Netherlands museum removing 'offensive' language from online collection

One of the Netherlands' most famous museums, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, is removing language from its digital art titles and descriptions that could be considered offensive, such as “negro,” “Indian,” and “dwarf,” The New York Times reports.

The “Adjustment of Colonial Terminology” project comes in part as a response to “complaints about specific objects or exhibitions being offensive,” Raphael Roig, senior programs officer and permanent secretary of the ethics committee of the International Council of Museums, told the newspaper.

The undertaking, which involves all 12 curators of the museum’s history department, has been in the works for a few years but went into full effect last month, the museum’s history department head Martine Gosselink told local Amsterdam media.

“The point is not to use names given by whites to others,” Gosselink told The New York Times. “We Dutch are called kaas kops, or cheeseheads, sometimes, and we wouldn’t like it if we went to a museum in another country and saw descriptions of images of us as ‘kaas kop woman with kaas kop child,’ and that’s exactly the same as what’s happening here.”

Of the museum’s 1.1 million objects, about a quarter have been digitized. 200 of those have been altered in the past month, Gosselink also told the newspaper.

While the Rijiksmuseum has received support for the project, others have criticized it for being too politically correct.

“Some people are angry with us,” Gosselink told The New York Times. “But in the Netherlands alone, there are a million people deriving from colonial roots, from Suriname, from the Antilles, from Indonesia, and so on that basis alone it’s important to change this.”