Advice to the minister: unconditionally return colonial ‘looted art’

The minister becomes the representative of the state who determines whether or not the goods are returned, according to the Council for Culture. It should be assisted in this by an independent advisory committee. According to the Board, a center of expertise should also be set up to investigate the origin of cultural goods in return applications and to set up a database. Museums should also investigate the provenance of their colonial cultural objects.

That provenance research is now taking a very long time, said Van Beurden and cultural historian Nancy Jouwe Eye. For example, in 1980 Sri Lanka asked for the return of the Kandy cannon, one of the showpieces in the Rijksmuseum. The gun is still in the Netherlands, but talks are now being held between Sri Lanka and the Netherlands.

“Thorough research can be unnecessarily long,” says Van Beurden. Jouwe: “I think there is a lack of will and priority, also with museums. Part of it is state property, so the government also has a role in this. Sometimes museums use that a bit to hide behind it.”

Van Beurden hopes that the long investigation duration will be adjusted and that a maximum investigation time will be agreed. “They’ve been working on one object for years, how about those hundreds of thousands of objects? Actually, you would want a relaxation, a general pardon. That if everyone knows that something is a spoil of war, there is no need for further investigation.”