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Survival of Amsterdam’s Tropenmuseum uncertain after subsidy stop

DutchAmsterdam.nl — The internationally renowned ethnological museum the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam is being threatened with closure.

After 2012 the government of the Netherlands will no longer subsidise the museum and the associated Royal Tropical Institute (KIT).

Deputy Foreign Minister Ben Knapen told public broadcaster NOS that he could no longer defend that development money was being spent on a museum in Amsterdam, rather than abroad in developing countries:

Of the museum’s 50 million euros annual budget, 20 million is currently subsidized by the Dutch government. The remainded comes from entrance fees, commercial partnerships, foreign government and international organisations.

Radio Netherlands, itself severely affected by a 70 percent reduction of its subsidy, says:

The news about the funding cut, which broke on Wednesday, hit the century-old institute hard. The institute’s director Lejo Schenk says that cutting the subsidy is undermining ‘the marketing of the Netherlands, Inc.’. He adds that ‘people who are posted abroad come to the Tropical Institute to prepare for their stay in another country’. According to Schenk the KIT’s work is a major part of Dutch development aid.

Schenk says that the Royal Tropical Institute may investigate whether closer ties are possible between KIT and other museums focusing on non-Western cultures, such as the Africa Museum and the Ethnographic Museum in Leiden.

Contrary to government policy

The Nederlandse Museum Vereniging (Netherlands Museums Association) says it is surprised by the proposed cuts.

Director Siebe Weide believes that the imminent closure of the Tropenmuseum is contrary to government policy, which aims to protect museums and cultural heritage in the Netherlands.

The current government’s coalition agreement states that the country’s common heritage should be respected.

“I miss a comprehensive government policy. Knapen must coordinate his policy with that of State Secretary for Culture, Halbe Zijlstra,” says Meadow.

“Knapen now threatens to close a museum with an international position and a special collection that says a lot about our country and our past. I think this can not be right. If this possible, then I hold my breath for the museums funded by the Ministries of Justice and Security, Defence and Health, Welfare and Sport.”

The Raad van Cultuur (Council for Culture) — which advises the Dutch government and parliament regarding museums operated by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science — also regrets that the Foreign Minister is cutting funds for culture.

General Secretary Jeroen Bartelse says, “This way the budget cuts for culture are even more severe then they already were. This is in addition to the culture cuts of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science.”

The Dutch government has introduced a series of far-reaching austerity measures intended to deal with the aftermath of the financial crisis, to return the public finances to balance, to ensure financial sector stability and to strengthen the economy.

Among other things the planned budget cuts affect childcare, healthcare, public housing, public transport and subsidies for cultural institutions.

More about the Tropenmuseum
Museums in Amsterdam

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