This site is a Work in Progress. The data you add, will be deleted.Read about the current status and roadmap of this project.


When can I start using the Datahub?

The Datahub, consisting of the Research Application and the Dataset Browser, is currently in development. However, it can already be visited and explored. It is likely, that in the current state of the Datahub, one will run into bugs and errors, so please keep this in mind while navigating through the platform. In the beginning of the second quarter of 2024, the team will launch the first real version of the hub.

What information can I find in the Datahub?

In the Datahub, collections are searchable with (information about) objects that fall within the following criteria:

  • They were made and/or acquired in former Dutch trading posts and colonies;
  • They were made and/or acquired in former trading posts, colonies and mandated territories of other modern colonial powers;
  • They were acquired outside the above areas but in a context or as a result of colonial unequal power relations;
  • They were acquired after formal decolonisation, but with a likely earlier history of being made and/or acquired in a colonial context.

Besides objects from a colonial context, objects with a colonial context are also kept in the Netherlands. These are objects that were not made in the colonised world, but do refer to it, for instance through the material, through the people and landscapes depicted, the style and imagery in which they were made or the functions they had. It is not the aim of the datahub to include these objects as well.

What are 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'.

  • 1598-1872: Ghana (Dutch Gold Coast)
  • 1603-1945: Indonesia (Dutch East Indies)
  • 1614-1664: The United States of America - New York, New Jersey, Delaware (New Netherland)
  • 1616-1815: Guyana - Essequibo, Demerara, Berbice
  • 1624-1662: Taiwan (Formosa)
  • 1630-1654: Brazil - Pernambuco (Dutch Brazil)
  • 1638-1710: Mauritius
  • 1640-1796: Sri Lanka (Ceylon)
  • 1641-1825: Malaysia - Malacca
  • 1652-1806: South Africa (Cape Colony)
  • 1664-1975: Suriname

A more complete list of formerly Dutch colonies and trading posts can be found on page 121 and 122 of Colonial Collection and a Recognition of Injustice.

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 of collection-managing institutions.

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 of origin that they do not know what is present in The Netherlands concerning colonial collections. Such opacity is due to a number of factors, ranging from a lack of acquaintance with data‐management systems used in The Netherlands, to the fact that the language and terminology used in documentation is not accessible to all. Moreover, in the past, collection-managing institutions have not always been open to share information and data.

Accessibility may also 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, and their associated archives, can also be distributed across different institutions. The dispersed nature of such data can contribute to its opaqueness.

How do you intend to "measure" accessibility?

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

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

  • a) "Language" scored with Dutch (value 0), English (value 1), and Language of Origin (value 2).
  • b) "Collection State" scored with non-Digitised (value 0), Digitised (value 1).
  • c) "Format" scored with Image (value 0), Transcription (value 1), Structured Data (value 2), Linked Data (value 3).
  • d) Etc.

These metrics make the extent to which a dataset is accessible somewhat tangible. They can be measured manually through forms, or automated processes. The results will show a part of the project's progress and are reported to stakeholders. Moreover, they help data providers (museums, archives, etc.) to prioritize curation and enrichment activities that directly benefit the accessibility of their datasets.