Initiative 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 (external link, opens in a new window) (since 2014) and the Humboldt Lab Dahlem (opens in a new window) (2012 – 2015) funding projects, this new initiative will continue supporting the efforts of selected museums to modernise their collections and adopt a global orientation.

The Initiative for Ethnological Collections include the Museum am Rothenbaum Kulturen und Künste der Welt (MARKK), the GRASSI Museum in Leipzig and the Linden-Museum in Stuttgart, which are publicly funded and possess collections of outstanding cultural-historical value. The three museums have either redesigned their permanent exhibitions on Africa from the “ground up” or are working on redesigning them. In the future, the 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 2020, 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.

The Federal Cultural Foundation has allocated a maximum of 3.3 million euros to fund the Initiative for Ethnological Collections from 2018 to 2022.


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Dr. Lutz Nitsche
Kulturstiftung des Bundes

Franckeplatz 2
06110 Halle (Saale)
Tel.: +49 (0)345 2997 104
Fax.: +49 (0)345 2997 333
E-Mail to Dr. Lutz Nitsche