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Grimme, Gesa (2020): Systemizing Provenance Research on Objects from Colonial Contexts. In: Museum & Society, Vol. 18, No. 1: pp. 52-65 [PDF, 985kB]


Recent debates surrounding the establishment of the Humboldt Forum in Berlin have given rise to questions of how to address the colonial histories of collections housed in Germany’s ethnographic museums. So far, research into the colonial background of these collections has focused mostly on exemplary case studies, specific objects or donors. Between 2016 and 2018, the Project Discomforting Heritage: Objects from Colonial Contexts in Anthropological Museums,1 a cooperation between the Linden Museum Stuttgart and the University of Tübingen, sought a more systematic mode for researching objects from colonial contexts. This article reports on the resulting survey of the Linden Museum’s collections from former colonial territories, which asked two key questions: when did the objects arrive and who donated or sold them to the museum. Based on the results, the article details how this approach addresses the collections’ inter- connectedness with colonial structures, provides a foundation for a systematic and pro-active handling of these collections, and lays down important groundwork for the respectful sharing of information with stakeholder communities.

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