The online network conference “Collections from Colonial Contexts: Challenges, tasks, Strategies” took place on November 24 of 2020 within the framework of Germany’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Its main aims were to present the German Contact Point for Collections from Colonial Contexts to European and international actors, to promote the networking of experts from Germany, Europe and the countries and societies of origin, and to identify and document future cooperation options for the German Contact Point.
The conference focused on three areas of activity, as defined in the „Framework Principles for dealing with collections from colonial contexts”: 1. Transparency and documentation; 2. Return, and 3. Cultural exchange and International Cooperation. In three thematic panels, participants from different regions of the world discussed measures, tasks and current challenges in dealing with collections from colonial contexts, shared practical experience, and exchanged ideas about future cooperation perspectives.
I. Opening Markus Hilgert
Prof. Dr. Markus Hilgert, Secretary General of the Cultural Foundation of the German Federal States and Director of the German Contact Point for Collections from Colonial Contexts opened the online network conference.
II. Input Dr. Claudia Rose
Dr. Claudia Rose, Director of the Arts Department at the Ministry of Science, Research and Art in Baden-Württemberg introduced the work of the Federation-Länder working group on dealing with Collections from Colonial Contexts to the participants of the conference.
III. Input Dr. Larissa Förster
Dr. Larissa Förster, Head of the Department for Cultural Goods and Collections from Colonial Contexts at the German Lost Art Foundation presented the role and tasks of her department.
IV. Input Dr. Andreas Görgen
The Director-General of Culture and Communication at the German Federal Foreign Office, Dr. Andreas Görgen, presented the International Museum Cooperation Agency of the Federal Foreign Office.
V. Panel I – Transparency and Documentation
Participants of the panel on “Transparency and Documentation” discussed the challenges in the areas of documenting, digitizing and achieving transparency regarding collections from colonial contexts. Prof. Dr. Eckart Köhne, President of the German Museums Association, moderated the panel. Panelists included Prof. Dr. Wiebke Ahrndt (Director of the Übersee-Museum in Bremen), Flower Manase (Curator of the National Museum of Tanzania), Dr. Jonathan Fine (Head of the Ethnological Museum of the Berlin State Museums – Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation) and Christian Nana Tchuisseu (Curator and Director of the Blackitude Museum, Chairperson of ICOM Cameroon).
VI. Panel II – Return
Participants of the panel on “Return” presented the current mechanisms and best practices for the return of cultural objects from colonial contexts and discussed the main challenges in this topic. Prof. Dr. Markus Hilgert, Secretary General of the Cultural Foundation of the German Federal States, moderated the panel. Panelists included Prof. Dr. Ines de Castro (Director of the Linden-Museums in Stuttgart), Te Herekiekie Herewini (Head of Repatriation at the Te Papa Tongarewa, Museum of New Zealand), Alexander Herman (Assistant Director at the Institute of Art and Law, United Kingdom) and Dr. El Hadji Malick Ndiaye (Curator of the Théodore Monod Museum of African Art – Institut Fondamental D’Afrique Noire in Dakarl).
VII. Panel III – Cultural Exchange and international Cooperation
The panel on “Cultural Exchange and international Cooperation” presented an overview of varying experience and practical approaches regarding international cooperation and collaboration with the countries and societies of origin when dealing with collections from colonial contexts. Participants discussed possible ways forward and the needs to develop more dialogue. Dr. Andreas Görgen, Director-General of the Department of Culture and Communication at the German Federal Foreign Office, moderated the panel. Panelists included Prof. Dr. Barbara Plankensteiner (Director Museum am Rothenbaum – Kulturen und Künste der Welt), Prof. Dr. George Abungu (Director of Okello Abungu Heritage Consultants), Prof. Dr. Barbara Göbel (Director of the Ibero-American Institute – Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation), Prof. Dr. Beate Reifenscheid (President of ICOM Germany) and Juan Mayr Maldonado (Environmentalist and photographer, Former Colombian Ambassador to Germany).
VIII. Closing Session
In the closing session, the rapporteurs of the panels, Dr. Michaela Stoffels, Policy Officer, Department of Education, Culture, Sports and Non-Discrimination, Association of German Cities, Dr. Leopold von Carlowitz, former Research Associate, German Contact Point for Collections from Colonial Contexts, and María Leonor Pérez Ramírez, Research Associate, German Contact Point for Collections from Colonial Contexts, presented their summaries of the panels.
IX. Full online network conference “Collections from Colonial Contexts: Challenges, Tasks, Strategies”
The following video shows all short presentations, panels, the opening and closing session combined.