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The Sámi Collection at MEK. A Multiperspective Approach of Provenance Research

The Museum Europäischer Kulturen (MEK; Museum of European Cultures) houses one of the most significant collections of Sámi artefacts outside of Northern Europe. The majority of the Sámi objects in the MEK’s collection were collected at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. The indigenous Sámi communities understand this period as the height of inner-European colonialism. This involved oppression of the Sámi people and their culture by the majority societies within the northern regions of Norway, Finland, Sweden and the Kola Peninsula of the Russian Federation.

Starting on 1 December 2022, the collection will be examined in collaboration with Sámi researchers, artists and other representatives of Sámi communities for a designated project funded by the German Lost Art Foundation. The project sets out to generate and collect data through studying the objects and from its (former) users, whilst at the same time establishing an international network. Doing so, the project aims to set an example for further provenance research of Sámi artefacts in collections held in Germany, Europe and elsewhere in the world.

Institution: Museum Europäischer Kulturen, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
Project Coordination: Elisabeth Tietmeyer (Museum Europäischer Kulturen)
Research: Linda Alpermann, Christine Binroth-Bondzio, Salwa Joram, Maria Looks, Eeva-Kristiina Nylander, Franka Schneider, Alicija Steczek
Project Partners: Siida Sámi Museum (Aanaar/Anár/Inari, Finland), Ájtte-Museum (Jåhkåmåhke/Dálvvadis/Jokkmokk, Sweden), Dávvirat Duiskkas (Project “Sámi Collection in German Museums“, Norwegian Museums Association)
Duojárs: Elle Valkeapää, Anniina Turunen, Heini Wesslin (Finland), Ellen Berit Dalbakk, Ellinor Guttorm Utsi, Elen Kristina Utsi (Norway), Jon Utsi, Lova Isabella Lundberg, Helena Partapuoli (Sweden)
Project Funding: German Lost Art Foundation, Dept. of Colonial Contexts
Duration: 2022 to 2024