On Thursday 9 November 2023, Valika Smeulders gave the Fall Roosevelt Lecture: Speaking about Slavery – The Rijksmuseum, Its Collection and Research.

Valika Smeulders, born in Curacao, is currently head of the Department of History at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. From 2017 till 2020 she was conservator at the Rijksmuseum. During the same period, she did postdoctoral research at KITLV/Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies in Leiden on the research project “Traveling Caribbean Heritage.” In 2019 she received the Black Achievement Award in the category Education and Research.

In 1863, The Netherlands officially abolished slavery in its Caribbean colonies. In 2022 and 2023 the highest officials of the Dutch State, Prime Minister and King, issued apologies for the injustice of the slavery past and spoke about the need to join forces to build a common future. According to Prime Minister Rutte, the apologies did not constitute a “full stop” but rather “a comma.” What is the role of museums in this future “beyond the comma”?

In this Roosevelt Lecture, Valika Smeulders spoke about the aftermath of the 2021 exhibition on Slavery, on how the museum world is changing, and what is next for the Rijksmuseum.