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The South Sea houses are moving house: more large objects leave the Ethnologisches Museum for the Humboldt Forum

Humboldt Forum

It took more than two years of restoration work to prepare the houses from the Oceania section of the Ethnologisches Museum in Dahlem for their big move. Now they are moving into their new home.

It started with the ancestral worship house from north-eastern New Guinea. Standing 7.5 metres tall and weighing in at approximately 800 kg, it was broken down into parts and packed up securely before making its way to the Humboldt Forum late on Monday night. With its vibrantly painted gabled façade, the building is an impressive masterpiece of Pacific architecture. Further moves will follow in the coming days, including the men’s clubhouse from the archipelago of Palau; a rare piece, with only a handful of comparable examples left in the world.

With the South Seas and Australia section of the Ethnologisches Museum having closed back in 2016 in preparation for the move, along with the boats from Oceania, from late 2019, these houses will be among the highlights of the permanent exhibition in the Humboldt Forum. As was the case with the South Sea boats, the size of these valuable packages made the move a logistical challenge. Before leaving Dahlem, they also underwent extensive preparations, with the houses being measured, cleaned, disassembled, restored, packed into boxes and fumigated.

Once all the large objects have landed safely in the Humboldt Forum, the wall that has been left open for them will be closed, and work can begin putting the boats and the houses back together again. The South Sea houses will then receive new palm-frond roofs using material from Palau and the Pacific.

At the end of 2019, the Humboldt Forum will form a new cultural hub in the centre of Berlin, bringing together outstanding collections, including objects from the Ethnologisches Museum and the Museum für Asiatische Kunst. The key stakeholders in the Humboldt Forum are the Stiftung Humboldt Forum im Berliner Schloss, the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz, along with the Ethnologisches Museum and the Museum für Asiatische Kunst of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kulturprojekte Berlin, the Stadtmusem Berlin and Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.