Evangelisch-lutherisches Missionswerk in Niedersachsen




General information about the institution


In 1849 Lutheran pastor Ludwig Harms founded the “Hermannsburg Mission” seminary in the small town of Hermannsburg in Lower Saxony, and began training missionaries with the aim of sending them to the Gallas people (today’s Oromo people) in Abyssinia (in today’s Ethiopia).
Soon after, in 1853, the first missionaries, farmers and tradesmen left on the purpose-built mission ship ‘Candace’ to start their mission work in Ethiopia. However, access to the intended mission area in Ethiopia had been barred, so the first missions eventually were established in South Africa.
Further missions were established in India (1864), in Australia and North America (1866), in New Zealand (1876), Persia (1880), Brazil (1898), and eventually also in Ethiopia (1928), and later also in Peru, the Central African Republic and in Malawi.
On 2. May 1856 the first official constitution of the “Missionsanstalt Hermannsburg” (MAH - ‘Mission Society Hermannsburg’) was passed, which officially conferred the status of a legal body to the Hermannsburg Mission.
In 1977 the MAH was changed into the Evangelical-Lutheran Mission of Lower-Saxony (ELM – Evangelish-lutherisches Missionswerk) to become the united mission foundation of the Lutheran state churches of Hanover, Braunschweig and Schaumburg-Lippe.
Today ELM operates the ‘College of Intercultural Theology Hermannsburg’, which has grown out of the previous Mission seminary.


General information on collections from colonial contexts in the respective institution


The small collection and exhibition at the Ludwig-Harms house of the ELM in Hermannsburg features approximately 2500 ethnological objects and examples of traditional art. These objects were collected exclusively by the ELM missionaries over the course of the past 150 years. The foundation of the “Mission Museum” was laid right at the beginning of the Hermannsburg mission, when founder pastor Ludwig Harms stated his intention to present his congregation and friends of the mission with “testimonies of distant encounters” as documentation of other cultures.
The majority of objects in the collection originate from the ELM missions in Africa, particularly from South Africa, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Central Africa, as well as from other mission stations in India, America and Brazil.


Information on the sub-collections to be researched in PAESE

A small portion of the ELM collection originated in Australia, where the ELM mission supported three mission stations between 1866 and 1894 (Cooper Creek in South Australia, Hermannsburg mission in Central Australia/ Northern Territory, and Mari Yamba mission in Queensland).
Among the Australian objects are 4 Tjurunga (secret-sacred Aboriginal objects) from Central Australia, which probably were added to the collection before 1891. The provenance of these objects is one focus of the PAESE sub-project “Provenance of Tjurunga in the Landesmuseum Hanover and the collection Hermannsburg”.


Subproject: Provenances of Tjurunga

Researcher: Olaf Geerken (Georg-August-University Göttingen)

Head of the Subproject: Prof. Dr. Rebekka Habermas (Georg-August-University Göttingen)