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Within the Mutual Cultural Heritage Programme 2013-2016, there are three important themes around which subjects and activities can revolve: migration, trade and water. These themes can be seen as part of the Dutch (historic) influence and representation abroad, especially in countries with a shared past, such as Australia, United States, Suriname, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Russia, Brazil, India, South Africa and Japan.

You can look here for an overview of all the projects, organisations and experts related to all three themes.



Migration is the movement of people and the cultures, ideas and objects with them. The Dutch caused and stimulated migration from and to the Netherlands, but also contributed to the forced and voluntary migration of many other nationalities.

View of New Amsterdam, nowadays New York, by Vingboons

Dutch expansion and colonialism

Starting from the 17th century, Dutch expansion and colonialism caused migration all over the world. A number of migrants consisted of officials, labourers and entrepreneurs who chose to live in the Dutch trade posts and colonies, such as Batavia, Cape Town and New Amsterdam. These people moved voluntarily because they were looking for fortune and riches.

But there was also a larger, forced migration. The Dutch bought slaves in Africa which they sold and put to work in the colonies of the East and West Indies, such as Indonesia and Suriname. The slave trade that was abolished in 1863, was partly replaced by contract labour. Contract labourers were mostly foreign nationalities that accepted a labour contract in which they pledged to work for a certain employer abroad for a number of years for a very low wage. In this period, large Hindustani and Javanese groups migrated to Suriname to work on the plantations. A project like Life stories of Surinamese from Javanese origin in the Diaspora explores the heritage of this forced migration and reflects on the process and life that followed after.

Holambra, Brazil

Hopeful migration

While forced migration lessened, the search for a better future in a foreign country increased. A project like Research guide on Dutch Migration to Brazil was initiated to bring the background of this migration to Brazil to light. In the southern Brazilian states, some Dutch customs and traditions can still be found. A project like Campaign exhibition: Exploring the Dutch-Brazilian mutual heritage explores the mutual heritage between those two countries and tries to preserve it.

Old Dutch colonial buildings in Indonesia

During the second half of the 20th century the Netherlands experienced two contradicting migration flows. On the one hand, a number of Dutch people decided to leave the Netherlands for other parts of the world. World War II had devastated Europe and - encouraged by their government - many people left the Netherlands for countries such as the United States, Australia or Canada, in hopes of a better future. On the other hand, people also migrated to Europe. Between 1922-1975, during a period of decolonisation, many of the officials who worked in the colonies returned to their home country. They were joined by the locals who worked for them. Notably after 1950, the migration caused by decolonisation grew. During this period, many natives from the former colonies migrated to the former ‘motherland’, hoping for something better. The Indonesian National Revolution in 1945 led to the migration of many Dutch-Eurasians from Indonesia to the Netherlands.

Traces in the present

Traces of migration can be found in both tangible and intangible heritage: from objects, architecture, archives, landscapes, customs, traditions and (oral) stories to the descendants themselves. EMPIRE is a good example of a migration project, as it documents the traces around the world where the legacy of Dutch colonialism is still evident, using different storytelling techniques. It explores and defines how conditions of the past continue to influence lives in the present, and therefore are still relevant.

Migration project examples

Migration projects, experts and organisations

To search through projects, organisations and experts related to Migration, you can continue here.

Projects Type Category Discipline Activity Experts involved Organisations involved
5 Dutch Days 5 Boroughs Public awareness & Presentations Event Susan de Vries
Felicia Mayro
Sean E. Sawyer
Dyckman Farmhouse Museum
Historic House Trust of New York City
Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum & Education Center
A Transatlantic Sprachbund? The structural relationships between Gbe Languages of Ghana and the Suriname Creoles Research Intangible heritage Linguistics Publication F.K. Ameka
J.A.B.K. Essegbey
M.P.G.M. Mous
E. Aboh
H. den Besten
A. Bruyn
J. Arends
P.C. Muysken
N.S.H. Smith
Margot van den Berg
Radboud University Nijmegen, Faculty of Arts
University of Amsterdam Faculty of Humanities
University Leiden, Research School CNWS
A new life for historic cultural landscapes: examples of creative policy plans Public awareness & Presentations Built heritage Heritage management Event Benedict Goes
Peter van Dun
Michael Doortmond
Hasti Tarekat
Frank Dragtenstein
Michel Newton
Dirk Laporte
Stephen Small
Claus-Peter Echter
Annelien Kappers
Philip Dikland
Stephen Fokké
ICOMOS Shared Built Heritage
Royal Dutch Embassy, Surinam
AOTM: "Connections: 400 years of Australian-Dutch maritime links" Conference Rupert Gerritsen Australia on the Map: A Division of the Australasian Hydrographic Society
Australian National Maritime Museum
Africa in the Picture filmfestival Training and Education Intangible heritage Event Heidi Lobato
Bart Luirink
Barbara Martijn
Lisia Pires
Marlon Reina
Laetitia de Leede
Muñeca Moll
Kim van Arendonk
Mireille Reuling
Marco Schuurman
Peter Groeneveld
Rudy Chotoe
Abdellatif Benfaidoel
Sasha Dees
Jean van Lingen
Judith van der Kooij
Africa in the Picture
… further results


With the Dutch East India Company (VOC) and the Dutch West East India Company (WIC), the Netherlands once ruled the sea and worldwide trade. This trade caused the Netherlands to share a past with countries all over the globe. From archives in Indonesia, sugar plantations in Suriname, a trading post in Japan, fortresses in Brazil and Ghana, to everyday products in the Netherlands: both trade relations and colonial relations have left significant traces in the present. This makes trade an important theme within Mutual Cultural Heritage.

Dutch trading post in Hirado, Japan

Dutch expansion

Towards the end of the 16th century, the Netherlands started to expand its trading empire to territories in Asia, Africa and Brazil. The main motivation for this expansion being the profitable spice trade. On the peak of the mercantilist period in the 17th century, the stock exchange and bank were founded in Amsterdam, with which the Netherlands participated in and contributed to international trade and investments. Amsterdam was the place where the first freely transferable stock was printed for financing the VOC.

Cinnamon spice from the East Indies


From the desire to trade and become wealthy, to being able to buy cheaper products or more exclusive ones: trade affected different layers of Dutch society. It brought about many effects that we can see as positive. Even now, the Netherlands serves as a transit port and is represented abroad by traders as well. It is logical that a country that depends on export contributed to the realisation of treaties that promote free transport.

Old Slave Lodge in Cape Town, South Africa

Slave trade

However, the successes of the Dutch trade also have a dark side, whereas trade was not limited to products, but also included the trade of people. People were sold into slavery and forced to work on the plantations, which led to the migration of large populations from Africa to the Americas. The effects of slave trade remain in effect to this day. Projects can help to increase awareness or recover more knowledge about slave trade. For example, a project like The Legacy of Slavery used a travelling exhibition with the aim to create a better understanding of slavery’s legacy in Suriname, the Dutch Antilles and Aruba. But you can also think of an undertaking like The search for the slaveship Leusden, that was organised to localise the wreck of the Dutch slave ship Leusden (1738), doing so as a joint effort between the authorities, scientific and cultural institutions of Suriname, the Netherlands, French Guyane and France. This shows that a historical and archaeological study of a ship can be combined with broader social questions about the history of slavery and slave trade.


Overseas cultural heritage, heritage built in or taken to other countries by the Dutch, or the influence from other cultures on heritage in the Netherlands – the heritage of trade can be seen all over the world. A project like The sweet and sour story of sugar explores the role of sugar in shaping the lives and cultures of communities in the Netherlands and its previous colonies.

While the Netherlands is still highly involved in international commerce, its shared heritage can serve to stimulate mutual understanding and encourage bilateral relationships.

Trade project examples

Trade projects, experts and organisations

To search through projects, organisations and experts related to Trade, you can continue here.

Projects Type Category Discipline Activity Experts involved Organisations involved
Archaeological and Anthropological Research Sta Cruz plantation and St.Juan mansion (Curaçao) Research Archaeological heritage Archaeology Research National Archaeological Anthropological Museum
Archaeological research Usscher Fort (Fort Crevecoeur) Research Archaeological heritage Archaeology Publication J.R. Anquandah Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Accra, Ghana
University of Ghana, Faculty of Social Studies
Archive of the Moravian Brethren Care & Management Digital heritage Archiving Research H.L. Leeuwenberg Utrecht Archives
Atlantic World Public awareness & Presentations Digital heritage History Publication Dirk Tang Library of Congress
National Library of the Netherlands
National Archives Netherlands
Amsterdam City Archives
Atlantic World Research Research Built heritage Archaeology Research Archaeology Program Millersville University
… further results
Replica of the Dutch ship Duyfken at Denham, Western Australia


Water has been mankind’s friend and foe alike. It is the life-sustaining source from which civilisations have evolved. The bond between the Dutch and water has always been strong. Building on it, around it, with it and against it, the Netherlands has a relation with water that shaped its cultural landscape. Typical landmarks such as polders, dikes, windmills and channels exemplify the knowledge the Dutch have on water management. Water and heritage are often connected, especially when it comes to cultural heritage the Netherlands shares with other countries.

The building of a weir for irrigation at the Palaka river (collection: Tropenmuseum)

Sailing the seas, mapping the world

Living with water offered chances for the Netherlands. As a seafaring nation it traded all over the globe. This would not have been possible without cartography. The Dutch contribution to this discipline has been of great interest. The development of cartography was important to create an understanding of the connections between city, land and water. It was the transfer of knowledge and the mapping of the world that made mobility and cultural exchange possible. As an example project that deals with this type of heritage, you can look at the Atlas of Mutual Heritage, a digital catalogue created to make images and data of the VOC and WIC accessible for research. In the future the system will be open for institutions all over the world to enrich the catalogue with visual material from multiple collections.

The cultural exchange that followed from sailing the seas and contacting different cultures plays a big role in the heritage of today. For example, The Europe-South Asia Maritime Heritage Project explores the maritime heritage between Europe and India. Not only by documenting, profiling and promoting interest in the matter, it also evaluates the impact of this exchange in diverse fields.

Dutch windmills

Heritage and water management

Being for the most part built on water, the Netherlands always had to manage water within and close to its borders as well. The Netherlands is not alone in this. As many countries still suffer from the effects of climate change, the sharing of knowledge in this field is essential. Especially the lower-lying delta areas that served as trading posts in the past, such as Jakarta, now run the risk of drowning. Urban planning, water management and creating economic value are aspects in which knowledge of the past can be used to find solutions to current problems. For example, the meeting Waterfront Jakarta - Rotterdam was organised to gain insight in the development of the Waterfront in Rotterdam (the Netherlands), to find solutions for the problems at the waterfronts of Jakarta and Manado.

In 2013, ICOMOS Netherlands organised the conference ICOMOS Conference Water and Heritage. Protecting Deltas: Heritage Helps, where the combination of heritage and water management was discussed by experts from all over the world.

With the material heritage itself also often threatened by the elements, not taking precautions can lead to the loss of significant social, historic and economic value. But then again, cultural heritage can also provide opportunities for recovery, capacity building and development.

Water project examples

Water projects, experts and organisations

To search through projects, organisations and experts related to Water, you can continue here.

Projects Type Category Discipline Activity Experts involved Organisations involved
Amsterdam Elsewhere Public awareness & Presentations Intangible heritage History Publication Marielle Hageman
Ankobra Gold Route: Common Ghanaian-Dutch Historic and Cultural Heritage in Western Ghana Training and Education World heritage Heritage management Sustainable development Michel Doortmont Ricerca & Cooperazione
Ghana Museums and Monuments Boards
University of Pavia
Ghana Tourist Board
Public Records and Archives Administration Department of Ghana (PRAAD)
University of Ghana at Legon
Groningen University
The Atlantic World and the Dutch (AWAD)
Atlas of Mutual Heritage Research Built heritage Cartography Research Martine Gosselink
Tristan Mostert
National Archives Netherlands
The Netherlands Cultural Heritage Agency
Rijksmuseum Amsterdam
National Library of the Netherlands
Avondster project Training and Education Maritime Archaeology Archaeology Capacity building Robert Parthesius
Ross Anderson
Kevin Cambridge
Jon Carpenter
Wijamunige Chandaratne
A.M.A. Dayananda
Jeremy Green
Anusha Kasturi
Menno Leenstra
Rasika Muthucumarana
Wessel Pil
Gamini Saman
Kamal de Soyza
Darshani Samanthilaka
Janake Warusavithana
K. D. Palita Weerasinghe
Amsterdam Museum
Central Cultural Fund
Mutual Heritage Centre Sri Lanka
Centre for International Heritage Activities
University of Amsterdam
Western Australian Maritime Museum
Balance of the Museum Complex including Avondster Gallery Public awareness & Presentations Archaeological heritage Museology Exposition P. L. Premathilake
W.H. Wijayapala
Nanda Wickramasingha
Senerath Dissanayaka
Martine Gosselink
Robert Parthesius
Central Cultural Fund
Department of Archaeology Sri Lanka
Centre for International Heritage Activities
Department of National Museums, Sri Lanka
… further results
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