This website is a work in progressRead about the current status and roadmap of this project.


What is the difference between objects from a colonial context, and objects with a colonial context?

We use the term 'Objects from a colonial context' for items that were:

Next to these items we also recognise objects that are kept in the Netherlands with a colonial context. These are made in the Netherlands but are connected to its colonial history.

What are the Dutch colonies and trading posts?

Dutch colonial influence has changed significantly over the period of almost four centuries. The following areas have been part of the 'Dutch Empire'.

A more complete list of formerly Dutch colonies and trading posts can be found on page 127 and 128 of the Concalvez-report.

What is Opacity?

While objects or collections may have been acquired through single acts of exchange, whether through purchase or military looting, they, like their archives, are spread across different institutions. As such, they are less accessible or legible to anyone outside the museum.

Importantly, this inaccessibility leads to a problem of opacity: what is included in or excluded from the category of colonial collections, and how to access the archives, is not entirely clear, even for the experienced researchers.

Indeed, we have often heard from researchers from countries from which objects originated that they do not know what we have. Such opacity is due to a number of factors, ranging from a lack of acquaintance with our data‐management systems, to the fact that the language and terminology used in our documentation is not accessible to all.

Accessibility may be hindered by the inadequate or incomplete documentation of collections, or by the lack of or limited digitization of collections. Especially in cases where collections are extensive, such as in ethnographic museums, large data sets – in both number of objects and available archival data – present challenges to the easy and efficient access to these collections.

Objects collected within the colonial context, with their associated archives, can be distributed across different institutions. The dispersed nature of such data can contribute to its opaqueness. Access may further be curtailed by even more mundane yet important causes, such as the language in which data is available.

How do you intend to "measure" Opacity?

Opacity and transparency are not a toggle but a continuous scale, one cannot state that 'dataset X is opaque' or 'dataset Y is transparent'. To define Opacity and Transparency, the project will establish metrics that relate to relevant and solvable hindrances. The combination of these metrics describes the current state of Opacity/Transparency for an object, collection, and even the sum of collections. Metrics for the evaluation of the FAIRness of data11 (Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, Reusable) will serve as a basis for this objective, as will the CARE principles for indigenous data governance.12

Examples of metrics that can be selected to describe Opacity are:

These metrics make Opacity/Transparency tangible. They can be measured manually through forms, or through automated processes. The results will show the project's progress and are reported to stakeholders. Moreover, they help data providers (museums, archives, etc.) to prioritise curation and enrichment activities that directly benefit the opacity of their datasets.