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Eva Raabe (Weltkulturen Museum Frankfurt) discussed the difficulties of working with sacred objects, in the presented case Churingas from the Aranda in central Australia.
How to deal with the fact that from an indigenous perspective she as woman is not allowed to handle these things?
The conference was geared towards knowledge transfer between actors in Germany, working with ethnographic collections related to colonial times, as well as international experts with vast experience in provenance research (in contexts often referred to as “source communities”), and also included a panel on provenance research related to National Socialism.
The first day consisted of an international panel in the morning and a panel on history and methods of provenance research related to National Socialism in Germany in the afternoon and was structured in a conference format.
Here, the need for further exchange, the creation of a broader network between people working on or preparing provenance research, structures for closer national and international collaboration and pooling of resources was articulated.
Giving insights into their research methods, they also introduced the platform of the German Lost Art Foundation and how to work with its database (Claudia Andratschke, Lower Saxony State Museum and Provenance Research Network).
The day was concluded with a panel discussion in which international speakers reflected upon challenges and different perspectives of provenance research.
On the second day, shorter presentations were given, introducing different projects working on ethnographic collections in Germany, examples of negotiations between institutions and expert communities concerning specific things in collections, as well as possibilities of including aspects of provenance research into exhibitions; it was conceived of as a workshop-like situation.
Nevertheless, also these seemingly technical aspects of course raised fundamental questions.
For example, speakers of both morning sessions introduced different methodologies of provenance research and showed possibilities of setting up databases, creating visualisations of the biographies of things in collections, of their connections to certain collectors, the ways they had travelled etc.