Researching collecting practices

The history and scientific (re)use of Göttingen’s academic collections in the context of ethnographic discourses and museum theory

Besemann-Ansicht Academisches Museum
Ansicht des Academischen Museums von Besemann

History of Art, Archaeology, Ethnography – what impact did 18th-century academic collections have on the development of these academic disciplines? What role did the Königlich Academische Museum that was founded in Göttingen in 1773 play for this development? The research project „Sammeln erforschen – Geschichte und wissenschaftliche Aktualisierung der Göttinger Universitätssammlungen im Kontext museumstheoretischer und ethnologischer Diskurse“ („Researching collecting practices. The history and scientific (re)use of Göttingen’s academic colelctions in the context of ethnographic discourses and museum theory“) is funded by the VolkswagenStiftung with a total sum of 500,000 € and will be run over the course of four years. The project was developed by the Centre for Collection Development (University of Göttingen) in cooperation with the Chair for Theory and Practices of Collecting and Exhibiting (HTW University of Applied Sciences Berlin).

„The objects from the Ethnographic collection that have once been part of the original stocks of the Königlich Academische Museum will be the focus of the project” says Dr. Marie Luisa Allemeyer, Director of the Centre for Collection Development. Scholars assume that buying specific objects, as well as strategies of collecting, ordering and conveying lead to the emergence of particular scientific disciplines, in this case ethnography. While institutionalizing processes have already become subject of academic research, taking into account the collection’s particular stock of objects, their practices (and those of their agents) is an entirely new take. As Dr. Allemeyer emphasizes, “this approach allows us to reconstruct one of the most important historical collections, as well as to actively participate in theoretical discourses and debates on Ethnography, Museum Studies and Material Culture Studies.”

With the initiative „Research in museums“, the VolkswagenStiftung wants to support scientific research undertaken by museums. By critically (re)examining their collections, museums such as the future Forum Wissen are enabled to conceptualize scientifically grounded exhibitions, thereby fulfilling their intermediary role.

Dr. Marie Luisa Allemeyer (Centre for Collection Development, University of Göttingen) and Prof. Dr. Susan Kamel (Chair for Theory and Practices of Collecting and Exhibiting, HTW University of Applied Sciences Berlin) are the main applicants. They’ve conceptualized and developed the research project together with the ethnologist Dr. Gudrun Bucher (Göttingen) and the exhibition planner Susanne Wernsing (Vienna), in cooperation with Dr. Michael Kraus (Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Göttingen), Dr. Dominik Hünniger (Lichtenberg-Kolleg, University of Göttingen), as well as with Prof. Dr. Rebekka Habermas and Prof. Dr. Marian Füssel (Institute for History, University of Göttingen).