State Museum Nature and Man Oldenburg




General information about the institution


The State Museum Nature and Man Oldenburg was founded in 1836 by Grand Duke Paul Friedrich August von Oldenburg (1783-1853). The purchase of a collection of insects, birds, and mammals that had been constituted especially for the museum by the Delmenhorst District Physicist Dr. Otto Ernst Oppermann (1764-1851) even dates back to the year 1835. The origins of the overall collection can partly be traced back to the 1770s and includes objects from the fields of archaeology, natural history, ethnology, geology, and botany. A special feature of the multidisciplinary museum is the permanent exhibition, which was created by artists in a scenographic design. Visitors are thus presented with an impressive and multi-layered picture of the cultural and natural history of the region, which is characterised by its moors, mudflats, salt marshes, and the sea. Changing special exhibitions are dedicated to supra-regional topics with a focus on the museum's main collection areas: natural history, archaeology, and ethnology. In addition to impressive objects of regional origin, including the important moor finds or the megalithic tombs of the Geest, there are colonial collections in the State Museum. Some of these objects are displayed in historical showcases in the so-called Naturalien-Cabinett, which refers to the museum's founding period in the 19th century.


General information on collections from colonial contexts in the respective institution


Since the beginnings of the museum in 1836, ethnological holdings and natural objects from non-European regions have been part of the collection. The objects mostly came from private (often local) collections or from the Berlin Museums of Natural History and Ethnology, which became the central collection point for objects from German colonies by the resolution of the Federal Council of Germany in 1889 and gave surplus objects to the other museums, including the State Museum Nature and Man Oldenburg. In addition, objects were acquired by purchase or exchange to supplement the holdings. Of the total of about 7,000 ethnological objects, about 50% come from colonial contexts, mainly from the German colonial period. Today, additions are only made through donations, in line with the collection concept.


Information on the sub-collections to be researched in PAESE


The PAESE sub-project at the State Museum Nature and Man Oldenburg is primarily concerned with the ethnological collections from the former German colonial areas, which are now located in Tanzania, Cameroon and Papua New Guinea. At the centre of the project is the collection of the Langheld brothers (Wilhelm, Johannes, and Friedrich), which was established between 1889 and 1901 and comprises over 1,000 objects (predominantly everyday and utility items, as well as weapons). The collection was mainly created in Tanzania, when the Langheld brothers were deployed there during the German colonial period as members of the Imperial Protection Force for German East Africa and the German Anti-Slavery Committee. The largest part of the collection stems from Wilhelm Langheld (1867-1917). The collection created at that time is scattered across several museums, among them the Ethnological Museum Berlin, more than 1,000 objects are in the State Museum Nature and Man Oldenburg. The PAESE project also considers smaller collections, including the collection of objects from Samoa, created by Richard Deeken (1874-1914), and the collection of objects from Papua New Guinea by Count von Baudissin (1852-1921). The collections that the museum received through the Ethnological Museum in Berlin are also examined. These mainly originate from Cameroon and are to be made accessible to further research projects through digitalisation.


Researcher: Jennifer Tadge

Subproject: Colonial Collections in Oldenburg