The Research Application is part of the data hub in the project 'Against Opacity'. This hub is a central access point for researchers and stakeholders from countries of origin for questions regarding colonial collections in the Netherlands. It brings together collections and objects from a colonial context present in Dutch museums and institutions. Through the research application, the user can access the data sets from these collections and get an answer to the question: what is present in The Netherlands? And how did it get there? In this way, the application supports the implementation of the Dutch policy on restitution.
Next to working on the accessibility problem of colonial collections in The Netherlands, the research application facilitates cooperation between stakeholders, communities, and researchers. This is done through features that allow users to add information, perspectives, and context to objects and collections of objects.
At the end of June 2023, the first version of the research application was made available containing all objects and persons from the data sets visible in the Dataset Browser. Users will notice that the application is very basic – although it works, it contains few features, a lot of dirty data, and a lot of comments like ‘not implemented’, ‘unknown’ etc. This is entirely by choice. The data hub team rather shows what data is available right now so that users can start giving feedback immediately, instead of waiting for improvements. Over the coming months, more and more features will be implemented, and data will be cleaned. The order and priority of the work are highly dependent on user feedback.
If you would like to have a look at the roadmap of the project, please click here. Curious to find out which data sets are currently present in the research applications? Please look at the Dataset Browser.
The consortium initiated the project 'Against Opacity' in January 2023. The goal of this project is making datasets from museums and other institutions more transparent. The datasets must contain data that contributes to provenance research of objects collected in colonial context. Opacity/Transparency is considered as any hindrance that limits users in accessing data.
The project has three work programmes: (1) building trust, (2) from data opacity to data transparency, and (3) co‐creating knowledge of the past for the present and the future. Each work programme is further divided into tasks and activities for which project proposals are submitted to the consortium.
Within the work program 'From data opacity to Data transparency' the main task is the creation of an online research guide and the data hub. This is especially important for collections distributed across different institutions. The data hub will facilitate the matching of datasets across institutions based on categories such as people, events, and geography.
In her letter to the Cabinet of 15 June 2022, titled Implementatie beleidsvisie collecties uit een koloniale context, State Secretary of Culture Dr. Gunay Uslu, set out the Dutch national framework for dealing with requests for the return of cultural objects collected during the colonial period (colonial collections).
The framework is based on the commissioned report Koloniale collecties en de erkenning van onrecht, and responds to the growing debates nationally and internationally around questions of return of objects in national collections acquired during the European colonial period.
At the core of the Dutch approach to the question of restitution of colonial objects is the question of doing justice in the present for past injustices, and of fashioning more just and equitable futures. Trust, transparency and access are key parts of the restitution process
State Secretary Uslu's letter further sets out how the Dutch government intends to respond to requests for return of objects, and underlines the need to provide a supportive environment for provenance research on these collections. Together, these pillars of the Dutch approach form a complexly entangled infrastructure of repair and relationship building that would provide support for institutions in the Netherlands and, importantly, in countries of origin, to deal with objects collected during the colonial period.
The State Secretary proposes the need for a Consortium of experts that would "maintain an overview of the commitment to provenance research in museums and within academia in the Netherlands and internationally, support the museum field in research, and provide information for questions from countries of origin."
The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science of the Netherlands requested RCE (Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands), Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, NIOD (Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies) , Bronbeek Museum (Military Museum for Dutch colonial history and the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army), and Nationaal Museum van Wereldculturen (National museum of world cultures) to form the consortium.