On 28 January 1900, an exhibition opened at the Roemer-Museum Hildesheim featuring ethnographic objects collected by a certain Hermann Großkopf. Working as a marine engineer on the imperial mail steamer “Stettin”, which was operated by the shipping company Norddeutscher Lloyd, Großkopf had travelled the Pacific Ocean from Singapore to New Guinea. Along the way he had collected ethnographic souvenirs that filled many crates.
The Roemer-Museum bought about 130 of these objects from him in 1900. An additional more than 200 objects were sold by one of his daughters to the Ethnographic Collection of the University of Göttingen in 1941. In 1913, after many years in the service of the Norddeutscher Lloyd, Großkopf eventually settled down in Hildesheim where he became an employee of the Städtische Gas- und Wasserwerke (City Gas and Water Works) and serviced the heating systems of public buildings until shortly before his death in 1933.
More than 100 years after the first Großkopf exhibition, a new exhibition at the RPM takes a fresh look at the marine engineer and his collection – this time in virtual form. In the context of the joint project “Provenance Research in Non-European Collections and Ethnography in Lower Saxony“ (PAESE), which is being funded by the Volkswagen Foundation, cultural anthropologist Sabine Lang (Roemer- und Pelizaeus Museum) and historian Sara Müller (University of Göttingen) have set out in search for clues on Großkopf and the way he acquired his collection. Laid out like a documentary, the exhibition takes the viewers on a journey: It tells of the voyages of the “Stettin”; the conditions in what was then the colony of “German New Guinea”; and the collecting practices of Großkopf and other European travellers. At the same time, the viewers are treated to a guided tour in the virtual exhibition, as the two curators introduce individual objects and explain their use.