The Stichting Surinaams Museum (The Suriname Museum's Foundation) was founded in 1947. The reason for the founding was, among other things, a growing sense of national awareness that had arisen during World War II. In that time, just before the founding of the SSM, it was customary that valuable collections were brought outside the country. There was much anxiety particularly about American antiquarians who, with their dollars, were able to buy up everything and ship the things out of the country.
The first museum activities in Suriname date back to 1865, when a private collection came on public display and was later officially turned into the Koloniaal Museum (Colonial Museum). However, in 1908 the Koloniaal Museum had to close its doors because a recent study showed that the museum collection was insignificant, doubtful and in a serious state of decay. The collections were divided among public and private schools and housed in what was then called the School Museum. In 1925 the School Museum also closed. Liquidation followed in 1929.
The Suriname Museum is nested inside Fort Zeelandia. The site has a great historical importance since it is the place where the first colonists set foot on the shore and from which the further development of the country started. Used as a prison from 1872 onwards, the Fort then became the headquarters of the museum in 1972. However in 1982, after the 1980 military coup d'état, the museum was forced to leave the place. That situation of banishment lasted until 1995, when the museum finally reopened its doors after a major renovation.
The museum owns a large collection of ethnographical objects, which give a testimony on the cultural diversity of the Surinamese territory: the native Indians, the Maroons in the 17th century, the Europeans, Jews, Chinese, Indians, Javanese and Lebanese. The collections vary from ethnographic collections, archeology, art, colonial furniture and textiles to historical photographs. Considered as an ethnographic museum from a western point of view, the Museum prefers to describe itself as a cultural-historical museum.
The museum offers to the visitors a permanent exhibition space, which presents the history of Fort Zeelandia and the history of Suriname as well as an exhibition on pre-Columbian archaeology. Temporary exhibitions are often displayed and deals about modern art as well as the culture of the different ethnic groups. You can also visit the reconstitutions of an old apothecary shop, a cobbler shop and a prison cell in its original state.
The visitors can also visit the museum library, in Zorg en Hoop and discover a large collection of old publications (only on appointment).