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Working Through Colonial Collections

An Ethnography of the Ethnological Museum in Berlin

Paperback EN 2022 9789462703100
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What are the possibilities and limits of engaging with colonialism in ethnological museums? This book addresses this question from within the Africa department of the Ethnological Museum in Berlin. It captures the Museum at a moment of substantial transformation, as it prepared the move of its exhibition to the Humboldt Forum, a newly built and contested cultural centre on Berlin’s Museum Island. The book discusses almost a decade of debate in which German colonialism was negotiated, and further recognised, through conflicts over colonial museum collections.

Based on two years of ethnographic fieldwork examining the Museum’s various work practices, this book highlights the Museum’s embeddedness in colonial logics and shows how these unfold in the Museum’s everyday activity. It addresses the diverse areas of expertise in the Ethnological Museum – the preservation, storage, curation, and research of collections – and also draws on archival research and oral history interviews with current and former employees. Working through Colonial Collections unravels the ongoing and laborious processes of reckoning with colonialism in the Ethnological Museum’s present – processes from which other ethnological museums, as well as Western museums more generally, can learn.


Aantal pagina's:320
Hoofdrubriek:Kunst en cultuur


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A visual introduction


Chapter One
Learning about German colonialism: On memory, activism, and the Humboldt Forum

Chapter Two
Being affected: A methodological approach to working through colonial collections

Chapter Three
Expanding collection histories: The museum as peopled organisation

Chapter Four
Troubling epistemologies: On the endurance of colonial discrimination

Chapter Five
Managing plethora:Caring for colonial collections

Chapter Six
Researching provenance: The politics of writing history

Chapter Seven
Probing materiality: Collections as amalgams of their histories

Chapter Eight
Repairing representations: Curatorial cultures and change in the Ethnological Museum


References cited

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