2018-04-04Teil eines Buches DOI: 10.18452/19068
The »Africa Accessioned Network«
Do museum collections build bridges or barriers?
In Namibia, it is difficult today to locate many historical artefacts that embody the cultural identity of communities. Yet these objects have been collected and, often, archived (rather than displayed) in museums beyond the continent. The internet gives access to a disparate »virtual museum« of Namibian cultural heritage. The »Africa Accessioned« project aims to locate and list the diaspora of African ethnographic collections held in European museums as a tool to generate dialogue and collaborative projects. We see the project as a concept that could be extended, a concept that operates with little or no financial resources. Four African countries provided the initial focus for the project: Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The project initially mapped relevant collections held in Finland, Germany, Sweden, and the UK. A secondary exercise has documented Namibian collections in Finnish museums in more detail and will be used to demonstrate the project’s potential to develop the notion of the »museum as process«. However, the presentation will also speculate on the ways in which German museums might engage more effectively with Namibian communities. The project recognises the contextual framework of the circulation of material culture along colonial trade routes. It seeks to position museums as mediums for global dialogue. Conversations can enable source communities to provide greater historical depth regarding the intangible cultural heritage and places which provide a more complete biography of an object in a collection. However, establishing mechanisms to enable effective dialogue remains a challenge. The project is not a campaign for the repatriation of all African artefacts to the continent, but it will initiate debate about the provenance and significance of some artefacts. We believe that the willingness to review collections and to address the past can stimulate inter-cultural dialogue and lead to positive co-operation. European museums need to engage with this legacy, but should see dialogue as an opportunity, rather than a threat. Collections can generate connections. Museums can build bridges, rather than barriers, between communities.