The Netherlands National Military Museum

By Bas Marten, Pictures by National Military Museum and Bas Martens

In just a few years, the world of military museums in the Netherlands has been jumbled up. Almost everything has changed. The highlight of this reorganization is the new National Military Museum (NMM) on the grounds of the former airbase Soesterberg.

Until 1994, Soesterberg was home of the American 32 Tactical Fighter Sqn (TFS). It was closed as an operational airbase in 2008 and has now been renamed Park Soesterberg Airbase. The NMM is an amalgamation of the old Army Museum in Delft and the Military Aviation Museum, which was housed in another part of the airbase. In mid-December 2014, the new museum was officially opened by the Dutch King.


Ever since World War II, the Netherlands has had a small patchwork of larger military museums and dozens of smaller unit collections. Very interesting to visit, but a disaster in terms of management and conservation. No one knew what had been preserved, where it was or even who paid for it.

To remedy these defects, a new organization was established in October 2014: the Defense Museum Foundation. The Foundation manages the collections of the major museums: the Naval Museum in Den Helder, the Royal Marines Museum in Rotterdam, the Military Police Museum in Buren and the new NMM. It has also absorbed many of the smaller collections.

The reorganization meant a landslide. Museum staff are now employed by this Foundation, instead of by the Ministry of Defense. Uniting these collections means that both personnel and objects can more easily be exchanged. The Naval Museum, the Marines Museum and the Military Police Museum stayed where they were, but the two major collections—Army and Air Force—had to merge and move to a shared new building.

Army and Air Force together? One can imagine the outcries of indignation. Adding insult to injury, the new museum building was planned at the cradle of Dutch military aviation, Soesterberg.

Despite the differences, the new museum has proven to be large enough for the two to have their own space. Furthermore, the historical legacy has been...

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V21N6 (July 2017)
and was posted online on May 19, 2017


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