Previous month Previous day Next day Next month
By Year By Month Search Jump to month
Positioning Ethnological Museums in the 21st Century
From Saturday, 21. March 2015 -  15:00
To Monday, 23. March 2015 - 13:30
Contact Diese E-Mail-Adresse ist vor Spambots geschützt! Zur Anzeige muss JavaScript eingeschaltet sein!

The Herrenhausen Symposium "Positioning Ethnological Museums in the 21st Century" by the Volkswagen Foundation in cooperation with Deutscher Museumsbund discusses the need for a critical appraisal of the past, present, and future of ethnological museums.

Beaded figure from the Kingdom of Bamum, Cameroon Collection Lüderitz Museum, Roselius House, part of the collection since 1955 © Bremen Ethnological Museum, Photo: Matthias Haase 2013

Rooted in the curiosity cabinets of the Enlightenment, ethnological museums experienced an enormous boom during the colonial period. The collections assembled in those past times continue to characterize the exhibits of ethnological museums today, causing the need for a critical appraisal of the past, present, and future of this particular genre of museum. The symposium will address topics like the history of museum collections, provenance research, the special case of "restitution", different forms of cooperation as well as how these aspects can become part of ethnographic exhibitions.

The Herrenhausen Symposium "Positioning Ethnological Museums in the 21st Century" is open to researchers and experts working in this field.

There is no fee for the attendance, but registration is essential.


The sessions will highlight the following topics:

1. History of Museum Collections / Provenance Research

In the public discourse there are calls for more in-depth research into the provenance of ethnological objects. The claim is that objects may only be exhibited when their provenance is untainted. But what should such provenance research entail in concrete terms? What are the necessary prerequisites? What results are expected? This session will explore examples of provenance research and the consequences for museum collections.

2. The Special Case of "Restitution". Legal Aspects and Others

Public interest in the topic of ethnological collections is frequently aroused by restitution issues. There are both: International standards that determine how to deal with these collections as well as the possibility of finding individual solutions. The reason for restitution claims vary, depending for instance on whether they refer to objects or human remains. Both aspects will be dealt with in this session.

3. Cooperation/Networking/Knowledge Transfer

The debates on provenance, restitution, ethnology in universities and museums, and the role of ethnological museums have given rise to various approaches to cooperation between museums and countries of provenance or source communities. This session will serve to illustrate and discuss examples of how to deal with collections in view of the foregoing discussions.

4. Exhibitions

How can topics like provenance, restitution, and the history of collections be addressed in actual exhibitions? How do museums position themselves when it comes to the history of their collections and their institution? And does this fit in with the goal and the function of museums to mediate knowledge about other (predominantly non-European) cultures and contribute towards better understanding between peoples?


If you would like to attend the symposium, please register by clicking on "Register Now" in the right column. 

Research in Museums

The Herrenhausen Symposium "Positioning Ethnological Museums in the 21st Century" is part of the funding initiative "Research in Museums" which addresses small and medium-sized museums with different thematic scopes wanting to carry out research on their collections. Please visit our website to find out more:

Travel Grants

The Volkswagen Foundation offers up to 15 Travel Grants for young researchers who wish to attend the symposium. We are inviting Ph.D. students or early Postdocs (max. 5 years since Ph.D.) working on independent and challenging projects in the field of ethnographic museums and collections. Applicants are required to apply until April 7, 2015 by using the application form at More Information about the Travel Grants can be found in the document in the right column (downloads).

Location Schloss Herrenhausen