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
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.