Ethnological objects represent only a fraction of the museums’ inventories from colonial contexts. By now, the focus is increasingly shifting to include the handling of natural history collections. This may be by means of projects designed to develop guidelines for dealing with collections from colonial contexts, to apply post- and decolonial approaches to natural history collections, or to consider ethnological and natural history collecting practices together. Natural history specimens are also playing an increasing role in debates about possible restitution – as, for example, in the case of some dinosaurs at the Berlin Museum of Natural History.
Only a transdisciplinary approach, beyond the boundaries of today's disciplines and museum depots, reveals the entire "spectrum" of colonial collecting - and also the mass of objects gathered in total. Through this approach, common collectors, networks, dealer structures, or transport routes of objects become evident as well. The transdisciplinary connection of colonial collecting practices is particularly striking in multi-disciplinary museums, where collectors of colonial objects are usually represented in several departments – but this connection may go unnoticed, and the handling of the various types of objects may differ greatly.
However, what are specific issues and challenges in research using transdisciplinary approaches? What are the implications of these insights for post- and decolonial practices in dealing with these holdings? And how can research projects on natural history specimens and ethnological objects be linked in order to achieve synergy effects?
Chair: Sabine Lang, Roemer and Pelizaeus Museum, Hildesheim