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College bell to be donated to Rijksmuseum

8:22, Tuesday 16 July 2019

The Governing Body and students of St Catharine’s College have agreed unanimously that a bell, which had been housed in a prominent position overlooking the centre of the College, and which was recently confirmed to have originated from a slave plantation in Demerara, Guyana, should be donated to the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. The bell will be displayed as part of a major exhibition focused on slavery in the Dutch colonial period to be held at the Rijksmuseum between September 2020 and January 2021.

Prof Sir Mark Welland, Master of the College, said: “The bell was gifted to St Catharine’s College in 1961 simply on the basis of the coincidence of name inscribed on the bell – ‘De Catharina’. It is time for the true history of the bell to be told as an educational tool.”

Dr Miranda Griffin, Senior Tutor, said: “The bell will be presented in the proper context of its history and seen by many millions of visitors to a world-famous museum as part of an exhibition on a part of world history which is still not fully represented.”

General Director of the Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam), Taco Dibbits, said: “In our exhibition, bells from across the world will represent the international dimension of the system of slavery, and the different meanings of bells for enslavers and enslaved. With the bell from the De Catharina plantation, the museum will pay tribute to the enslaved people of Demerara, a forgotten part of the Dutch colonial era. The Rijksmuseum is grateful to St Catharine’s College for this opportunity, and will explore together with the College the possibilities for a permanent location for the bell, either in the Netherlands or Guyana.”