Tropenmuseum - historical background

Colonial past of the Netherlands
Tropical Museum Amsterdam

Tropenmuseum was created in 1864, a year after the abolition of slavery by the Netherlands as The Colonial Museum. Its collection was more cabinet of rarities, than a museum in a modern sense. The Dutch - a nation of talented merchants and brave explorers, as almost all Western nations established in the 17th and 18th century the colonies in Africa, Asia and South America. Their approach to the colonialism has been always ambivalent, with many examples of Dutch writers and personalities taking the side of the colonized peoples.


A big effort has been made since 1949 (the recognition by the Netherlands of independence of Indonesia) to part with the colonial past. Especially after the New Charter for the Kingdom of the Netherlands (1956), a policy of decolonization has been pursued not only by giving independence to all its former territories, but also by helping them to develop and by allowing many of the overseas citizens to settle in the Netherlands.

Cultural exchange

Today the Tropenmuseum is a part of the Royal Tropical Institute, the scientific institute for intercultural research. Institute main task is to collaborate with other countries in an exchange of knowledge about other cultures and to bring this knowledge to the Dutch society, especially to the young people.

Tropenmuseum aims

At present the museum helps similar institutions in 14 distant countries to catalogue their collections and initiates programs like Museum Bus in the Republic of Benin, to bring their collections closer to their own populations.

The Dutch are one of the nations which help the most to the people in need elsewhere in the world. This help comes from all possible channels – the government, private organizations and millions of individuals. A massive effort has also been made to change the perception of other, poor countries and their inhabitants, especially among the new generations. Tropenmuseum is a part of this effort.