Museums: do they really want your donation?

After a disappointment, the situated was rectified and so far it’s smooth sailing.

This story began when Will and I lived in Scheveningen.  We visited the former Naval Vessel Mercuur, a Ship Museum at the Scheveningen Harbor.

Will was impressed with the museum that is run totally by volunteer labor and donations; so impressed that he told the commander he would donate copies of his father’s navy papers.

That would be nice, the commander said, but why not donate the real thing? Will said he thought that would be okay and he would certainly send them on when we got back to the states and after he would have an opportunity to look around for the papers and the pension book.

Will became too ill, and I got very busy working and taking care of him, that we just didn’t take care of the donation in a timely way, even though we both talked about doing it.

However, Will died in 2002 and I was living in Costa Rica from 2003 to 2005, and during that time, I took a trip to Holland and asked again if the commander would like the papers. He affirmed that they would be welcomed into the museum.

So when I got back to the states and found the paper work, I had my friend Ellen Korstanje translate the material for me so I would know what I was offering the museum.

After that, a Dutch woman inThe Hague, who is a sister, of my friend in Costa Rica, took the papers, that I had mailed to her,  to the ship museum. She and her husband presented them to the commander. They took photos of the transaction and sent them to me. Meanwhile, the commander answered my letter verifying that the paper work was received with pleasure, and thanked me for the donation.

Today I walked in the freezing cold wind all the way to the Harbor and to the ship. I wanted to see how the papers were being used and to get a photo.

This was the second trip; the ship was closed the first time. I saw a ramp that goes up to the ship that looked closed, but to the side was another smaller boat, with a ramp that appeared to be open.

Museumschip Mercuur in the Scheveningen Harbour

“Hello?” “ Permission to come aboard.” “Hello…is anyone here?” Silence. I continued to walk down the steep and shaky ramp and into the ship. Still no one was around. So I went up narrow stairs until I could see the deck.

About that time a man came around the corner and looked surprised to see me. I was equally surprised. I tried in my best Dutch (which is very bad Dutch) to explain that I wanted to see how my husbands’, father’s papers were being displayed in the ship.

He told me to go ahead and go anywhere inside the ship and take all the photos I want.

“You must pay my colleague.” he added, completely putting aside what I had asked him.

As I ventured on through the ship, looking inside windows at dummies during the duty in the various rooms, and then an elderly woman showed up completely dressed in a navy uniform.

“We’re you in the navy?” I asked. “No”, she said. That was about all we understood each other from then on until I left. I kept running into her and whenever I asked her a question about the ship, she didn’t know the answer. I gave up.

Then another man who had paint splattered all over him, appeared and asked me if he could help me. I told him the story about the donation and that I want to see the display. 

“That doesn’t sound familiar to me, but I’ll explain all about the ship to you.” So he went over the whole history, the ship originated in the U.S., it was a mine sweeper for the U.S. Navy in The Netherlands. After WWII, the Mercuur assisted in searching and destroying sea mines in the Dutch harbors.

I listened politely and then asked again about the papers.

“I’ll go and ask the commander.” After a few minutes he came back and said the commander doesn’t remember anything about it.

“I need to speak to him. Please tell him I’m here and I’d like to ask him about my donation.”

He came back with the commander, and I explained the whole situation to him, and he said, “ what was his name?”


“Oh, I think I remember now, wait here and I’ll go see what I can find.”

He was gone for about fifteen minutes and then returned with a note that had the name Diephof on it.

“We are building a shelf to put the papers on,” the commander said.

“Oh, well that’s nice. When you finish will you let me know?”

“Yes, put your email here and I’ll send you a note when it is finished.”

The above conversation was all in Dutch…believe it or not! Nearly everyone I encounter with very few exceptions speak English. He did not.

So, I left feeling a little bit better, but I wasn’t fooled. It doesn’t take eight years to build a shelf!

Note to all museums:  If you do not want a donation, say so. Do not accept anything and then stash it away. I personally would rather not give it to someone who doesn’t want it.

This is the second time this has happened to me, and I’ve learned my lesson. The first time in another museum, took years to see my donation put into a glass case, while a more important item was stolen before it was even displayed. Shame.

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