In this section, we would like to give answers to your questions about provenance research, acquisition contexts of the items in our museum and postcolonial discourse; colonial heritage management and the dialog with source communities are further topics.

With three guided tours in the permanent exhibition through the museum’s permanent exhibition, we offer for interested parties the opportunity for contact and personal exchange.

> "Stolen cultural property?" Provenance research and restitutions in the museum
> Mission and colonialism – a search for evidence
> Mission then - and today?

Do you have any questions that you would like to ask in writing? Contact us at

What is special about missionary collections?

Only in few cases missionary collections were built up as ethnological museums; they were mostly gathered unsys-
tematically by missionaries for educational purposes, as souvenirs or for sale in favor of the mission as well as for art dealers and museums.

Are there claims for restitution?

Presently, there are no claims for restitution from source communities. However, we are open for dialog; our restitution concept is published on the website.
Requests can be sent directly to the Missionsmuseum or to the German Contact Point for Collections from Colonial Contexts.

What are the sources for provenance research?

Available sources connected to the museum's inventory are incomplete museum entry books, index cards with different numbering systems, old object signs, a small amount of documents at St. Ottilien Archabbey's archives, remarks in the missionaries' diaries and chronicles of the monastery.

Is the collection presently still extended?

The majority of objects were collected until 1918 (in East Africa) resp. 1950 (in South Africa) and between 1909 and the late 1930ies (in Korea). Afterwards, the inventory was completed by some acquisitions from art dealers.
Since 1914, only objects connected with St. Ottilien’s mission history were added.

Are there culturally sensitive objects?

We identified around 9% of the museum's inventory as cultu-
rally sensitive objects.
This includes masks, items for initiation and ancestor worship, war and ceremonial weapons as well as healer's utensils in the Africa collections.
The Korea collection includes items with religious reference, too.

What du you know about the context of acquisition?

Sources provide as a maximum of information the acquisition region, ethnic group and in around 50% the purchaser. More information about con-
texts of acquisition is available for some Korean objects or purchases from art dealers.
As all available sources are already evaluated, the remaining gaps cannot be filled.

Does the museum hold human remains?

No human remains were collec-
ted at the Missionsmuseum. The aim of the collections was communicating everyday culture from areas where the Missionary Benedictines worked.
All bones, e.g. among the utensils of the healer or in jewelry, are clearly of animal origin.

How does the museum reflect colonial history?

Since 2019, we are involved with restitution and the colonial entanglements of mission and address these topics in our guided tours.
One element of decolonization work are planned interventions, which reflect our approach to the post-colonial discourse.

How does the museum define postcolonialism?

We understand the term not as a time-related "afterwards" in the sense of political indepen-
dence but as a concept that emphasizes, besides decoloni-
sation, as well a consciousness for the continued existence of imperial and Eurocentric struc-
tures in geographical, economic and religious fields up to the present day.

What is the state of provenance research?

We completed scientific prove-
nance research in 2018, after evaluating all available sources. Research work was executed by experts of 5 Kontinente Museum Munich (East/South Africa) and the Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Foundation, together with associated institutions (Korea).

Do you involve
source communities?

For East Africa, we are currently negotiating a cooperation, where source communities are included in research work.
South Korea has due to its historic development and homogenous society no ethnic minorities besides the foreigners living in the country.

What does transparency mean for the museum?

The colonial conditions under which the items were collected are a fact we aim to meet with open, self-reflexive approach to history.

Moreover, we want to inform our visitors and increase their awareness for these topics.

Which conditions apply
to a restitution?

We return/restitute objects to the government of sovereign nations that can then decide in favor of individual source com-
We are open for requests on restitution and consider returns in case an item is important for the cultural identity of a society, or is scientifically relevant or is a rare cultural heritage.

Are there injustice contexts in the museum?

Since almost no acquisition context can be derived from the sources, there are open questions, especially for culturally sensitive objects such as spears, masks etc. During provenance research, no contexts of injustice were detected. However, due to the colonial power relations, we at least assume an inequality context.

Missionaries as partners
of colonial powers?

Mission history and colonial history are intertwined; the Missionary Benedictines of St. Ottilien worked in the setting of colonial structures. The missionaries' relation to the colonial government ranged between closeness and distance; the latter especially whenever missionaries stood up for the local community.

What are the next steps
at the Missionsmuseum?

Besides cooperation with
specialized bodies and imple-
mentation of the planned interventions regarding colonial discourse, we prepare for the exchange with source communities.
Here, we are expecting a high learning potential and decisive impulses for understanding the objects and their presentation.

What about colonial contexts in the inventory?

German East African objects (protected area of the German Reich (1885-1918), exhibits from other formal colonial rules as South Africa (British protec-
torate, Commonwealth of Nations 1806-1931/61) and Korea (Japanese protectorate 1910-1945) are rated among this category - 98% of the inventory have colonial context.

The museum as dialog room of cultures?

A museum presentation in the form of a poly-cultural com-
parison of lifestyles may face accusation of enhancing culturalism / cultural racism. With some of our special exhi-
bitions, we we would like to set another focus and give insights into historic structures of power and their effects up to the present.

Is the name "mission museum" still appropriate?

The museum's inventory is based on ethnology and natural history, but also outlines the work and history of the Missionary Benedictines and is characterized by its connection to St. Ottilien archabbey.
In our view, renaming would only be an undesirable disguise for the context of this missionary collection.

Is decolonisation possible in the museum?

We are aware that it is a con-
tradiction in itself to decolonize an ethnological collection with-
out breaking with the "museum" concept, which is not possible for us out of different reasons. We opt for a concept that supports our visitors and motivates learning without overwhelming them.