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Culture Council gives negative recommendation regarding Tropenmuseum Junior

The Culture Council has advised the Junior Minister for Culture to stop structural OCW subsidy for Tropenmuseum Junior (TMJ). TMJ gathers material and immaterial collections from non-Western cultures. Its expositions include objects, stories and knowledge about other cultures, tailored to attract children in the ages of 6 to 12.

The Council says in its recommendation that the theatrical productions and educational function of TMJ are of 'high quality'. According to the Council, however, the museum's activities are not sufficiently museum-like, are not of national importance, no longer serve as an example, and should be fully incorporated into the Tropenmuseum itself. What is more, the 'dress-up method' used in the current museum education is open to discussion: 'whether this renders the desired identification among the target group is questionable'.

Annemies Broekgaarden, head of TMJ, calls the advice 'incomprehensible'. She says: 'the activities are certainly museum-like'. In a writ of objection submitted to the Council, she asserts: 'What we deal with is immaterial heritage. This means that we have a different relationship with the public and use different means of transfer than museums that are object-oriented. The Tropenmuseum would not question, as the Council does, whether 'getting dressed up is old fashioned', but rather whether the approach used by TMJ contributes to enhancing museums' knowledge and expertise with reference to transfer techniques that protect the immaterial heritage.'

Regarding the assertion of no longer serving as an example, the writ says: 'Is an example merely an example if it is copied exactly, or may it also be a permanent source of inspiration? TMJ is still welcoming museum colleagues from both the Netherlands and other countries who come to be inspired by its working methods.'

Twenty percent of TMJ's budget is received as OCW subsidy. The rest is already incorporated into KIT Tropenmuseum, which is subsidised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. If the OCW subsidy is no longer available, TMJ cannot guarantee that it will remain fully open. 'While the demand is greater than the supply,' according to Broekgaarden. 'We have already had to say 'no' to thirty schools this year.'

Annemiek Leclaire

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