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Provenance research in non-European collections and ethnology in Lower Saxony

After several years of preliminary work, the time has finally come: Thanks to a grant from the Volkswagen Foundation, the non-European collections in Lower Saxony can now be extensively researched. Under the aegis of the Hanover State Museum, the company's own holdings and ethnographic collections in Göttingen (Georg August University), Oldenburg (Landesmuseum Natur und Mensch), Hildesheim (Roemer and Pelizaeus Museum) and Braunschweig (Städtisches Museum) under the magnifying glass. The collaborative research project "Provenance Research in Non - European Collections and Ethnology in Lower Saxony" examines the genesis of these collections in the
Colonial time and thus opens up a largely unprocessed area in German-speaking countries.
Based on objects from academic and museum anthropological collections of high scientific and cultural - historical relevance in Lower Saxony, the question will be investigated, how ethnographica in the colonial period as well as in the decades immediately before and after that under which legal, social, political, economic and scientific political conditions Ways to Europe found. It is also necessary to ask what impact these objects had on Europe - whether they contributed to the legitimization of colonial rule, spread ethnological or art historical knowledge, were primarily of economic importance, or served for example in "people's shows" of entertainment.

Finally, as the current debates about the non-European cultural heritage and the increasing demands for repatriation from the former colonies show, these objects raise quite topical issues of a legal and ethical nature. For the West German present, which is also confronted with migration from those societies from which the ethnographic objects originally come, they are of considerable importance. Its relevance for domestic and foreign policy is shown not least by the current discussion about the concept of the Humboldt Forum in Berlin.
The close collaboration between history, anthropology and law (Georg-August-Universität Göttingen and Leibniz Universität Hannover) and the various museums should therefore not only pursue the classical questions of provenance research as an example along individual objects, but also new perspectives on the urgent questions of oneself changing cultural-historical, legal and moral-ethical frameworks of collecting and preserving. The seven sub-projects investigate the collection biographies, strategies and practices, types of origin and employment histories, as well as the actors involved, their scope of action and resources from different perspectives. These are, however, z. For example, in the context of regular workshops involving scientists from the countries of origin, they are continuously linked with each other. In this way, the collaborative project seeks to contribute to recent international debates on the colonial heritage of ethnology as well as to the international research and exploration of representative ethnological collections and their political, legal and ethical dimensions. At the same time, the aim is to set a cultural-political signal through the innovative and transparent handling of non-European cultural goods and thus further expand the pioneering role of the state of Lower Saxony in the field of provenance research.