information, the RCE aims to offer maximum support to international cooperation, provenance research and the return of objects from a colonial context.

If you have any questions, requests for information or advice, please contact our Infodesk.