Sunday 02 April 2023

Amsterdam museum ditches ‘Golden Age’ in favour of inclusive ’17th century’

Photo: Amsterdam Museum

The Amsterdam Museum, which chronicles the history of the city in its exhibitions, has decided to ditch the term Gouden Eeuw (Golden Age) because the term is not representative enough of life the 17th century, the museum announced on its website.

The museum stated that the term Golden Age, denoting the rise of economic and military might in the Netherlands, has long been used as shorthand for national pride with such positive associations as peace, prosperity and innocence.

‘But the term denies the negative of the period, such as forced labour, poverty, war and the slave trade. It is history told from the perspective of the powerful,’ curator Tom van der Molen said.

Van der Molen said many stories have not been told and that each generation and each person has to be able to contribute their stories. ‘The dialogue about this needs space and the term Golden Age is restricting that space,’ he said.

From now on everything to do with the Golden Age will be labelled ‘17th century’, including the museum’s  permanent display of portraits which will now be called ‘group portraits from the 17th century’


Reactions to the museum’s decision have been largely negative so far, with VVD MP Zohair El Yassimi saying the musem ‘lost the plot completely’. ‘First we had to change the street signs, then the statues had to go and now the whole Golden Age is for the scrapheap? It’s a bit cowardly to want to rewrite history,’ he told the Telegraaf.

CDA MP Michel Rog said the name change is ‘a hyper-correct idea by the Amsterdam elite and too ridiculous for words’.

‘Erasing the past is nonsense,’ he said.  ‘Simply explain that the Golden Age also had its negative sides, there’s nothing wrong with that. And there is nothing wrong with a bit of national pride either.’

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam said it will keep using the term. ‘It refers to a period in history of great prosperity,’ director Taco Dibbets told broadcaster NOS. ‘But we do recognise there are dark sides. The Rijksmuseum approaches hstory from different perspectives. Next year we are mounting an exhibition on slavery.’

The Amsterdam Museum is organising a symposium on September 29 at which the issue will be discussed.

Thank you for donating to

The team would like to thank all the generous readers who have made a donation. has been free for 16 years, but without the financial backing of our readers, we would not be able to provide you with fair and accurate news and features about all things Dutch. Your contributions make this possible.

If you have not yet made a donation, but would like to, you can do so via Ideal, credit card or Paypal.