Independent investigation into objects with a colonial background in the Royal Collections of the Netherlands

The board of the House of Orange-Nassau Historic Collections Trust has commissioned an independent investigation into objects with a colonial background in the Royal Collections of the Netherlands. The investigation is vital to assessing the legality and legitimacy of having these objects in the collections. His Majesty King Willem-Alexander and Her Majesty Queen Máxima therefore attach great importance to this independent investigation. 

The Trust’s board, which comprises Queen Máxima (chair), Peter Schoon and Fred de Graaf, has appointed a committee to supervise the investigation. The committee will select one or more researchers to carry out the investigation, which is expected to take at least a year and a half. 
The committee is comprised of the following members:

  • Professor Rudi Ekkart (chair), art historian and former director of the RKD, the Netherlands Institute for Art History. He was also a professor of art history at Utrecht University and has chaired various investigative committees on the provenance of artwork stolen during the Second World War. 
  • Dr Valika Smeulders, head of the history department at the Rijksmuseum and member of the Council for Culture’s Advisory Committee on the National Policy Framework for Colonial Collections. She has done research on the treatment of colonial heritage and the history of slavery in the Netherlands, Suriname, Curaçao, Ghana and South Africa, and received a Black Achievement Award in the category Science and Education.
  • Dr Martin Bossenbroek, historian, former director of collections and services at the National Library of the Netherlands and former senior university lecturer in Public History at Utrecht University. He has authored various books on subjects such as the Dutch East Indies, including De wraak van Diponegoro. Begin en einde van Nederlands-Indië [The revenge of Diponegoro – the beginning and end of the Dutch East Indies], in which he discusses the Java War and the decolonisation war.

On the basis of the outcomes of the investigation, the supervisory committee will draw up recommendations, which it will present to the Trust’s board. Although the Trust’s collection is private rather than state-owned, the recommendations will be aligned as closely as possible with the criteria (some of which are still being formulated) of central government’s policy with regard to colonial collections. 

The Royal Collections of the Netherlands is the department responsible for the heritage of the House of Orange-Nassau. They conserve, manage, preserve, restore and provide access to the collections and archives entrusted to them by various private organisations. One of these is the House of Orange-Nassau Historic Collections Trusts, which has an active restoration and preservation policy with regard to cultural heritage. One of its main activities is lending objects of the collection to museums in the Netherlands and abroad. The collections are also made accessible to the public and researchers, including online access.

Government Information Service, no. 300