Learning Center
Plans & pricing Sign in
Sign Out




More Info
									Ladies and Gentlemen,

First of all I would like to congratulate the Society of Antiquaries of London on their
Tercentenary and to thank them for kindly inviting the Koninklijke Nederlandse
Oudheidkundige Bond, the Royal Dutch Antiquarian Society, to this colloquium.
It is a pleasure and an honour to be here today and we wholeheartedly support your idea to
initiate a more formal network for collaboration and joint initiatives.
I think there is a lot to gain there.

In comparison to the 300 years of SAL, KNOB is only a mere 109 years old. Nevertheless,
when looking at your website, you are far more modern regarding the participation of women.
In our case, it wasn’t until the 1950’s that a woman entered the board! Your fellows’ analysis
looks very familiar: elderly gentlemen spring to mind at KNOB too.

Our Society was established in January 1899 out of a growing concern for the national
cultural heritage. Interesting detail is the fact that its first meeting was hosted by K O G, the
Royal Society of Antiquaries from 1858, represented this morning by Frans Grijzenhout at
today’s colloquium.

By the end of the 18th century the poor economic situation had led to major impoverishment
and decline, which was also reflected in the ever deteriorating state of historic buildings.
Many were demolished. The idea of government responsibility in this matter was completely
absent. At the same time, partly stimulated by Napoleon’s campaigns in Egypt and the
excavations at Pompeii, interest in antiquities grew and many collections were started. In the
Netherlands this led to the foundation in 1818 of the National Museum of Antiquities in
Leiden by King Willem I. In the same year Caspar Reuvens, its first director, became the
world’s first professor of archaeology.

Although the French Revolution caused serious damage, it also raised the totally new notion
of the existence of a national cultural heritage. In 1792 the French Assemblée Nationale
declared that it did not intend to destroy historic buildings and after several decades this led
to the concept of preservation and the appointment by the French government of an
Inspector General for ancient monuments.
As you may know, from 1795 till 1815 the Netherlands were part of Napoleon’s empire.
Perhaps a bit risky to mention on British soil, but legislation is definitely one of Napoleon’s
better ideas. But even before that period, Dutch society traditionally focussed strongly on
France and continued to do so in the 19th century.

When established in 1899 KNOB aimed at promoting the joint interests of antiquarian
societies and museums by combining efforts, by trying to unify museum procedures, by
drawing the attention of both authorities and individuals to neglected and threatened heritage
and finally by fostering public understanding of cultural heritage in all walks of life.

In 1904 archaeology was explicitly included in its objectives. KNOB had and still has no
collection of its own, nor at that time individual members; only organisations and institutions
joined the new society. In short, an umbrella organization avant la lettre.
And already in 1901 the Queen became the Society’s patroness.

In order to achieve its goals
   -   meetings and antiquarian excursions were organised,
   -   data of Dutch monuments and antiquities and their condition were collected
   -   letters and petitions sent to promote adequate measures
   -   and last but certainly not least, a regular journal called Bulletin was being published,
       the first edition appearing in June 1899 and continuing till this very day. I shall turn to
       this journal later on.

Quite a substantial number of historic buildings were rescued from demolishing, as a result
of intervention by KNOB. The Society also fervently tried to prevent the famous canals in
several historic towns from being filled up. Not always successfully, but as is often the case
in history, the current policy nowadays tends towards reopening these city canals. Apparently
sometimes one just has to wait!

In the 1920’s there was also growing concern over archaeological monuments.
The society installed a committee to explore the possibility of buying an important prehistoric
site as an archaeological reservation area. However, this turned out to be impossible.
Nonetheless the Society continued to express its great concern regarding the non-existent
care of these early monuments and in 1934 presented a draft of archaeological procedures
to the government.

Right from the start in 1899 efforts were made to achieve protective legislation. However, it
took more than 60 years, until 1961, before the first, but still disappointing Monument Act
was approved. Disappointing in the eyes of KNOB, because the much needed obligation for
maintenance and care had been struck off.

In 1988 the Monument Act was revised and it took another 15 years, from 1992 until 2007, to
implement the European Treaty of Valletta or Malta for better preservation of archaeological
heritage in Dutch monument legislation.
The reason for all those delays: money, as always.

Over the last 100 years the landscape of cultural heritage institutions has changed
immensely, as was to be expected. And this of course also greatly affected KNOB and its

Our Society had always emphasized the need for this, and shortly after the Second World
War, our government finally took up its responsibility and installed two national services, one
for archaeology and one for the conservation of built monuments, both operating under the
responsibility of the Minister of Culture.

In 2006 the Netherlands Department for Conservation (RDMZ) and the National Service for
Archaeological Heritage (ROB), including the Netherlands Institute for Ship and Underwater
Archaeology (NISA), were merged to form a new organisation, called the National Service for
Archaeology, Cultural Landscape and Built Heritage (RACM). It is responsible, with others,
for managing the Netherlands’ heritage both above and below the ground and under water.
From the Middle Palaeolithic period, some 350,000 years ago, to the post-war period of
reconstruction. Whenever historic, archaeological or cultural landscape values are at stake,
the RACM is supposed to take the lead in ensuring the conservation, statutory protection,
conservation and investigation of the country’s heritage. In cases where no national or
international values are involved, the RACM lobbies other authorities and public and private
sector parties to manage our heritage in accordance with universally accepted standards.

As a result of the implementation process of the European Valletta or Malta Treaty in Dutch
legislation, a free market system in archaeology was introduced some 10 years ago, and
commercial archaeology made its way. Excavation licences were no longer restricted to
universities, the state service or city councils. Unfortunately this free market system was
introduced by the government without thoroughly scrutinizing its consequences beforehand.
The legislation process took much, much longer than expected, causing the need for a
temporary and thus very complicated system with many shortcomings, in particular with
regard to responsibilities, and thereby causing substantial damage to our irreplaceable
archaeological heritage.

It took 15 years, five subsequent ministers and several major policy changes before finally
approving this new Archaeology Act last year. I assume you all know the principles of the
Malta Treaty, so I won’t go into its details. The conservation of built monuments had already
been decentralised before and archaeology followed. In Dutch legislation town councils are
now responsible and they decide on the value, unless it turns out to be of great national or
international value, in which case the State Service RACM steps in.

There are several good things in the new system: in property and infrastructure development
archaeological values no longer trail behind. In most cases there is no longer open end
financing. The need for public understanding of the importance of archaeology as part of our
cultural heritage has become a major issue. The immense backlog in excavation reports now
has come to a halt. The bad thing is that the existing backlog, which is an European problem
as you know, still has not been solved, despite the fact that half of the backlog is found at the
depots of the State Service. Despite many efforts in which I have been personally involved
as director of the former Council for Dutch Archaeology and wide parliamentary support, the
Ministry is still unwilling to finance even a pilot project.

A good thing is that this new system will be evaluated after 4 years.
Equally important was the installation of an independent archaeology inspection service,
followed by an inspection service for built monuments, now all merged with those for
museums and archives into the Heritage Inspection Service.
To solve the selection problem, efforts are made to establish a national research agenda.
Regional research agenda’s are equally needed.

In the meantime museums, archives, monument and archaeology organisations formed their
own pressure groups to lobby their particular interests. And not one pressure group per
sector, but many subdivisions.
I sometimes wonder whether this is specifically Dutch. One only has to look at our political
system with its many political parties represented in parliament to realise how polarized
Dutch society is. And how difficult to join forces and overcome institutional interests at the
benefit of the general interest.

But back to KNOB. In 1967 its objectives had already changed into acquiring knowledge of
and promoting interest in and care of immovable Dutch monuments. Membership was no
longer restricted to institutions and organisations, individual supporters could now also join.
And by 1975 the Society counted over 2.200 members, including some 300 students. The
Society’s financial situation however, remained very delicate. This afflicted its future and still

does. Until 1979 there was no staff and no office at all and after 1979 still very limited .
Almost all activities came down on the Board and on volunteering members. Although the
bimonthly journal, workshops and excursions were much appreciated, KNOB could not quite
meet professional demands and over the years membership numbers dropped. Today there
are around a thousand members.

A few years ago the government thought to have found the answer to everything in mergers.
Whereas in the past our government issued structural grants to various independent
organizations such as KNOB, its policy now changed and these grants all came to an end by
January 2008, including those of the various umbrella organizations who were forced to
merge into a new semi-governmental sector institution, which is no longer independent of the
government and without an independent advisory role.

So now we have come to the 21st century. What are those new horizons I am referring to in
the title of my talk?
Of course, the ending after so many years of our structural grant was a severe blow and
forced us to reflect hard on the Society’s future. But sometimes a re-shuffle can be
beneficiary. Last year a new Board was formed and it was decided to go on. In this modern
world: what are our unique selling points?

Our bimonthly Bulletin, now in its 109th year and widely respected and appreciated, is the
only scientific journal in the field of conservation and research. This scientific aspect,
combined with our well attended thematic workshops and symposia is our strength. Over the
past few years and for various reasons archaeology had quite vanished in the Bulletin’s
attention. It is now decided by the board to strengthen this aspect again and extend the
variety of editors. We think this will meet the great demand, as there is no scientific Dutch
journal for archaeology, and a multi-disciplinary approach will be beneficiary.

Moreover, because of all these forced mergers and the disappearance of umbrella
organizations, KNOB is now the only independent national society aiming at enhancing the
knowledge of archaeology, architectural history, cultural landscape and built monuments and
therefore provides the only independent national forum left.
We aim at cooperating with relevant organizations, both national and international.

Obviously, this asks for a professional organisation and project financing. Our website for
instance is hopelessly out of date. By September we hope to have a completely new website.

Recently we gained ANBI-status, which means donations and legacies can be made on a
tax-free basis.
On top of our grant problems our landlord ended our contract. So by the end of
last April we moved from Amsterdam to Delft, where we accepted academic hospitality at
®MIT, the transformation division of the Faculty of Architecture at Delft University. Academic
hospitality includes housing, the use of all university facilities and outsourcing our staff on a
much needed professional basis. Continuity as an independent organization is now secured.
Content wise both parties hope to benefit. This move enables us to focus primarily on our

This was to be the end of my talk, but unfortunately a rather dramatic epilogue follows,
because on 13 May the Faculty of Architecture’s building in Delft has gone up in flames. The
whole building, 13 stories high, has come down and our inventory has been destroyed.
Fortunately, the Society’s computer was not yet in Delft, so we still have our data. Of course
this fire is an enormous tragedy for Delft University and Dutch architecture; much research is
lost and possibly the famous library is gone too.
Temporary housing has to be found for the faculty and for KNOB. But we are confident that
we shall overcome this.
Thank you for your attention.



To top