Collecting Strategies and Collectors’ Networks in European Colonies

Monday, 21 June 3:15 p.m. - 4:45 p.m. (CET)

Europeans in the colonies were connected by networks, and many of their collections were distributed among various museums. This is why research on collectors’ networks and collecting strategies is so important.

One focus of the panel is on military personnel as collectors. However, merchants, too, maintained extensive networks in various colonies where they obtained ethnographic objects as “by products”, so to speak, of their business activities, and passed them on to (museum) collections. The situation was similar with regard to churches and missionary societies whose networks consisted of missionaries. Additional networks connected museums in Germany with Germans living overseas. These emigrants, in turn, were in touch with each other and supplied the museums of their native cities with ethnographic objects.

In some cases, objects of individual collectors are found scattered in various collections. This is due, among other things, to the role played by the Royal Museum of Ethnology (Königliches Museum für Völkerkunde) in Berlin. All objects coming from ventures funded by the German Empire had to be sent to that museum. So-called “doublets” were subsequently sold, given as gifts, or given in exchange for other objects to museums and other institutions all over the Empire.

How can these diverse collectors’ networks be grasped? What strategies of collecting – on collectors’ own initiative, but in some cases also inspired by manuals such as Felix von Luschan’s “Instructions for ethnographic observations and collecting in Africa and Oceania” – can be observed? How important were military structures in the context of the acquisition, transport, etc., of objects collected by members of the “Schutztruppen”? To what degree does this also apply to the structures of missionary and trading companies with regard to the collecting activities of missionaries and merchants?


Chair: Jennifer Tadge, State Museum for Nature and Man, Oldenburg