General information on the museum
When the Hildesheim Museum was founded in 1844, it was initially named “City Museum” (“Städtisches Museum”). In 1894 it was first renamed “Roemer-Museum” and then got its current name, “Roemer- und Pelizaeus-Museum”, in 1911. It is a multidisciplinary museum with collections from natural history, Egyptology, city history, and ethnography. While the ethnographic collection comprises about 14.000 objects from all continents today, it consisted of no more than 28 objects when the museum was founded. Its subsequent growth was not least due to the efforts of museum co-founder Hermann Roemer who placed importance on enlarging all collections from the various disciplines. Particularly Hildesheim-born people living overseas were called upon to contribute to the growth of the ethnographic collection; and they did. An important role in Hermann Roemer’s network was played by Ludwig “Louis” Gottfried Dyes (1831–1903), a native of Hildesheim who was a cousin of the Roemer brothers. He contributed to the growth of various collections including the ethnographic holdings. Being a merchant and Imperial and Royal Consul General of Austria in Bremen, he used his business connections and networks to present the museum with important collections from Oceania (Zembsch collection), Namibia (Hoepfner collection, see below), and other places.
From the 1880s onward, director Roemer (until 1894) and his successor Achilles Andreae (1894–1905) – who were not ethnologists but geologists – relied on Johannes Dietrich Eduard Schmeltz (1839–1909) for guidance when it came to enlarging and exhibiting the museum’s ethnographic holdings. Schmeltz, who had begun his academic career as curator of the ethnographic collection at the Museum Godeffroy in Hamburg, had become curator at the National Museum of Ethnology in Leiden in 1882. From 1905 until 1914, the Berlin ethnologist and interim director (1905/06) Edgar Walden (1876–1914) was in charge of the ethnographic collection and further enlarged it, too, mainly with doublets of the Royal Museum of Ethnography Berlin where he was employed.
General information on collections from colonial contexts at the RPM
The majority of the selected holdings that are the focus of the PAESE subproject at the RPM came to the museum between 1844 and 1900, that is, largely in Hermann Roemer’s lifetime. A considerable part of the ethnographic collection as a whole is from colonial contexts. There are objects from the former German colonies in Africa (Cameroon, Togo, German Southwest Africa, German East Africa) as well as from German New Guinea in Oceania. However, the collections at the RPM also include objects from colonies of other colonial powers (Great Britain, The Netherlands). An example of the latter is a collection of objects from Sulawesi under study in the PAESE subproject. The collection was compiled by Dr. Hermann Muhlert (1816–1870), a native of Hildesheim who for many years was in Dutch service as an army doctor. In the Dutch East Indies he was first stationed in Java, then (from 1855 onward) in Sulawesi (“Celebes”).
However, a considerable number of objects whose provenance is under study in the PAESE subproject at the RPM were collected – and acquired by the Hildesheim museum – even before the onset of formal colonial rule. These include a substantial Namibia collection (mainly Herero) complied by Carl Hoepfner while conducting two prospection surveys on the eve of the establishment of the colony of German Southwest Africa.
It has not (yet) been possible to establish the exact number of ethnographic objects from colonial contexts at the RPM.
Information on the collections under study in PAESE
The following holdings of the RPM are under study in the PAESE subproject: collections from Namibia (various collectors including Carl Hoepfner [prospection surveys in Namibia 1882–1884] and the missionary Wilhelm Eich [1850–1935]; from the Dutch East Indies/Indonesia (Dr. Hermann Muhlert collection, before 1860); as well as ethnographic objects from Micronesia and Polynesia purchased from the Museum Godeffroy, Hamburg, in the late 1870s/early 1880s (various collectors; the objects at the RPM include items definitely collected by Amalie Dietrich and Johann Stanislaus Kubary).