Here is news that Curaçaoan scholar and curator Valika Smeulders has been chosen as head of History at the Rijksmuseum. The following post has been translated and adapted from the original—“Valika Smeulders benoemd tot hoofd geschiedenis Rijksmuseum” (Rijksmuseum)—by Peter Jordens:

The Rijksmuseum (the National Museum of the Netherlands) in Amsterdam announces that Valika Smeulders (Curaçao, 1969) will start on July 1, 2020 as Head of History at the Rijksmuseum. Smeulders has been a curator of History at the Rijksmuseum since 2017 and is currently preparing an exhibition on slavery together with a team of curators. See our previous post Rijksmuseum to Feature Exhibition on Slavery Past.

Valika Smeulders: “I am fascinated by how countries deal with their history, what parts of it they display in museums, which stories are told or not, and why. My focus is the social relevance of history, as contained in the Ghanaian word ‘sankofa’: knowledge about the past helps us navigate towards the future.”

Taco Dibbits, Director of the Rijksmuseum: “Because of Valika’s scientific background and her knowledge of museum presentations, I look forward to working with her and the History team to shape the role of the Rijksmuseum as the National Museum of art and history.

In addition to working for the Rijksmuseum, Valika Smeulders is a postdoc researcher at the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV) and owner of Pasado Presente. She is a member of the Colonial Collections Committee, the UNESCO Memory of the World Committee, the Caribbean Literature Working Group and the Committee for Kingdom Relations. In 2019, she gave the sixth biannual Rudolf van Lier Lecture at Leiden University (see our previous post Lecture: “Müzik di Zumbi: Caribbean Voices in Dutch Museums”) and received the Netherlands Black Achievement Award in the category of Education and Science.

Valika Smeulders, Biography (from KITLV): Born on Curaçao, Smeulders studied Languages and Cultures of Latin America at Leiden University and Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico. She obtained her doctorate at Erasmus University Rotterdam with a thesis on the presentation of the slavery past in Suriname, Curaçao, Ghana and South Africa. In her work she focuses on heritage, the colonial past, social diversity, representation and new audiences, bridging divides between heritage institutions, universities and community organizations.

As a curator at the Rijksmuseum she is working on the 2020 exhibition on The Netherlands and slavery. With her enterprise, Pasado Presente, she works on inclusive heritage presentations, which include historical tours on Black Pioneers and Caribbean World War II Heroes in Den Haag. Smeulders is a member of the Unesco Memory of the World Committee, the board of the Werkgroep Caraïbische Letteren and Comité Koninkrijksrelaties. In 2013 she received a Solo di Kòrsou Award issued by the Prime Minister of Curaçao for her research and work dedicated to the Curaçaoan community in the Netherlands.

[For the original Rijksmuseum press release (in Dutch), which has been translated and supplemented by Peter Jordens for Repeating Islands, go to Photo above by Andy Kleinmoedig.]

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