Geography of Empire: Update 6

This week I completed my field work, visiting Centraal and the Palace on Dam Square one more time before saying my farewells to Amsterdam. As it so happened, the Palace had just opened a new exhibit on cartographic treasures from the Golden Age, so I spent some time there as well. I learned more about the city’s 17th century role as a hub for map production, which I will include in my paper. This is certainly valuable information, as it demonstrates a longstanding consciousness of geography in the city as meaningful and something to be recorded.

Something I would like to mention here are my observations of similarities between some discussions about representations of history in geography in Amsterdam and in Virginia. One of the sites I visited was formerly called the VOC Cafe, VOC referring to the Dutch East India Company. They recently received a lot of negative feedback and ultimately decided to change their name to Cafe Schreierstoren (The following article is in Dutch: This discussion exists surrounding other named parts of the city as well. This is reminiscent of, for example, some schools in Virginia changing their names from names connected to the Confederacy. Another related discussion is that of the purpose of monuments. In Virginia, discussions regarding whether Confederate statues should be removed or left standing are widespread. A similar question was asked about the Monument Nederland-Indië when it was still a monument to Van Heutsz, a former governor general of Indonesia when it was still a Dutch colony. Van Heutsz was initially celebrated by many in the Netherlands, but his rule saw a great number of deaths of Acehnese people and critique of him already existed when the monument was unveiled. The critique grew in strength until it was finally changed to be a monument to remember the long shared history of the Netherlands and Indonesia. I am interested in the commonalities of the situations here and what they tell about the influence of spatial forms of historical memory. I expect to reflect more on this in my paper.

I am now going on vacation for a week and a half, but afterwards, I will return to the United States, and there I will finish my research, focusing on writing my paper and developing a map that highlights sites I discuss.