On Provenance Research within Hamburg’s Colonial World Trade Networks by Jamie Dau

Panel: Collecting Strategies and Collectors‘ Networks in European Colonies
Monday, 21 June, 3:15 p.m. - 4:45 p.m. (CET)


In the late 19th and early 20th century, numerous trading posts in many regions of West Africa served as ports of call for German merchants. These trading posts were an integral part of the colonial world trade network. In the Hamburg context, this is particularly evident in the large number of ethnographic objects from West Africa in the collections of the Museum am Rothenbaum (MARKK). However, colonial world trade, arguably the largest collectors’ network of former European colonies of its time, has long been disregarded in the historical reappraisal of ethnological museums’ collections. Suspicions of dubious acquisitions have not been considered comparable to the appropriation practices of military and scientific actors in colonial contexts. The provenance research project at MARKK, ongoing since July 2020, focuses specifically on the research of traders who collected ethnographic objects, as well as of object biographies. So far, multiple suspicious facts associated in the multifaceted appropriation and negotiation processes of the Hamburg trade network dating to 1860-1920 have been identified.


Jamie Dau is an anthropologist specialized in provenance research within colonial contexts. He studied at the Universities of Mainz, Heidelberg and Toulouse and most recently in Vienna, where he graduated (MSc) in Anthropology with a thesis on the plaster cast collection of Felix von Luschan. Between 2016 and 2017, he worked as assistant at the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg. From 2019 to 2020 he was research assistant at the Anthropological University Collection in Vienna. Since July 1, 2020 he works as provenance researcher for the colonial context at MARKK.