Germany to create central digital platform for colonial artefacts
Pergamon Museum in Berlin. Image: Clark & Kim Kays Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
All levels of government in Germany have jointly agreed on a digital strategy to list and publish an online database on museum artefacts acquired in a colonial context.
The measures included agreeing to set common standards and a common central portal. This will be done in collaboration with the origin countries. “Our goal is to create as much transparency as possible about museum inventory with a colonial context,” the culture minister Monika Grütters said. “We are making clear that we are actively living up to our common responsibility with concrete measures to address Germany’s colonial past.”
In March 2019, the decision was made to create conditions for the repatriation of artefacts in public collections that were taken from former colonies “in ways that are legally or morally unjustifiable today”. This return has been described as “an ethical and moral duty”.
They pledged to work with museums and institutions to develop procedures with “the necessary urgency and sensitivity”, and promised a dialogue with representatives from source countries.
The debate for the repatriation of colonial artefacts was sparked by the French President Emannuel Macron when he promised to return African artefacts in French museums. This was furthered by Germany by the imminent opening of the Humboldt Forum in the reconstructed royal palace in the centre of Berlin. Starting in December, Humboldt Forum will house Berlin’s ethnological collections, including at least 50,000 artefacts removed from Africa during the colonial era.