On Objects at four Museums in East Frisia
Commissioned by the Ostfriesische Landschaft – Regional Association for Culture, Science and Education
East Frisia’s location by the sea, the associated seafaring, trade, and navy explain why objects from colonial contexts can be found in the region’s collections. Particularly significant are objects from China and especially from the former German colony of Jiaozhou (Kiautschou) with its capital Qingdao (Tsingtau).
The multi-perspective study researched the provenance of over 600 objects from the collections of four museums in the region of East Frisia: the Deutsches Sielhafenmuseum Carolinensiel (German Sluice Port Museum), the Naturforschende Gesellschaft zu Emden (Association of Naturalists), the East Frisian Tea Museum Norden and the Fehn- und Schiffahrtmuseum Westrhauderfehn (Fen and Navy Museum).
The aim was to reconstruct the colonial contexts of the objects, which have so far mainly been classified as “seafarers’ souvenirs”, and to investigate problematic contexts of appropriation.
It had to be examined whether these originated from the German colony of Jiaozhou (Kiautschou) with its capital Qingdao (Tsingtau) and must be considered colonial objects respectively or not. The analysis of the provenance marks on the objects revealed that many items described as “Chinese” actually originated from Japan. The research unfolded that a large proportion of objects are export and mass-produced products as well as everyday objects. It was therefore difficult to identify individual objects in archival sources. The only way to trace the provenance was to conduct biographical research on the previous owners of the objects, and to figure out whether they had any contacts to China and could acquire the objects in Southeast Asia. Only a few objects were imported from China to Europe before 1840, or produced after 1949. The vast majority of objects was in produced in colonial contexts, either in the colony of Jiazhou, or other parts of China effected by colonial powers in the years around 1900. However, we did not find concrete evidence of illicit acquisitions due to colonial actions or policy.
In collaboration with Chinese scholars, research was conducted at Chinese and German archives. The results of the project was presented to the public at a concluding workshop, and relevant holdings will be published digitally online on the cultural heritage portal and on the “PAESE” database.
The project was funded by the German Lost Art Foundation.
THE PROJECT IN THE MEDIA
Andreas Förster: Museen & Herkunft von Objekten: Der neue Blick auf alte „Seemannsmitbringsel“
THE PROJECT IN THE MEDIA
“Raubgut oder Mitbringsel? Museen in Ostfriesland erforschen ihren Bestand”
Emder Jahrbuch für historische Landeskunde Ostfrieslands Band 102 (2022)
Andratschke, Claudia und Jachens, Maik (Hrsg.): Sammlungsgut aus kolonialen Kontexten (China): In vier ostfriesischen Museen und Kultureinrichtungen, Heidelberg: arthistoricum.net, 2023 (Veröffentlichungen des Netzwerks Provenienzforschung in Niedersachsen, Band 4). https://doi.org/10.11588/arthistoricum.1017