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.
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.
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.
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
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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.
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.
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.
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
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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.
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.
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
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