Collaborative Provenance Research on Collections From Tanzania

Collaborative Provenance Research on Collections from Tanzania at the National Museum and House of Culture in Dar es Salaam and the Ethnologisches Museum Berlin

As part of the current investigations into the colonial origins of large parts of the collections from present-day mainland Tanzania at the Ethnologisches Museum Berlin, a long-term partnership is being established with the National Museum of Tanzania and the University of Dar es Salaam. This partnership will identify critical questions for postcolonial provenance research, a field that relies heavily on collaboration, multiple perspectives, and on efforts to transcend colonial archiving practices. It is hoped that the inclusion of the ethnographic and cultural-historical collections of the National Museum of Tanzania (collections that have never been subject to rigorous scholarly investigation) will go some way toward helping to broaden understanding in this area of research.

The link between the collections of European museums and those of African countries has barely been looked at until now. Research into this is especially relevant, since the National Museum and House of Culture in Dar es Salaam (like many other African museums) were actually founded under colonial rule. The collaboration aims to establish a relationship between selected groups of objects from the Tanzanian collections of the National Museum of Tanzania and those of the Ethnologisches Museum Berlin. Likewise it hopes to investigate their contexts of appropriation (be they colonial or postcolonial) and to discuss their historical/contemporary significance and relevance for the people in the respective regions of origin today. As well as workshops, the project will also arrange research trips to the places where a number of the objects originated, where interviews will be carried out with the descendants of the producers, users and previous owners of the objects. Other activities of the project include the digitisation of the relevant objects and archival collections of the National Museum of Tanzania, the development of a database, joint publications and an exhibition at the National Museum and House of Culture in Dar es Salaam.


Institution: Ethnologisches Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin 
Funded by: Gerda Henkel Stiftung 
Project partners: History Department of the University of Dar es Salaam; National Museum of Tanzania; descendants of the producers, users and previous owners of the objects 
Project management: PD Dr Paola Ivanov (Ethnologisches Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin), Prof. Dr Andreas Eckert (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin), Dr Oswald Masebo (University of Dar es Salaam) 
Project staff:  Kristin Weber-Sinn (associate researcher, Zentralarchiv/Ethnologisches Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin), Achiles Bufure (director of the National Museum & House of Culture in Dar es Salaam), Flower Manase (curator, National Museum and House of Culture, Dar es Salaam), Ricarda Rivoir (student research assistant, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin), and others.
Duration: July 2019 to June 2022