In the last years, standard museum tasks were complemented by the approach to cultural heritage from colonial contexts.
An intense engagement with the „Report on the Restitution of African Cultural Heritage" by Bénédicte Savoy / Felwine Sarr, and a study of literature and other sources resulted in a restitution concept for the Mission Museum which, since its first publication in May 2019, is continually refined and adapted to the current discussion.
The museum management team follows the guideline of the German Museum Association (Leitfaden des Deutschen Museumsbunds, 2021).
We commit ourselves to the 3-way strategy (3-Wege-Strategie), which was established in 2020 by the German State Minister for Culture and Media, Culture Ministers, Departments of Cultural Affairs and representatives of municipal umbrella organizations; their goal is the provision of digital object inventories from European museums for source communities.
Moreover, we support the position of the „Heidelberg Statement“ (Heidelberger Stellungnahme), a self-commitment by 26 large German ethnological museums which emphasizes on provenance research, transparency and dialog.
For our museum, the conservation of objects as a trustee is an important task, especially in case objects are already no longer existent in the culture of origin. However, for us this is not contrary to cooperation, restitution, or repatriation. We believe that cultural goods as a global heritage are in the responsibility of mankind, and may circulate.
Intercultural dialog can qualify European viewpoints towards foreign cultures, and can prevent restitutions under European conditions without focussing on the source communities' viewpoint.
Therefore, the Mission Museum management team opts for a strategy of openness, allowing communities of origin to decide about the right time for contact and cooperation.
Monitoring the discussion in the source countries closely is one step, signaling openness and willingness for dialog another step to this target. This means listening to the source communities’ perspective and understanding the answers they seek. Only then can we find solutions for preservation and presentation of cultural heritage together with the descendants of the owners.
Restitution Key Points
> We are open for restitution, especially in cases where objects have a great cultural, emotional or scientific meaning for the community of origin.
> Restitution is handled via the government of sovereign states, which can decide in favor of ethnic groups.
> We welcome explicitly collaboration with museums and institutions from communities of origin as a means for dialog and cooperation.
> For valuable restituted objects, we recommend for the receiving country to create replica (if possible), in order to give German visitors further access to the objects in their function as “culture ambassadors”.
> On request, we give advisory support to museums in source countries concerning preservation and presentation of the restituted objects.
Please direct any inquiries for restitution to the museum directors or to our collaborative partner German Contact Point for Collections from Colonial Contexts.