by Arnold Jansen op de Haar
The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has acquired Volkert van der Graaf’s pistol. It is likely to be added to the exhibition in 2013. I have to explain this a bit for our overseas readers. In 2002 Volkert van der Graaf shot Pim Fortuyn, the Dutch politician who was well on his way to win the general election. I wasn’t a fan of Fortuyn, actually I disagreed with almost everything he said. However it is revolting to put Volkert van der Graaf, an animal activist who wanted to justify his cause by murdering someone, on a pedestal in the museum that houses Rembrandt’s Night Watch.
The Rijksmuseum is home to other murder weapons, but that is different. For example, Raadspensionaris Johan van Oldenbarnevelt (at that time the most important political person in The Netherlands) was executed in 1619.
The Rijksmuseum is home to no less of two specimens of the walking stick used by Van Oldenbarnevelt to climb the scaffold. Apparently there are two additional walking sticks elsewhere. His glasses and the sword used to behead him are also in the collection. Yet we don’t know the name of the executioner. It happened long ago, that’s why it can be put on display, and besides, not many people own a sword.
It will not bother people that the knife used to kill Empress Sissi is exhibited in Vienna. Nor that the pistol with which Lincoln was shot in Washington is on display, nor that the guillotine blade used to execute Marie Antoinette can be seen at Madame Tussauds in London. We no longer know the perpetrators.
Time heals all wounds. So therefore it was not acceptable for the Police Museum in Apeldoorn to consider acquiring Karst T’s black Suzuki for its collection. In 2009, he tried to drive into the Royal bus at the Queen’s Official Birthday. Seven innocent spectators were killed. Before you know it the tiny candle holder that was thrown at the Golden State Coach during the State Opening of Parliament in 2010 goes on display. Meanwhile the museum has decided not to purchase the wreck.
Quite a few items from the murder of John F Kennedy have been kept. The First Lady’s bloodstained pink suit is under lock and key in the National Archives in College Park, Maryland. The Kennedy family controls its future. Lee Harvey Oswald’s weapon is also locked into a safe.
However in Dallas you can visit the reconstructed snipers hideout from which Oswald placed his shot. It is a form of disaster entertainment, with half a million visitors each year. Maybe they are the same people who like to take a close up look at a traffic accident.
It can become even more insane. The hat Jack Ruby wore when he shot Lee Harvey Oswald is part of a private collection. So somewhere out there is a person, who occasionally enjoys wearing the hat of of John F Kennedy’s murderer; relaxing with Jack Ruby’s hat in front of the television.
You have to be careful with murders that we can all still remember. It turns the perpetrators into celebrities. When does it become history?
The Soviet Sculpture Garden Grutas Park, also known as Stalin World, is located in Lithuania, 120 kilometres south west of the capital Vilnius. Here you can re-visit the Soviet era. It is owned by Viliumas Malinauskas, former wrestling champion and Lithuania’s largest producer of tinned mushrooms. I think that is a marvellous mix: former wrestling champion and Lithuania’s largest producer of tinned mushrooms. He looks like a promising character for a novel.
But that is not all. At the opening on 1 April 2001 Malinauskas declared: ‘Grutas Park combines the charm of Disneyland with the horrors of Soviet prison camps.’ Many survivors of the Soviet regime were not amused.
The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam links the appeal of the masters of the Golden Century to a gruesome murder which took place eight years ago. ‘Come boys, up to the museum. First we view the Night Watch, followed by The Pistol and ice cream to round it off!’
© Translation Holland Park Press
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