Other name (in original language)
Surinaams Museum - Fort Zeelandia

Abraham Crijnssenweg 1

Can the Suriname Museum be called an ethnological museum? In the strict sense of the word it probably can. From the Western point of view that ethnology is the science of comparative ethnology set against one's own culture, it probably cannot.

For, the Suriname Museum is not a museum that introduces foreign cultures to the Surinamese people. The museum does, however, show the Surinamese culture, and this is made up of a number of cultures that originate from all continents. Besides the indigenous people, the Amerindians, there are in Suriname also Maroons, Creoles, Europeans, Jews, Chinese, Hindustani, Javanese, Lebanese and others, as a result of different immigrations from the 17th century onwards. Because of this, Suriname has a multi-cultural and multi-racial society of the first order. Outside of Suriname, namely in the Western world, the Suriname Museum is still referred to as an ethnological museum. The Stichting Surinaams Museum (Suriname Museum Foundation) prefers to describe itself as a Surinamese cultural-historical museum.

On 29 April 1997 the Suriname Museum Foundation was 50 years old. This was good reason to look back at the period, with its highs and lows, and, concurrently, to cast a look to the future from the viewpoint of the current state of affairs. In spite of the small gaps that exist in the museum archives, we are still able to paint a reasonably complete picture of developments since the Stichting Surinaams Museum (SSM) was founded.

There had been earlier attempts to found museums in Suriname. The first museological institutions were set up in the 19th and 20th centuries which, however, were doomed to disappear again. We shall take a closer look at the precursors of the present museum. Furthermore, we shall examine the history of the SSM, then depict the present state of affairs, and finally, cast a glance into the future.

There are two other museums in Suriname besides the SSM. One is the open-air museum, established in an old fortress, the other is a Jewish historical museum which now only exists on paper. Mismanagement has reduced the open-air museum, which was confiscated by the government in the eighties, to a drab place. The little Jewish museum, founded near the ruins of the oldest synagogue in the Western Hemisphere, was destroyed completely in the jungle war of the eighties.