Gas, Oil and Heritage: Well-oiled Histories and Corporate Sponsorship in Dutch Museums (1990-2021)

Gertjan Plets, Marin Kuijt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


How does corporate sponsorship shape the narration and curation of Dutch history in public museums? This article evaluates the significance and impact of private funding in the Dutch heritage and museum sector. By focusing on three museums that have received funding from Dutch oil and gas companies we foreground specifically the nexus heritage, oil, and funding. We show how a particular type of ‘energy literacy’ is promoted, a narrative that is favourable to the agenda of the gas and oil sector. Our explorations are based on interviews with museum officials, an analysis of policy documents, and a close reading of exhibitions. By describing the impact of oil and gas money on the Dutch heritage sector, this article charts the growing influence of corporate players in the Dutch public cultural sector. Following neoliberal reforms in 2011-2012 promoting cultural entrepreneurship and self-sufficiency, museums and heritage sites had to act even more like businesses and attract sponsorships and gifts from private players. This development is part of a global retraction of the state in the public sector. Our discussion of the intricacies of corporate heritage funding in the Netherlands shows that through a fairly limited investment, enterprises acquire disproportionate outreach and influence in the cultural heritage field, an environment that is generally perceived by the public as reliable and independent.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)50-77
Number of pages28
JournalBMGN - Low Countries Historical Review
Issue number1
Early online date2021
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sept 2022


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