The World in Showcases The Collectors’ Networks of the Roemer-Museum Hildesheim and the Growth of the Ethnographic Collection, 1844–1914 by Sabine Lang

Panel: Collecting Strategies and Collectors’ Networks in European Colonies 
Monday, 21 June, 3:15 p.m. - 4:45 p.m. (CET)


The Roemer- und Pelizaeus-Museum is not an ethnographic museum. From its very beginnings, it has been laid out as a “Mehrspartenmuseum“, that is, a museum whose collections cover several disciplines: Natural History, Egyptology, Art, Hildesheim city history and prehistory and, last but not least, Ethnology.
When the Roemer-Museum opened in 1845, its ethnographic collection comprised about 28 objects. Today, there are about 12,000 objects from all parts of the world. Many, but by no means all, were collected in colonial contexts.
The paper will present results of the PAESE subproject at the Roemer- und Pelizaeus-Museum, whose focus is on collectors’ networks and collecting strategies from the beginnings of the Roemer-Museum 1844/45 until World War I. While the museum’s directors Roemer, Andreae, and Hauthal used their international networks to increase not only the ethnographic but also the natural history holdings, the focus of this presentation is on the impact of these networks on the growth of the ethnographic collection. Two basic types of networks can be distinguished: Professional, personal, and political networks of the directors themselves; and networks connecting Hildesheim-born expatriates both with their native city and with each other. The large number of collectors under study in the Hildesheim subproject allows some generalizing statements on the possibilities and limitations of clarifying the circumstances of acquisition based not only on one collector or few collectors but on many collectors.


Sabine Lang was trained in Cultural Anthropology, Ancient American Studies, and European Prehistory. Her doctoral dissertation (Hamburg, 1990) was on systems of multiple genders in indigenous cultures of North America. After earning her doctoral degree she continued her research on these systems by conducting fieldwork, funded by the German Research Foundation, in the United States. She has presented the results of her research in numerous publications. Since early 2017 she has been conducting provenance research at the Roemer- und Pelizaeus-Museum Hildesheim, currently in the context of the PAESE joint project.