Website of the German Lost Art Foundation

German Lost Art Foundation approves approx. €650,000 in the first application round of 2020 for five research projects in the field of colonial contexts

Date 2020.06.10

How did valu­able an­tique glass­ware from Syr­ia end up in Mainz, and why are there still hu­man re­mains from Africa in Ro­s­tock’s In­sti­tute for Anato­my to­day? With the de­bate around how to deal with ob­jects from colo­nial con­texts gain­ing mo­men­tum in Ger­many too, the coun­try’s in­sti­tu­tions have been ask­ing them­selves more and more ques­tions about the ori­gins of their hold­ings.

In or­der to clar­i­fy the prove­nance of ob­jects from colo­nial con­texts in Ger­man in­sti­tu­tions, the Ex­ec­u­tive Board of the Ger­man Lost Art Foun­da­tion in Magde­burg has act­ed on the rec­om­men­da­tions of its Fund­ing Com­mit­tee and ap­proved five new re­search ap­pli­ca­tions from mu­se­ums and uni­ver­si­ties in the first ap­pli­ca­tion round of 2020. It has ini­tial­ly grant­ed a to­tal of €653,200 in fund­ing for these projects.

They fo­cus not on­ly on ob­jects from eth­no­log­i­cal mu­se­ums, but al­so on those in arche­o­log­i­cal and nat­u­ral his­to­ry col­lec­tions.

For ex­am­ple, the Römisch-Ger­man­is­ches Zen­tral­mu­se­um at the Leib­niz-Forschungsin­sti­tut für Archäolo­gie in Mainz is now re­search­ing the ori­gin of a col­lec­tion of an­tique glass­ware from Syr­ia, which was prob­a­bly found dur­ing the con­struc­tion of the Bagh­dad rail­way be­tween 1912 and 1914 in Syr­ia. The ob­jects al­so tell the sto­ry of the colo­nial an­tiques trade in the sec­ond decade of the 20th cen­tu­ry.

The project at the Mu­se­um für Naturkunde Berlin (Nat­u­ral His­to­ry Mu­se­um) is ex­am­in­ing the fun­da­men­tal colo­nial struc­tures in­volved in the pro­cure­ment of nat­u­ral his­to­ry ob­jects, start­ing from the net­work of the cu­ra­tor of the mam­mal col­lec­tion, Paul Matschie, who worked on the col­lec­tion be­tween 1890 and 1926.

Clar­i­fy­ing the ori­gin of hu­man re­mains is still of the ut­most im­por­tance. The In­sti­tute for Anato­my and the His­to­ry of Medicine de­part­ment at Ro­s­tock Uni­ver­si­ty Med­i­cal Cen­ter are care­ful­ly ex­am­in­ing a col­lec­tion of hu­man re­mains, some of which come from for­mer colonies. Around one hun­dred years ago, the physi­cian Friedrich Merkel es­tab­lished a “race skull col­lec­tion”. The project in Ro­s­tock will not on­ly serve as a sci­en­tif­ic reap­praisal, but al­so cre­ate a ba­sis for en­ter­ing in­to di­a­log with com­mu­ni­ties of ori­gin about pos­si­ble re­turns.

The Ger­man Lost Art Foun­da­tion in Magde­burg is the cen­tral point of con­tact, na­tion­al­ly and in­ter­na­tion­al­ly, for all mat­ters per­tain­ing to un­law­ful­ly seized cul­tur­al prop­er­ty. In Jan­uary 2019, the Ger­man Lost Art Foun­da­tion was ex­pand­ed to in­clude the spe­cial­ist field of colo­nial con­texts in re­sponse to a fund­ing man­date from the Foun­da­tion Board. Since then, it has been pos­si­ble to ap­ply for fund­ing for projects deal­ing with cul­tur­al goods and col­lec­tions from colo­nial con­texts.

Ap­pli­ca­tions for longer-term projects may be sub­mit­ted by Jan­uary 1 and June 1 each year. Ap­pli­ca­tions can be sub­mit­ted by all pub­licly fund­ed in­sti­tu­tions in Ger­many that col­lect, hold or re­search cul­tur­al goods from colo­nial con­texts. They in­clude mu­se­ums, uni­ver­si­ties and oth­er re­search in­sti­tu­tions.