Cultures of Remembrance on the Collection of Strümpell

Fragments of Colonial Collecting - Cultures of Remembrance of the Cameroon Collection of Kurt Strümpell (1872-1947) in the Museum and Oral History

The subproject of PAESE at the Städtisches Museum Braunschweig focuses on the investigation of the acquisition circumstances of the collection of Kurt Strümpell (1876-1947) under the conditions of German colonial rule in Cameroon. Between 1901 and 1908 Strümpell gave 700 objects to the museum of his hometown for its ethnographic collection. This included objects from the West, Southwest and Northwest Region as well as Adamawa, the North and Far North Region of Cameroon, and parts of today’s Nigeria. From 1900 to 1912, Strümpell acted as an officer in the German colony of Cameroon. At first, he was assigned to different military stations in the so-called Grasslands. From 1906 to 1910, he served as resident of Adamawa. The aim of the project is to examine how and under what circumstances Strümpell appropriated the objects, what acquisition methods existed and how they related to the German colonial rule. In this regard, contexts of violence as well as the diversity and complexity of object acquisitions in the colonial context will be considered.

Starting from questions of provenance research, the dissertation project will examine different cultures of remembrance in relation to the collection and to what extent (post)colonial structures are inscribed in them. How were and are colonial acquisition contexts remembered or concealed? Based on the museum’s documentation, the colonial culture of remembrance will be questioned. To study the culture of remembrance in Cameroon, interviews will be conducted with representatives of communities of origin. As a foundation for a postcolonial culture of remembrance at the museum, provenance research will be carried out, consulting archival sources, publications by Strümpell and current scientific literature.

As media of the remembrance process, the objects of the collection form a reference to the colonial past: What meanings were attributed to them during the colonial period and what meanings can they take on today? As bearers of postcolonial entanglements, they raise the question if they can become starting points for new dialogues and relationships? How can a postcolonial culture of remembrance be developed with provenance research, which includes acquisition contexts under the conditions of unequal power relations as well as interactions and agency of the local population during the colonial period?

The work is a contribution to ethnological provenance and memory studies of the German colonial history based on material culture.


Researcher: Isabella Bozsa

Museums Director: Dr. Peter Joch

Head of the Subproject:  Dr. Evelin Haase, Dr. Rainer Hatoum

Academic Adviser: Prof. Dr. Brigitte Reinwald (Universität Hannover)