Press release 'Dutch Government absolves itself of responsibility for musical heritage'

The Hague, 14 June, 2011

The Dutch Government has decided to stop its grant aid to the Netherlands Music Institute (NMI) with effect from 1 January, 2013. The Institute has the task of conserving the musical heritage of the Netherlands. The Government seeks to absolve itself of its responsibility for conserving Dutch musical heritage and maintaining its accessibility.

On 10 June 2011, the Secretary of State, Mr Halbe Zijlstra, laid out his vision in a plan entitled ‘More than quality' (‘Meer dan kwaliteit'). His stated point of departure is to spare heritage and libraries as much as possible. In this, however, musical heritage turns out to be an exception. According to the Secretary of State, the NMI collection is a ‘municipal collection with limited public appeal.' This statement is not only misleading, but wrong.

Part of the collection of the NMI (60%) is owned by the City of The Hague, which has taken responsibility for this since 1935. The remaining 40% has been acquired with state support and is not municipal property. This wealth of material has its origin in private collections and archives. As a unique collection of national and international importance, it constitutes the musical memory of the Netherlands. Apart from countless documents pertaining to Dutch musical history, the NMI also holds a general music library of some 200.000 volumes, including publications from 1492 till the present, as well as manuscripts by Beethoven, Mozart, Liszt, Schumann and Mahler.

The qualification of ‘limited public appeal' is misleading. Such a specialized collection is, of course, accessible to the public at large, but is mostly used by musicians, conductors, programmers, connoisseurs and music historians. Its appeal is as wide as the audiences it reaches, and will reach, in concert halls and through CD's at home and through numerous publications, now and in the future.

At present, the NMI has the official status of ‘sector institute for musical heritage', and is one of the institutions receiving long-term grant support as part of the basic cultural infrastructure. For this, the Institute currently receives an annual grant of around € 265,000. This is, already, a shamefully small amount for the task of the NMI as national musical heritage institute. Added to the grant aid (currently around € 375,000 annually) provided by the City of The Hague, the NMI does its utmost to work effectively and efficiently. The decision of the Government to absolve itself of all responsibility for musical heritage amounts, in fact, to a denial of national music history. Considering the rich musical past created by such musicians as Hendrik Andriessen, Alphons Diepenbrock, Willem Mengelberg, Johan Wagenaar, Julius Röntgen, Leo Smit, Henk Badings, Piet Ketting, Henriëtte Bosmans, Kees van Baaren, Tristan Keuris, Rudolf Escher, Peter Schat and many others, it is baffling that the national government is unwilling to spend even € 265,000!

This lack of cultural commitment is also shocking in an international context. Working through a number of other institutions, the Government justly makes funding available for the care of heritage in the fields of literature, the visual arts and architecture. It makes an exception for music, as well as dance and theatre (represented by the Theater Instituut Nederland).

The NMI cannot continue with municipal support alone. Private and corporate sponsorship offers no alternative for a heritage institute. It is above all the responsibility of the national government to safeguard our heritage for the present and for future generations.

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For more information see our website: www.nederlandsmuziekinstituut.nl (mostly in English).
You may also contact the director of the Institute, dr. F.W. Zwart, +31 70 - 3140700, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

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