Amsterdam Museum discontinues use of phrase ‘golden age’

The Amsterdam Museum announced in a press release that it will discontinue using the phrase “Gouden Eeuw” (golden age) because the term does not accurately represent life for everyone in the 17th century.

According to NOS, museum curator Tom van der Molen said the expression originally intended to highlight the Netherlands as an economic and military world power during the 17th century but “the term ignores negative aspects such as poverty, war, forced labor, and human trafficking.”

While the press release concedes that the expression “the golden age” plays an important role in Western history as it is linked to national pride, the museum notes that “positive associations with the term such as prosperity, peace, wealth, and innocence” partially mask the historical reality of this period.

Additionally, the museum says the term contributes to the history of 17th century Netherlands viewed only “from the perspective of those in power.” Adding, “After all, who determines that you call a century ‘gold’ if many of our ancestors did not share in that gold and prosperity or were victim to the hunger for power and wealth in the form of exploitation, murder and slavery?”

The announcement has been received somewhat negatively by social media users as well as political figures, according to the Telegraph. VVD MP El Yassini reportedly expressed that the Amsterdam Museum has lost its way, stating, “It is quite cowardly to want to rewrite our history.” Michel Rog of the CDA called the change “actually too ridiculous for words,” saying, “erasing the past is nonsense. Just explain that the Golden Age also had negative sides. There is nothing wrong with that.”

The Amsterdam Museum’s linguistic transition reportedly involves changing every instance of the expression “Golden Age” throughout the museum as well as renaming the semi-permanent exhibit “Hollanders of the Golden Age” to “Group portraits of the 17th century”.

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam reportedly said it will continue using the term because according to director Taco Dibbits, “It refers to a period in history of great prosperity.”

Featured Image:
By Amsterdam Municipal Department for the Preservation and Restoration of Historic Buildings and Sites (bMA)


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