The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has kicked off a project to remove hurtful ethnic designations in the descriptions of hundreds of thousands of objects and replace them with neutral terms. Why now? Because with the digitisation of the collection, more and more people aren’t too fond of the Rijksmuseum’s “traditional Eurocentric view” of the world, as the museum calls it. The Rijksmuseum also says that their staff is very positive about the changes, which has not led to any discussions, contrary to what often plays out in the Dutch media.
A Dutch word like ‘neger’, which ranges in meaning depending on context (‘negro’, ‘nigger’, ‘black man’, etc.), can be seen in thousands of artwork descriptions as ‘bosneger’, which isn’t too far from ‘jungle bunny’, but literally means ‘jungle/forest negro’. For example, a ‘black negro girl’ (why the tautology?) on a early 20th century photograph by Hendrik Doyer is now called ‘Surinamese girl’. The goal is to remove the emphasis on colour as the defining factor and it sounds good so far. Next to disappear will be all the slurs for tribes from around the world.