In its orientation and connection to St. Ottilien Archabbey, our museum is located within the tradition of missionary collections.
The original purpose of the museum as a teaching collection for the young missionaries' cultural education and as an "advertising medium" for mission became obsolete decades ago. Now we see our mission in preserving the inventory and developing it including its historic traditions.
Responsibilities of our museum
We appreciate our collections as part of mankind‘s cultural memory. Therefore, preservation and management of the objects is important to us, as we keep them not only for ourselves but as well for the source communities.
The complete inventory is digitized; scientific examination and provenance research of our collections are completed. In collaboration with St. Ottilien Archabbey's archive, we supervise doctoral students with research topics on museum objects or aspects of St. Ottilien’s missionary work in order to further explore our collections.
As part of a network of German and international ethnological museums and other organizations, our objects are frequently on loan for exhibitions in order to promote cultural exchange.
Visualization and knowledge transfer are key areas of our work. By our low-threshold offers, we want to reach people of all ages. We include the objects as cultural "ambassadors" in our tour and event program, encouraging our visitors to understand and appreciate living environments different from their own.
Provenance Research and Restitution
We are aware of the historic responsibilities that come along with the collected cultural heritage, especially concerning provenance research and restitution. As is typical for missionary collections, we hardly find any evidence about the context of acquisition of our objects. We have to deal with this empty space around the assumed or real context of injustice from the colonial past.
The museum’s restitution concept emphasizes our open approach for dialog and collaboration with source communities. Since 2007, we are partners for scientific exchange and collaboration with institutions in South Korea. These excellent and fruitful cooperations led to several donations and returns from our collections on our own initiative. For East Africa and South Africa, there are presently no requests for a restitution of objects nor requests for collaboration.
The museum‘s management team collaborates with a project committee of the religious orders’ representative bodies in Germany (DOK) concerning preservation and research in missionary collections.
We are in contact with the German Lost Art Foundation and are part of the Arbeitskreis Provenienzforschung e.V. (Task Force Provenance Research). Furthermore, we are committed to the 3-ways-strategy initiated by the German Contact Point for Collections from Colonial Contexts, whose long-term aim is access to information from European museums for the communities of origin.
Repeatedly we critically address our mission statement and adapt it to the current requirements.