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Conference in Dakar: Towards a Network of African and European Museums

28.04.2023
Ethnologisches Museum

From 25 to 27 April 2023, a conference was held at the Musée des Civilisations Noires in Dakar, Senegal. Planned and funded in part by the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin’s Ethnologisches Museum, the SPK and the Stiftung Humboldt Forum, the conference brought together 60 African and European museum directors from 38 countries, with the aim of planning a sustained collaboration between the museums of Africa and Europe. The conference led to the signing of a landmark joint declaration (PDF, 181 KB), in which all participating parties pledged to strengthen partnerships in the spirit of mutual trust and respect.

The three-day conference served as a first step in plans to build an international network that will seek to establish a multilateral and long-term collaboration programme between museums on both continents. The museum directors worked together to outline the priorities of an action plan aimed at sustainably bolstering the role of museums in society and the agency of their institutions.

Working Together on Dialogue, Travelling Exhibitions, and the Collections

During the conference, three major topics were identified as playing a key role in building the museums of tomorrow. The first of these has to do with strengthening the institutions through factors such as sharing knowledge, establishing a network, and engaging in an ongoing discussion about the role of museums and cultural heritage. Another aspect involves plans to design and organise collaborative travelling exhibitions to take place in Africa and Europe. This will bring about a change in the narratives that prevail in African and European museums, allowing them to better respond to contemporary challenges. The third focus is on a shared desire to gather knowledge about the collections and to document this knowledge, and to continue to advance work in provenance research. Meanwhile, the digitisation of the various collections will allow them to be made accessible to a global audience.

The African countries participating in the conference were Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Lesotho, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Rwanda, Nigeria, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. From Europe, representatives were in attendance from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.