End of Golden Age: Dutch museum bans term from exhibits


One of the Netherlands’ most prestigious museums has fuelled fresh debate over the the country’s colonial past by deciding it will no longer use the term Golden Age to describe the 17th century when it was at its pinnacle as a military and trading power. The Amsterdam Museum said that in an attempt to be “polyphonic and inclusive”, the common description of the century in which the Netherlands bestrode the world stage would be banned from its exhibits.

The museum said the term Gouden Eeuw did not do justice to those who were exploited during the era in which the Netherlands was at the forefront of scientific discovery and artistic achievement.

Tom van der Molen, the curator of the 17th century at the museum, said: “The Golden Age occupies an important place in Western historiography that is strongly linked to national pride. But positive associations with the term such as prosperity, peace, opulence and innocence do not cover the charge of historical reality in this period. The term ignores the many negative sides of the 17th century such as poverty, war, forced labour and human trafficking.” The museum said the term would not be used in future exhibitions and that the name of the museum’s permanent collection will be changed from Dutch in the Golden Age to Group Portraits of the 17th Century. The treatment of the Dutch colonial period in public spaces has become a matter for keenly contested debate in recent years with street names changed and questions raised about the relevance of statues celebrating military heroes of the past. (The Guardian)…[+]