Image and Space

Vasen-Installation aus dem Teilprojekt „Museum der Gefäße“ des Humboldt Lab Dahlem (2012-2015), Foto: KSB

Programme for Ethnological Collections

In recent years, the Federal Cultural Foundation has initiated a series of programmes designed to kickstart processes of change in museums. Building on the funding measures developed for the Global Museum (since 2014) and the Humboldt Lab Dahlem (2012 – 2015) funding programmes, this new programme will continue supporting the efforts of selected museums to modernise their collections and adopt a global orientation. These include the Museum für Völkerkunde in Hamburg, the GRASSI Museum in Leipzig and the Lindenmuseum in Stuttgart, all of which are publicly funded and possess collections of outstanding cultural-historical value. All three museums have closed their permanent exhibitions on Africa in order to redesign them from the “ground up”. In the future, all three museums will strike out in new directions – pursuing collaboration with African countries, conducting provenance research, experimenting with new forms of museum presentation, and actively engaging with their city communities. For this purpose, each of the three ethnological museums will receive 1 million euros for a period of up to four years.

In view of the upcoming opening of the Humboldt Forum in Berlin in 2019, we can expect that the challenges facing ethnological collections will remain the focus of lively debate in Germany in the coming years. None of the tasks mentioned above can be accomplished quickly or easily. The systematic development and implementation of colonial-era provenance research alone will be a Herculean effort which museums will have to tackle with additional resources – in particular, personnel resources. The issue of German colonial legacy, evoked by the history and presentation of ethnological collections, will almost certainly tie into debates about immigration society and the central task of ensuring the peaceful coexistence of people of different origins, languages, world views and religions. In this respect, the ethnological museums will address questions which extend far beyond the content of their collections.

An event series highlighting the central themes of the ethnological collections will accompany the programme in cooperation with the museums in Hamburg, Leipzig and Stuttgart and in direct dialogue with international partners. In order to adequately assess and change conventional museum practices in Germany, it is also essential to gain international perspectives on the current state of ethnological collections.

The Federal Cultural Foundation has allocated a maximum of 3.3 million euros to fund the Programme for Ethnological Collections (working title) from 2018 to 2022.