During World War II the Colonial Institute was the headquarters of the German Grüne Polizei. Owing to the enormity of the building, the extraordinary situation arose that the resistance also operated from the institute. A radio was hidden in one of the temple moulds in the Temple Room of the museum. After the war the Colonial Institute changed its name to the Indies Institute. When Indonesia became independent on 17 August 1945, the Netherlands did not accept this. The Indies Institute was then involved in preparing soldiers to go and fight against Indonesian independence. There were ‘military actions’, a euphemistic term for the violent actions taken.
Another new name
Politics was overtaken by reality and shortly afterwards the museum had to change its name again. It became the Tropenmuseum, part of the Royal Tropical Institute. It no longer fell under the Ministry of Colonies but under Foreign Affairs and from then focused on tropical countries. As the collection primarily comprised items from the colonies, it had to be considerably expanded. Part of the existing collection was exchanged with or sold to other museums. Exhibitions about Indonesia were initially a sensitive matter and attention was paid, for example, to Papua, which the Netherlands ruled until 1962.
A new change in direction followed: in the 1970s the museum concentrated on the developing countries and their problems. There were exhibitions with relatively cheaply acquired utensils, sound recordings and reconstructions of ‘village scenes’, which at the time were extremely innovative exhibition forms. It necessitated extensive rebuilding. The stairs at the front of the building were demolished and the entrance was moved down a floor. The tiled floors of the museum galleries were covered with a wooden floor, to muffle the sound, amongst other things. A wing that had been added to the former restaurant made way for the children’s museum Tropenmuseum Junior and the Tropentheater, which both opened in 1975.
From the 1990s the museum rearranged the various departments. It organized high-profile temporary exhibitions using new exhibition techniques. In 2014 the museum merged with the Museum Volkenkunde in Leiden and the Afrika Museum in Berg en Dal to form the National Museum of World Cultures. From then it fell under the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science and the collection formed part of the National collection.