Provenance Research

Trade networks as basis of West African colonial ethnographic object’s distribution and procurers of collection goods for the Museum für Völkerkunde in Hamburg (1860-1920)

The research project is dedicated to the provenances of early collections of the Museum am Rothenbaum (MARKK), that are connected to the international networks of Hamburg merchants of the late 19th century. The project aims to identify the provenance and acquisition circumstances of significant collection holdings from West Africa in order to investigate their possible connection with colonial contexts of injustice.

The investigation focuses on those holdings which, due to their object composition and their connection to world trade in the late 19th century, are particularly suitable for revealing underlying structures and developing further approaches for analysis. A large part of the West African holdings that came into the MARKK until the first decade of the 20th century originated either from family members of important trading and shipping company owners or from hitherto unknown individuals, some of whom only a name is recorded in the museum inventory. In particular, the investigation traces these persons in a first approach to the heterogeneous object inventory. Additionally to the historical contextualisation of the acquisition circumstances, the creation of an expandable frame of reference for further provenance research at the MARKK and other German museums is one of the project’s goals.

The findings will be incorporated into the new permanent exhibition, in which the connection of the collection with Hamburg’s world trade and the provenance research carried out in this context will play an important role. In addition, the results will be fed into various portals of colonial provenance research and published on the museum’s website, as well as in a scientific journal published by the museum. The relevant documents consulted during the research will be digitised and made available online.

Project duration: 2020/07/01 until 2021/06/30

Jamie Dau / provenance researcher
fon +49(0)40/428 879–534

Funded by