Pressing Matter: ownership, value and the question of colonial heritage in museums

NWO announced that the project ‘Pressing Matter: Ownership, Value and the Question of Colonial Heritage in Museums will receive funding (3.5 Mill) from the Netherlands National Research Agenda under the rubric of Living Pasts.

‘Pressing Matter’ investigates the potentialities of ‘colonial objects’ to support societal reconciliation with the colonial past and its afterlives, and reconcile conflicting claims by different stakeholders for these objects within museums. The project will develop and test new models of ownership, value and return that may enable futures that are more equitable. It will be carried out by a consortium consisting of researchers from universities (including UU), museums and societal organizations. The programme is chaired by Prof. Dr Susan Legêne (VU) and Prof Dr. Wayne Modest (VU). For more information, see articles in Trouw and NRC.

Prof. dr. Birgit Meyer (Religiewetenschap)
Prof. dr. Birgit Meyer. Foto Ed van Rijswijk

Heritage and the Question of Conversion

Together with Prof Dr. Peter Pels (RUL), Birgit Meyer (UU, Religious Studies) will lead one of the eight work packages, titled Heritage and the Question of Conversion, which explores objects acquired through missionary collecting as a form of voluntary dispossession. Next to Meyer and Pels, two postdocs (to be based at UU) will conduct comparable research on objects collected by Catholic and Protestant missionaries in former Dutch Papua as well as different parts of Africa that form part of collections in the National Museum van Wereldculturen and the Wereldmuseum. This working package is closely related to the ‘Religious Matters in an Entangled World’ programme chaired by Meyer, and corresponds with her new research on a collection of legba-figures and charms assembled by missionaries of the Norddeutsche Mission among the Ewe-people on the West African coast in the early 20th century. In her recent blog (in Dutch) in the Utrecht Religie Forum she writes about this new research. 

Want to know more about this project? Please contact Birgit Meyer ( for more information.