The cooperation between museums with non-European collections and individuals or institutions from so-called societies of origin has gained new relevance in the debate on how to deal with ethnographic collections from the colonial period. It has become a fundamental part of postcolonial provenance research. Cooperation projects can take various forms and pursue different objectives. They can enable joint working on collections, the joint reappraisal of "shared histories" and thus an examination of the colonial past from the perspective of both the descendants of the colonised and the colonisers. Other topics include questions of representation, the renegotiation of property, the opening of collections and post-colonial museum work. Negotiation processes and the exchange of different perspectives are always central aspects: How do perceptions of the objects and individual ideas on coming to terms with the colonial past differ? What interests exist on the side of the societies of origin and on the side of European museums? What are the perspectives for the future handling of colonial collections or their reinterpretation? How can results be transferred into public discourse?
Challenges exist not only in terms of unequal expectations, access to the collections and the availability of resources, but also in terms of the sustainability of projects. How can we overcome postcolonial power relations and establish cooperations in a sustainable manner? What future forms and orientations can they take? What types of cooperations are desirable, what can they achieve, where are their limits and what is needed beyond provenance research? On the basis of selected cooperative projects, the panel will discuss what opportunities and challenges exist in cooperative work and how these can achieve consistency and permanence.
Chair: Thomas Laely, University of Zurich, former Deputy Director of the Ethnographic Museum at the University of Zurich