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Guidelines on Dealing with Natural History Collections from Colonial Contexts

Biodiversitätswand mit Besuchenden| Bildquelle: MfN Antje Dittmann

The Museum für Naturkunde Berlin explores the political, legal and ethical aspects of natural history collections from colonial contexts in internal workshops as well as in close exchange with other scientific institutions, civil society actors and researchers from various disciplines. Taking current discussions in science, society and politics into account the project aims at developing recommendations and standards for dealing with natural history collections from colonial contexts.

As part of the guideline project, we organise workshops and discussions on the museum's colonial past and on the identification of colonial contexts and collections at the MfN. In addition, the specificities of natural history collections and scientific practice then and now are reflected upon. The discussions at the MfN are based on case studies of colonial collection holdings and exchanges with (inter)national experts.

The aim is to develop recommendations for dealing with natural history objects from colonial contexts, which will be incorporated into a guideline, among other things. The focus is on creating transparency with regard to colonial holdings in order to enable cooperation and participation, as well as the integration of new knowledge and values into responsible collecting, research and exhibition practices.

The project was funded within the framework of the Action Plan II of the Leibniz Research Museums from May 2020 until December 2021.