The Story of the Netherlands-Indies: The Use of Photographs in the Centre of Indies Remembrance
On 16 August 2010 the permanent mixed-media exhibition The Story of the Netherlands-Indies (hereafter The Story) was opened in the Centre of Indies Remembrance (Indisch herinneringscentrum, Arnhem, The Netherlands, hereafter IHC). Located at Bronbeek, a home for elderly Royal Dutch-Indies Army (KNIL) veterans that includes a military museum, The Story was developed by the IHC and the military Museum Bronbeek together. As such, it narrates 350 years of Dutch colonialism in the Netherlands-Indies and thereby merges military colonial history and Indies-Dutch remembrance of the colonial past. Launched one day after the annual commemoration of the ending of the Second World War in the Pacific, the opening was an important and timely event for the memory community of Indies-Dutch migrants in the Netherlands. The exhibition is not only a new addition to the wide range of intricate and conflicting memories relating to the Dutch colonial past, it also helps to shape the IndiesDutch community, specifically through the extensive use of photographs, which become in the context of IHC, what media expert José van Dijck has coined ‘mediated memories’ (Van Dijck 2007). She argues that mediated memories can be seen as the ‘activities and objects we produce and appropriate by means of media technologies, for creating and re-creating a sense of past, present, and future of ourselves in relation to others’ (2007: 21). Pointing out that media always shape our memories and vice versa, Van Dijck asserts that media and memory are neither separate entities, nor passive go-betweens. The mutual interactions of memories and, for instance, photographs shape the way in which we build up and retain a sense of individuality and community, of identity and history (2007: 4, 16). The Story can thus be regarded as an act of remembrance and identity-formation produced and appropriated in the present by means of photographs (see Bal et al. 1999: vii). In this chapter I discuss how the use of photographs in the exhibition works to shape a story of the colonial past, including Indies-Dutch collective memory.