The Netherlands return colonial archives to Suriname


A post by Peter Jordens.

On January 19, 2017, the Minister of Education, Culture and Science and the National Archivist of the Netherlands will hand over a final archive box to the Director of the National Archives of Suriname. This symbolic act will mark the completion of the ‘Returning Archives to Suriname’ project. As part of this project, the National Archives of the Netherlands digitized 800 meters of colonial archival records belonging to Suriname.

Between 1916 and 1975, the public records of Suriname used to be shipped to the Netherlands. The poor state of the records and the lack of a proper depository in Suriname were the reasons for placing the collections in the custody of the Netherlands. The archives always remained the property of Suriname. These archives tell the story of the colonial relationship between the Netherlands and Suriname – a history that lasted more than three centuries. The documents date from 1667 to 1975, the year in which Suriname became independent.

In 2009, the Netherlands agreed to a request from the Government of Suriname to return the archives to Suriname where they were produced and where they belong. However, before this could happen, both parties had to meet certain conditions. Suriname built an appropriate depository, modernized their Public Records Act, and trained archival staff. The Netherlands wished to keep the collections for the benefit of the large Surinamese community in the Netherlands and for the Dutch research community. It was therefore decided to digitize the collections. The ‘Returning Archives to Suriname’ project was created for this purpose.

The more than 5.5 million scans are now available to everyone via Mr. Maurits Hassankhan, who was Suriname’s Minister of Internal Affairs in 2009, says: “In Suriname the prevailing thought has been that the return of these archives represents the return to Suriname of its historical memory.”

Sources (all in Dutch):, and

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