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Digitization of the historical archive of the Ethnologisches Museum (1830-1947)

The archive documents the creation and development, from 1830 on, of the largest collection of ethnological art and cultural objects in the German-speaking countries. Documentation of this kind does not exist in many other German museums. The archive thus provides an invaluable source for research into the history of ethnology in the German-speaking countries and for provenance research.

The digitization will encompass all documents through the year 1947. Currently, for preservation reasons, there is insufficient capacity even on-site to consult the archive’s approximately 1300 volumes of thread-bound files, 200 volumes of so-called ‘main catalogues’ and 85 volumes of journals of mail received. The historically valuable documents include texts on objects from the Royal Kunstkammer, correspondence, travel logs, expedition diaries, maps and drawings. These materials document the often complicated context in which the collection was acquired.

The earliest ethnographica and art objects collected by the museum are already attested in the seventeenth-century Cabinet of Art of Brandenburg-Prussia (Brandenburgisch-Preussische Kunstkammer). The collection experienced its greatest expansion in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Many objects came to the museum via scientific expeditions, military expeditions and missionary work, in particular in the German colonies of the time.

The Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) is making possible the digitization of the historical archive of the Ethnologisches Museum. The digitized materials are to be made available via a public database and online libraries such as the Deutsche Digitale Bibliothek.

Project leader: Dr. Dorothea Deterts
Project coordinator: Dr. Jonathan Fine (until 2021), Hendryk Ortlieb (since 2021)
Project members: Alexandra Ebert (from 2023), Anja Zenner (2018 to 2020), Hendryk Ortlieb (2018 to 2021), Mert Babaoglu (2018 to 2021)
Project sponsors: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft
Duration: December 2018 to 2024