Ethnological Museum Berlin

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Ethnological Museum
Humboldt Forum-9147.jpg
location Humboldt Forum in the Berlin Palace
architect Franco Stella
opening 1873
ISIL DE-MUS-019118

The Ethnological Museum is an ethnological museum of the State Museums in Berlin and is located in the Humboldt Forum in the Berlin Palace . Founded in 1873 as the Royal Museum of Ethnology , it comprises around 500,000 objects from Africa , America , Asia and Australia as well as around the same number of audio, video, film and written documents. The collection of the Ethnological Museum is one of the most important of its kind.



Adolf Bastian , first director of the museum

The roots of the Ethnological Museum go back to the 17th century, as the first ethnographic objects were already in the Brandenburg-Prussian art chamber of the Great Elector in the Berlin Palace . From 1671 onwards, weapons, equipment and clothing from Ceylon , the Moluccas and Japan , Chinese porcelain , manuscripts from India and objects from Africa came to Berlin through trade relations with the Dutch East India Company .

After the preacher and librarian Jean Henry (1761–1831) was first appointed overseer and then director of the royal chamber of antiquities, coins and art, the holdings were systematically sorted for the first time in 1794. He also expanded the collection to include other objects. Henry bought objects from Tahiti in 1802 , weapons from the Orient in 1803 and bronzes from India in 1806 . He also made an inventory of the Kunstkammer in 1805. In the art and rarities chamber, the non-European objects formed their own collection, which had been housed in a separate room since 1798. In 1819 Jean Henry succeeded in buying parts of the collection of the explorer James Cook at an auction in London . He also acquired objects that were brought to Berlin by the Prussian merchant ships Prinzess Louise and Mentor from 1822 onwards. One of the outstanding pieces that ended up in the collection was the feather coat , the Kamehameha III. , King of Hawaii , as a gift for King Friedrich Wilhelm III. presented to the captain of the Princess Louise , and was accepted in 1828.

In 1829, Leopold Freiherr von Ledebur , a former captain and historian, replaced Jean Henry as director of the Kunstkammer. The collection of ethnological objects continued to grow under his leadership, as he acquired entire collections, among other things. Ledebur was supported by the general director of the royal collections, Ignaz von Olfers , who had been ambassador to Brazil and was therefore open to ethnology . In 1844 the guide “ Leitfaden für die Königliche Kunstkammer” and the Ethnographic Cabinet was published , in which Ledebur managed the ethnographic collection as an independent department of the royal museums under the direction of the assistant director, Hofrat F. Förster. Förster also wrote the chapter on the ethnological collection in this guide.

After the paintings and sculptures were spun off from the Kunstkammer and presented in the newly built Altes Museum from 1830 , the concept of the Kunstkammer was being phased out because it no longer did justice to the growing collections and their increasing scientific consideration. That is why the New Museum was built between 1843 and 1859 , in the basement of which the ethnological collection was shown alongside the Egyptian and prehistoric collections. The collection had already moved to the Neues Museum in 1856. The three rooms with a total of 750 m² in which it was shown were already referred to in a guide in 1865 as the "Ethnographic Museum". This establishment as an independent part of the Royal Museums of Berlin is in the real sense the foundation of the Ethnological Museum, even if no director of its own has yet been appointed. In 1861 the collection comprised 5,192 objects.

In 1869, Adolf Bastian , who had traveled extensively as a ship's doctor, became assistant director of the ethnographic collection. He further expanded the holdings and campaigned for a museum building of his own. Bastian also promoted the academic subject of ethnology in Berlin and, together with Rudolf Virchow and other scholars, founded the Berlin Society for Anthropology, Ethnology and Prehistory in 1869 .

Foundation of the museum and development of the collection

Royal Museum of Ethnology in Berlin-Kreuzberg, 1900

The decision to found an independent ethnological and anthropological museum in Berlin by Kaiser Wilhelm I was made in 1873 at the request of the Berlin Society for Anthropology, Ethnology and Prehistory. The foundation stone for the museum's own building at Königgrätzer Strasse 120 (today: Stresemannstrasse ) at the corner of Prinz-Albrecht-Strasse in Berlin-Kreuzberg could not be laid until 1880. It was designed by the Berlin university professor Hermann Ende . The construction work for the magnificent monumental building lasted six years until the “Royal Museum of Ethnology” was opened in 1886, which housed the ethnological as well as the prehistoric and anthropological collections and the offices of the Berlin Society for Ethnology. However, the building was designed more for representation than an adequate location for the presentation of the collection. When it opened, it was already too small to fully accommodate the 40,000 ethnological objects that were already there in 1880.

Adolf Bastian was appointed director of the three-part museum complex in 1876. He further developed the concept of the museum so that the value of the objects changed from curiosities to documents of cultures outside of Europe. Organized collecting began under Bastian's direction, with the aim of documenting the cultures of non-European peoples as completely as possible. Adolf Bastian's working method was the comparative-genetic method, which required the largest possible number of objects to be compared. He wanted to derive common origins from their ranking and bring a natural law and historical perspective into the representation of human development. This led to a focus on peoples who were not written, understood as having no history and uncivilized, and also to the fact that, for example, European objects that were also in the collection were not exhibited. This in turn led in 1889 to the establishment of the Museum for German Costumes and Home Crafts, the predecessor institution of the Museum of European Cultures , by Virchow, in which Virchow tried to preserve the rural and rural goods from Germany that were disappearing in the course of industrialization. In the Ethnographic Museum itself, a veritable tour through the past high civilizations of the world was created before the First World War, including a focus on Asia with India, Indonesia and China . Little is known to this day that the Ethnographic Museum at that time - in demonstrable competition with similar collection initiatives in France - also exhibited the largest plaster cast collection of the famous bas-reliefs of the Cambodian temple of Angkor Wat .

From 1881 onwards, the collection trips were supported by the newly founded auxiliary committee for the increase of the ethnological collections . The aim was to document the foreign cultures that were threatened with extinction as comprehensively as possible. This purpose was also reflected in the conception of the museum, which was a place for the storage and scientific development of the collection and did not offer a didactically prepared presentation for the visitors.

Development according to Dahlem

Bruno-Paul-Bau in Berlin-Dahlem, 2012

Due to the increasing lack of space and the overcrowded showcases, however, thought began to separate the collection into a permanent collection and a working collection. In 1906 a shed was built on the site of the Dahlem domain to house part of the collection. For the final solution to the spatial problem, a large museum complex was to be built in Dahlem , which was to consist of four new buildings for the four continents of Asia, Africa, Oceania and America. The architect Bruno Paul began construction of the building for the Asian collection in 1914, but the work was stopped due to the First World War . The building was finally completed in 1921, but the financial means were lacking for the other buildings. The Bruno-Paul-Bau was subsequently used as a storage facility for the collection, which was urgently needed after the basic features of the collection, which had grown to today's breadth and size due to the phase of the great collection expeditions that ended with the beginning of the First World War .

In the museum building in the city center, a permanent collection was set up from 1926, which was specially designed for a general public. Maps and texts should now give the audience more knowledge about non-European cultures. This development was also based on a change in the understanding of ethnology itself. Adolf Bastian saw the collection as a means of presenting the universal history of man in a comparative way, leaving out European influences. However, in the 1920s, the perception shifted that cultures were viewed as dynamic. The constant change in which they found themselves should now also be reflected in the museum presentation. The objects on display were detached from their documentary purpose for human development and brought into focus themselves and placed in their own respective context of their culture and use. However, these developments were not taken into account in their full strength in the presentation of the collection, as it was hardly changed from 1926 until the outbreak of the Second World War.

National Socialism and World War II

The Museum für Völkerkunde did not use the prevailing ideology in its presentation of the collection during the National Socialist era, in contrast to the Museum für Deutschen Volkskunde, for example; it was retained almost unchanged. In 1935, following the independence of the Museum of German Folklore in the Museum of Ethnology, under the direction of the Africanist Hermann Baumann, a separate collection for Eurasian objects was established, thus separating European ethnographies. The Eurasia department focused on rural and peasant cultures in Eastern and Southeastern Europe and was thus in line with the National Socialist search for “living space in the east”. This had no scientific justification, but was a calculated political decision.

The collection was open to the public until the beginning of World War II . Then it was stored together with the stored stocks in various locations inside and outside Berlin in order to protect it from damage and loss as a result of the war. After the end of the war, the collections were confiscated by the victorious powers. The Western Allies returned them to Berlin in the 1950s, while the Soviet Trophy Commission brought them to Leningrad as spoils of war .

During the division

Museum center in Berlin-Dahlem, 2008

The first special exhibition after the war was shown in the old building in Dahlem in 1946. The regional departments followed until the 1950s, after many objects had been returned. The western victorious powers returned the confiscated parts of the collection to the city of Berlin in the 1950s. Between 1977 and 1979, the Soviet Union handed over 45,000 objects from the collection of the Museum of Ethnology to the GDR . The GDR government had them stored in the Museum of Ethnology in Leipzig . In many cases, the division of Germany led to the creation of parallel museums in the east and west of Berlin. However, this did not happen in the case of the Museum of Ethnology, which found no equivalent in East Berlin.

The old museum building in the city center was damaged in the war. Although the reopening could still be celebrated there on May 21, 1955 in provisionally prepared rooms, it was demolished in 1961. From 1964, the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation , founded in 1957, had a large museum complex built on the site in Dahlem, in which, in addition to the ethnological collection that was shown in the new building, the holdings of European paintings and sculptures remaining in West Berlin were shown in the old building. However, this use meant that the ethnological collection could only be shown to a limited extent.

The Museum of Ethnology also resumed its own collecting activities. This mostly had a thematic focus, the indiscriminate collecting for the documentation of peoples regarded as homogeneous was scientifically no longer the state of the art. Nevertheless, only objects were collected that were traditional and not exposed to European influences, so the scientists were still in the tradition of Bastian. The more recent developments in these cultures were not taken into account. Even in the redesigned show collections in the 1970s, the exhibits were classified in their social and cultural context, but presented without any reference to the present, which means that the museum was not up to date with ethnology as a university discipline.

After reunification

After German reunification , the collection, which had been distributed between the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic , was brought together again. The ethnological collection is almost as good as it was before the war, although the whereabouts of 25,000 objects are still unclear and it is assumed that at least some of them are still looted in Russian municipal depots. Since the European art collections have been relocated from the Dahlem museum complex to the Kulturforum Tiergarten or back to the Museum Island since the 1990s , conversion and expansion plans were developed for the museum building, which ultimately led to changes in the exhibition concepts for the ethnological collections. As a result of the departure of the European collections, the population increasingly lost interest in the museums that remained in Dahlem, so that the Ethnological Museum had to record a dramatic decrease in the number of visitors. The Museum of German Folklore was subsequently merged with the European parts of the Ethnological Museum in 1999 and from then on formed the Museum of European Cultures . The new exhibitions for Africa and North America were also opened this year. In 2000, the Museum of Ethnology was renamed the Ethnological Museum. However, these measures did not, as hoped, lead to increased attractiveness for visitors.

According to a recommendation of the International Expert Commission on Historic Center Berlin and a resolution of the German Bundestag, a reconstruction of the baroque façade of the Berlin Palace in connection with its use as a Museum of World Cultures was realized on the Schlossplatz under the name Humboldt Forum . After the Berlin-Dahlem Museum Center was closed on January 8, 2017, the collections were moved to Berlin-Mitte. The reopening of the Ethnological Museum as part of the Humboldt Forum in the Berlin Palace took place on September 22, 2021 with the participation of Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. During the opening ceremony, Steinmeier recalled that as colonial rulers, Germans oppressed, exploited, robbed and killed people.


Luf boat in the Ethnological Museum

The collection of the Ethnological Museum currently comprises a total of 508,000 ethnographical and archaeological objects. There are also 285,000 ethnographic photo documents, 200,000 pages of written documents, 140,000 music-ethnographic sound documents, 20,000 ethnographic films and 50,000 meters of uncut film material. The museum is ethnogeographically divided into the thematic areas Mesoamerica , Andean region , North America , South Seas and Australia , Africa and East and North Asia . There is also the department for ethnomusicology . This makes the Ethnological Museum Berlin one of the largest ethnological museums in the world and has the most extensive collection of its kind in Europe.

The collection houses entire houses that were brought back from the new colonies on expeditions by imperial explorers, as well as ships and boats. A highlight is a complete ship on the island of Luf in the Pacific , whose culture died out in the 1940s.

The Ethnological Museum shows permanent exhibitions on the archeology of America , the Indians of North America , the South Seas , East Asia and Africa . It has a junior museum specially designed for children. Furthermore, the Ethnological Museum in Berlin is the only ethnological museum in Germany that has a music-ethnological department . This includes the Berlin Phonogram Archive . The library of the museum is a scientific special library for all areas of ethnology. A central depot for the collections in Berlin-Friedrichshagen is currently being planned .


See also


Web links

Commons : Ethnological Museum  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  2. a b c Viola König (Ed.): Ethnological Museum Berlin. Prestel, Munich 2003, p. 14.
  3. Viola König (Ed.): Ethnological Museum Berlin. Prestel, Munich 2003. p. 15.
  4. Viola König (Ed.): Ethnological Museum Berlin. Prestel, Munich 2003, p. 16.
  5. Viola König (Ed.): Ethnological Museum Berlin. Prestel, Munich 2003, p. 17.
  6. ^ Society for Ethnography (ed.): Berliner Blätter. LIT Verlag, Münster 1997, ISSN  1434-0542 , p. 76.
  7. a b c d Viola König (Ed.): Ethnological Museum Berlin. Prestel, Munich 2003, p. 19.
  8. ^ A b Society for Ethnography (Ed.): Berliner Blätter. LIT Verlag, Münster 1997, p. 77.
  9. ^ Society for Ethnography (ed.): Berliner Blätter. LIT Verlag, Münster 1997, pp. 77 and 78.
  10. a b c d Society for Ethnography (Ed.): Berliner Blätter. LIT Verlag, Münster 1997, p. 78.
  11. ^ Information from the Museum of Ethnology in Leipzig
  12. ^ Heike Wegner: Gertrud Dorka (1893–1976) - rubble woman and museum director. In: Ausgräberinnen, women researchers, pioneers: Selected portraits of early women archaeologists in the context of their time (women - research - archeology) , p. 220;
  13. a b c Society for Ethnography (Ed.): Berliner Blätter. LIT Verlag, Münster 1997, p. 79.
  14. Viola König (Ed.): Ethnological Museum Berlin. Prestel, Munich 2003, p. 20.
  15. ^ Society for Ethnography (ed.): Berliner Blätter. LIT Verlag, Münster 1997, p. 80.
  16. Steinmeier: Colonial Past , Süddeutsche Zeitung, September 22, 2021.
  17. Viola König (Ed.): Ethnological Museum Berlin. Prestel, Munich 2003. p. 8.

Coordinates: 52 ° 27 ′ 24 ″  N , 13 ° 17 ′ 31 ″  E