Network Conference – Collections from Colonial Contexts: Challenges, Tasks, Strategies

The online conference took Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2020 as an opportunity to present the German Contact Point for Collections from Colonial Contexts to European and international actors, and to identify and discuss the needs and interests of people and institutions in the countries and societies of origin.

Watch all sessions from the Conference as video recordings here.

Aims

The network conference “Collections from colonial contexts: challenges, tasks, strategies” was intended to make the German Contact Point for Collections from Colonial Contexts known among European and non-European experts. It provided a first opportunity to promote the networking of experts from the countries and societies of origin, Germany and Europe, and to identify future cooperation avenues for the German Contact Point.

The conference intended to help initiate and develop cross-border strategies for dealing with collections from colonial contexts. It also aimed at identifying and documenting meaningful cooperation structures and partners at the European level that would help people and institutions from the countries and societies of origin to obtain comprehensive information about collections from colonial contexts.

Sessions

The online conference focused on the following three areas of activity and objectives defined in the document „Framework Principles for dealing with collections from colonial contexts”: a) Transparency and documentation, b) Return, and c) Cultural exchange, international cooperation. In three thematic panels, participants discussed and documented the challenges, tasks and strategies related to these areas and shared successful practices and experiences. The discussions resulted in recommendations for action and in the initiation of collaborations that contribute to overcoming the existing challenges and tasks when dealing with collections from colonial contexts.

Participants of the panel Transparency and Documentation discussed best practices and challenges in the area of documenting collections from colonial contexts in Europe and took into account the following guiding questions: Which additional support do German and European institutions need for documenting and digitizing collections from colonial contexts? Which measures need to be prioritized? Are there ways of improving collaboration schemes with countries and societies of origin in the areas of documentation and digitization of collections for colonial contexts?

The starting point for the discussion in the panel on Return were the current political, ethical and legal challenges for the return of cultural objects from colonial contexts. In addition, the panel offered an opportunity to share current approaches in particular in the areas of science and research in connection with the return of collections from colonial contexts, and to identify relevant European and international measures and action models for the return of cultural objects from colonial contexts.

Participants of the Q&A session on Cultural Exchange, International Cooperation shared best practices and discussed the challenges in the areas cooperation and collaboration with the countries and societies of origin on dealing with collections from colonial contexts. In addition, the session offered the opportunity to discuss the needs and expectations on the part of the countries and societies of origin and agree on future perspectives and mechanisms for exchange and collaboration.

Watch all sessions from the Conference as video recordings here.

Conference audience

Representatives of the EU member states as well as the countries and societies of origin, representatives of other countries, experts from cultural and research institutions in Europe as well as the countries and societies of origin, representatives from cultural politics and cultural administration offices, and other experts who deal with issues related to collections from colonial contexts.

German Contact Point for Collections from Colonial Contexts

The establishment of a German Contact Point for Collections from Colonial Contexts was jointly decided by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media, the Federal Foreign Office Minister of State for International Cultural Policy, the Ministers of Cultural Affairs of the Länder and the municipal umbrella organisations. The contact point, with its seat at the Cultural Foundation of the German Federal States, aims in particular at individuals and institutions from the countries and societies of origin. As the new central port of call, it will provide information and advice on collections from colonial context in Germany, establish and promote cooperation networks, and collect, organise, document, publish and evaluate statistically pertinent data and information. In addition, the Contact Point supports the Federation-Länder Working Group on Dealing with Collections from Colonial Contexts in the elaboration and further development of the areas of activity and objectives defined in the “Framework Principles for dealing with collections from colonial contexts”.