During a seminar at the end of 1999, members of the Dutch Association for Pacific Studies expressed the fear that Papua Heritage in ethnographic museums within the Netherlands would be lost due to budget cuts by the state.
A committee was set up with the task to investigate if Papua Heritage was indeed ‘under threat’ and if it would be possible in the long term to repatriate part of this heritage to Papua.
The conclusion of this committee was that the perceived threat, on account of budget cuts, was negligible.
It was clear, however, that there was a lot of interest in Papua itself for their cultural heritage while they had no access locally to any collection of note. In addition, the material within the Netherlands, especially the audio-visual material, was not easily accessible and it was spread across numerous institutions.
Due to the historical ties with former Dutch New Guinea, a considerable wealth of artefacts, photos, films and documents have been preserved within the Netherlands. This cultural heritage is of vital importance for preserving the diverse cultural identities of Papua.
The committee recommended to examine- if and how- material from the Dutch collection could be repatriated to Papua in the long run.
In the meantime, it would be possible for heritage material to be made accessible on the internet for interested parties in both Papua and the Netherlands.
PACE (Papua Heritage Foundation) has come about because of the work done by the committee to investigate the concerns that arose. When PACE was set up, it received support from the Van Baal Institute in Leiden, the Centre for Pacific and Asian Studies in Nijmegen, as well as from the Papua community and ex-patriots from New Guinea, that is: missionaries, district commissioners and others who worked for various government agencies.
Together they form a committed and knowledgeable group who are willing to provide time, money and expertise. The Dutch ethnographic museums and related institutions also showed a keen interest in this initiative, fairly early on.
In September 2001, PACE ( Papua Heritage Foundation) was set up with the intention of following up on the recommendations made by the committee and it started to preserve and manage Papua Heritage found within the Netherlands.
Making Papua Heritage accessible
From 2001 onwards, PACE has created an infrastructure to make Papua Heritage accessible in the Netherlands and it has gained a unique position and developed distinctive values to guide its operations.
The Papua Heritage Foundation aims to collaborate with museums and private organisations in order to make an inventory of Papua Heritage, to protect it and manage it.
The collection present in the Netherlands is made accessible through the website set up by PACE. Donated collection items are maintained according to museum standards.
By working with museums and other relevant institutions in Papua, their infrastructure is being strengthened.
As soon as the economic and political situation allows it, the donated collections are to be repatriated to Papua.
Pace aims to be a focal point for disseminating knowledge and providing information about Papua Heritage.
Apart from working on the aims and activities set out above, PACE also intends to be involved in conducting research and setting up educational projects.