06.05.2019 Statement approved on the occasion of the 2019 Annual Conference of the Directors of Ethnographic Museums in German Speaking Countries, in Heidelberg:
Statement approved on the occasion of the 2019 Annual Conference of the Directors of Ethnographic Museums in German Speaking Countries, in Heidelberg:
Within the German speaking area, more than twenty public ethnographic and world cultures museums, university museums and collections, as well as the ethnography departments of composite museums, conserve a substantial number of collections comprising cultural artefacts, photographs, film and sound documents, as well as written archives. We safeguard these collections in a fiduciary duty of care. Relations have been established between humans through these objects, which have been – and continue to be – important for those who once created them, for their descendants as well as for all societies in general. These relations stand – similar to diaspora relations – in the foreground of our attention.
We explicitly welcome the high level of current concern for civil society in our establishments, in our work, and in questions and problems about the colonial history of our collections. Equally, we appreciate concerns about whether it is legitimate to preserve sensitive collections such as human remains, burial objects, and sacred objects, or artefacts of potentially key cultural heritage. The new public engagement points to a social development which coincides with an increasing awareness of the knowledge preserved in our museums, and the relevance of the collections for societies of origin, in which society accepts an ethical responsibility in dealing with the objects.
It is a matter of course that objects which were brought into the museums due to unlawful circumstances at the moment of their creation or of collecting should – if this is desired by representatives of the originator communities – be repatriated. Possibilities for restitution should furthermore be negotiable where objects are of significant value to their communities of origin. Above all, however, our museums preserve cultural heritage from highly differentiated contexts of acquisition and collecting and, therefore, represent much more than colonial heritage. Thus, it is equally evident that the relations which have been entered into during the acquisition of the objects oblige us to much more than merely return objects.
All world cultures and ethnographic museums and collections understand that it is their duty to ensure the maximum transparency when dealing with the history and contents of their collections, with cooperative provenance research as a general standard. Important questions remain to be asked: Which knowledge do we preserve? For whom is the knowledge relevant nowadays, and in what ways? Which interpretations need to be urgently reconsidered, what has been overlooked as yet, and what has been misjudged? Who were the objects’ creators and what rights have developed today from their authorship? Who are the owners? Which forms of relations, of sharing heritage and collections, which kinds of restitution are necessary, possible, desired? How can cooperation, dialogue and negotiation processes be shaped, into which the knowledge of all participants can be obtained and used, at an equal level? Which new knowledge related to the collections can thereby evolve? All the signatories below are committed to the following principles:
Wiebke Ahrndt, Übersee-Museum Bremen
Anna-Maria Brandstetter, Ethnografische Studiensammlung, Universität Mainz
Tina Brüderlin, Ethnologische Sammlung Museum Natur und Mensch, Städtische Museen Freiburg
Inés de Castro, Linden-Museum, Stuttgart
Mareile Flitsch, ISEK-Völkerkundemuseum Universität Zürich
Lars Frühsorge, Völkerkundesammlung der Hansestadt Lübeck
Ernst Halbmayer und Dagmar Schweitzer de Palacios, Ethnographische Sammlung, Universität Marburg
Peter Joch, Städtisches Museum Braunschweig
Lars-Christian Koch, Ethnologisches Museum Berlin
Michael Kraus, Ethnologische Sammlung, Universität Göttingen
Katja Lembke und Alexis von Poser, Landesmuseum, Hannover
Heidrun Loeb, Nord Amerika Native Museum NONAM, Zürich
Albert Lutz, Museum Rietberg, Zürich
Léontine Meijer-van-Mensch, SKD Staatliche Ethnographische Sammlungen Sachsen
Jakob Messerli, Bernisches Historisches Museum, Bern
Karoline Noack, Bonner Amerikas-Sammlung BASA, Universität Bonn
Margarete Pavaloi, Völkerkundemuseum der J. & E. von Portheim-Stiftung, Heidelberg
Barbara Plankensteiner, Museum am Rothenbaum MARKK, Hamburg
Eva Raabe, Weltkulturen Museum, Frankfurt a. M.
Wilfried Rosendahl, Reiss-Engelhorn-Museen, Mannheim
Christian Schicklgruber, Weltmuseum, Wien
Anna Schmid, Museum der Kulturen, Basel
Regine Schulz und Andrea Nicklisch, Roemer- und Pelizaeus-Museum, Hildesheim
Nanette Snoep, Rautenstrauch-Joest-Museum, Köln
Daniel Studer und Achim Schäfer, Historisches und Völkerkundemuseum St. Gallen
Uta Werlich, Museum Fünf Kontinente, München