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11/1 Jurists want to stay in Oudemanhuispoort

8/2 Mayor’s portrait

8/2 Websites for social cohesion

7/2 Spreading tourism proceeds with difficulty

7/2 GroenLinks on districts: Be a man

6/2 Zuideramstel opens new office on Sabbath

5/2 The truth about integration

4/2 Wilders has little support on Amsterdam

3/2 Elite involved in neighbourhood

2/2 Johnnie Walker avoids taxes in Amsterdam

1/2 Rotterdam to tinker with district councils as well

31/1 Wooden rowing boats to disappear from Amstel

31/1 ZeeburgTV launched

27/1 Privacy activists to mess up loyalty card system

27/1 A few were still coughing, but that was an act

27/1 Chrisis in de Baarsjes

26/1 Youth have positive view of districts

24/1 Action groups call for Carmel and Jaffa boycott

24/1 PvdA members dismiss plan for districts

23/1 KLM takes on crisis with new uniform

23/1 District office not squatted

21/1 Merge districts

20/1 Closing squat bar Vrankrijk not necessary

20/1 Cleaners welcome new Schiphol director

18/1 Palestine at the Jewish Historical Museum

18/1 What is the right size for a district?

17/1 PvdA Oost against fewer districts

16/1 Committee: 7 districts by 2010

15/1 Soldiers may attend Afghanistan debate after all

15/1 Bait bike leads to arrest

14/1 Youth for Christ to republish vacancies

13/1 Paintings of the Zuidas

13/1 New Youth for Christ contoversy

11/1 Social cohesion initiative raises eyebrows

10/1 Fewer districts in 2010

10/1 Zuidas: People feel that we are losers

9/1 Fun on the ice - but not for all

9/1 Supermarket coupon fraud thwarted

9/1 I Amsterdam must remain exclusive

8/1 Use term Apartheid in every discussion

8/1 No city kiosk in Amsterdam yet

7/1 Snow

7/1 Fatima Elatik to run Zeeburg

7/1 Municipal managers to return to shop floor

4/1 Police: take photo of strange people

3/1 Gaza protest criticises politicians

1/1 Thousands to protest against attacks on Gaza

1/1 Mustapha Laboui leaves district council


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Let Arnhem have national museum

20 May 2007 - Alderwoman Carolien Gehrels (PvdA) finds that the new National Historic Museum should go to Amsterdam, but Arnhem deserves it more. Also, the risk of nationalistic bragging seems smaller here than in the Hague.

The plan to create a National Historic Museum (NHM) is not new, but only since the rise of right-wing populist Pim Fortuyn has it gained serious support. The multicultural society had failed, it was generally held. Instead, everybody was talking about Dutch values.

“Since the Fortuyn-revolt, there has been a search for the glue that would restore cohesion and morals to our society”, wrote historian and TV presenter Hans Goedkoop in Trouw last year. “Politicians from left to right - a bit more to the right - discovered history as the core of our formation into good citizens. A formation that would make us ‘proud’ of our country again”.

PM Jan-Peter Balkenende (CDA) resorted to history to defend himself against criticism of his policies - albeit somewhat awkwardly: “I do not understand why you are so negative and tedious about it. Let us be happy together. Optimistic. Let us say: the Netherlands can do it again: that VOC-mentality [he refers to the Dutch East India Company of the 17th century]. Looking beyond the boundaries. Dynamism! Right?”

The support for a NHM fits well with this renewed appreciation of national history. The museum has its supporters mainly among conservative politicians who want to strengthen the Dutch identity as a beacon in a time of individualisation, globalisation and migration.

Originally, seemed that the museum would be located in the Hague, but the new minister Ronald Plasterk (PvdA) has now asked Amsterdam and Arnhem to submit proposals as well, apparently in an effort to free the initiative of its nationalistic aura.

At the moment, the city hall of the Hague features an exhibition on admiral Michiel de Ruyter, who is celebrated as the founder of the Marine Corps. The Defence Department sponsors the exhibition. “The websites and telephone numbers you can use to volunteer to fight the Axis of Evil anywhere in the world are posted next to it”, the VPRO’s history website reported.

Against this background, it is understandable that Plasterk is hesitant to trust the Hague with the NHM. Amsterdam would seem a safer choice. However, it is debatable whether the capital deserves the museum.

Whereas the Hague has already presented a design for a building and Arnhem has made elaborate plans including an estimate of the costs involved, Amsterdam only has some general ideas, and no intention to spend any money on them.

If we are to believe het Parool, alderwoman Gehrels assumed that the 12 million euro a year loot had already been hauled in. “We were asked”. And, laughing: “A diva does not volunteer”.

Plasterk’s arriving a bit late for his appointment at the Concertgebouw was not a problem: “You do not really think I need an hour to explain to him why that museum of his should go to Amsterdam? One look out of the window will tell him all he needs to know”.

For years, the PvdA has been part of the opposition in national politics. The government sort of ignored Amsterdam, while giving preferential treatment to Rotterdam. The PvdA has only just returned to the government, and Amsterdam expects to automatically get its way again.

Parool journalist Marcel Wiegman called this ‘Amsterdam arrogance’. That is an attitude that should not be encouraged by having the NHM fall in the city’s lap.

Arnhem represents the other extreme. It would have preferred to divide the NHM among the three candidate cities, a suggestion Plasterk dismissed as ‘provincial modesty’. Second choice was a historic museum connected to the Arnhem Openluchtmuseum, an open-air folk museum.

In view of Arnhem’s modesty, the risk of nationalistic bragging seems small here. All in all, the province town is a fine choice for the NHM.

Dirk Kloosterboer

Next Wednesday, Felix Meritis organises an international debate on the NHM. Illustration: Openluchtmuseum (photo Quistnix/Wikipedia).


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