Like many ethnological museums, the Linden-­Museum is undergoing a process of transfor­mation. In an increasingly diverse society, we must renegotiate the role and relevance of ethnological museums. The support pro­vided through the Initiative for Ethnological Collections enables us to experimentally develop the basis for a new orientation. Following the principle of the laboratory, we develop and test new forms of museum knowledge production, mediation, and presentation in eight LindenLabs.

Selected collections and objects help us to address different aspects of social inequality and the effects of (post-)colonial structures in museums. Some of the labs work on questions using a regional example, others focus on the work behind the scenes. All labs deal with overarching themes: practices of ethnographic collecting, colonial structures and their aftermath in the present, the distribution of authority for interpretation in museums, and the role of ethnological museums today. For this purpose, we combine participatory formats with research on the origin of the collections in order to reveal and reflect on their entanglements. In this way, an innovative and ex­­perimental space is created in the museum, which enables an intensive exchange with actors — representatives of the source communities, members of the diverse urban society of Stuttgart, scientists, artists and designers. Together we question ex­isting structures from within and create multi-­voiced presen­tations. This experimental and procedural approach also means that any conclusions reached can change over the course of the project, as we repeatedly review and advance what we have learnt and experienced. The process and results will be presented twice a year in the lab from spring 2020 onwards and will also be documented on the project blog at Ultimately, the results will also be in­cor­porated into new permanent exhibitions. They form the basis for the new museum concept in a future new building.

LAB1: Museums and indigenous communities: New forms of cooperation / Focus: Kayan/Kayaw (Myanmar)

Indigenous societies were often first pushed to the margins of society by colonial rulers and later by post-colonial nation states. Threatened by poverty and violent conflicts, they sold their cultural artefacts. How can museums, as custodians of these collections, contribute to the strengthening of these societies today? What significance can our collections have for the revival of cultural practices and the social empowerment of indigenous groups? Together with representatives of indigenous cultural initiatives from the Myanmar-Thai border region (Karenni region), new forms of cooperation and sharing of know-how and resources will be experimented with. The Linden-Museum‘s collection from this region will be examined from new perspectives and a presentation featuring many voices will be jointly developed.

LAB 2: New ways of provenance research and their mediation / Exemplified by the collection areas selected for the labs

The examination of the colonial period by means of proven­ance research is increasingly establishing itself as a core task of ethnological museums, but its presentation has so far been sidelined. This lab is looking for new ways of displaying the results — for the Stuttgart public, but also for represen­tatives of source communities. How can acquisition contexts be made visible in exciting ways? How can the diverse assessments of an object be appropriately presented?

LAB 3: Historical collections, contexts, and connections / Focus: Oceania

Lab 3 will look for new ways of presenting ethnological objects from the historical collections which firmly anchor them in contemporary contexts. It aims to show connections that link collection objects with individuals and local communities, with the histories of institutions and nations. Together and with the Linden-Museum team, indigenous scientists and cultural experts will examine approaches and forms of presentation that can make these relationships visible—without losing sight of the respective aesthetics and artistic significance of the objects.

LAB 4: Entangled: Stuttgart — Afghanistan. Relationships in the past and present / Focus: Afghanistan

There are thousands of objects, photos, and documents from Afghanistan in the Linden-Museum. Their exciting and sometimes problematic stories tell us a lot about personal experiences and memories, but also about political and economic circumstances and interdependencies. They embody highly ambivalent facets of German-Afghan relations in the past and present. A working group of interested people from Stuttgart (and the region) with and without connections to Afghanistan will critically examine these entangled stories and enrich or comment on them with new materials and activities.

LAB 5: (in) relationships — challenging / (un)learning / breaking open

The lab ‘in Relationships’ focuses on the mediation work in the museum. Based on the themes of language and spatiality, it examines and discusses how relationships between people, objects, and the museum as an institution are shaped and transformed. Starting in winter 2019 / 20, a workshop programme on language that is sensitive to diversity will begin, which will be carried out together with representatives from other museums, organisations, and initiatives. In a monthly public roundtable dis­cussion in the lab, we will get to the bottom of questions about space and spatiality.

LAB 6: New forms of ‘heritage’ in museums: what do we bring into the future? / Focus: Cameroon, Bertram Collection

Together with the ABRAC (Advisory Board for the Repre­sen­tation of African Collections at the Linden-Museum Stuttgart) and members of the Linden-Museum staff, a group of en­gaged scholars, writers, and artists based both in Europe and Africa will explore one of the historical colonial collections from Cameroon held at the Linden-Museum (Hermann Bertram, 1908) and discuss its meanings and legacies. Focusing on the his­torical collection as a case study, the group will inter­rogate, question, and experiment with the collecting and story­telling practices associated with museum work that produce ‘heritages’. The workshop will result in a special edition of the Cameroonian literature magazine Bakwa and a jointly designed presen­tation aimed at sharing the group’s insights and experiences.

LAB 7: Shared history, migration and restitution / Focus: Mapuche (Chile)

The aim of the lab is to establish the basis for a long-term institutional cooperation with the Mapuche Museum in Cañete (Chile). The museum is an important centre for the decolo­­nisation efforts of the indigenous group, as the Mapuche are still confronted with complex land rights issues and the consequences of colonialism. The Linden-Museum acts as a contact zone for the meeting of various cultural repre­sentatives from South and North America. The theme of the workshop and the presentation will be determined by representatives of the Mapuche themselves.

LAB 8: Ethnographic openings

The LindenLabs are the field for ‘Ethnographic Openings’ to scrutinise, analyse, and think about collaborative practices in working with the museum‘s collections and archives. What common themes, challenges, and lines of conflict do these (new) relationships raise? Where do their potentials lie? Together with LindenLab participants and neighbours from the city, culture, politics and academia, formats will be developed on how this process can be documented and conveyed. The aim is to create a collaborative space in which people can think and act together.

German Federal Cultural Foundation
The German Federal Cultural Foundation is one of the largest publicly funded cultural foundations in Europe. Its main prio­rity is to support innovative programmes and projects on an international level. The foundation also invests in projects which develop new methods of fostering cultural heritage and tap into the cultural and artistic potential of knowledge required for addressing social issues.

Initiative for Ethnological Collections
In recent years, the Federal Cultural Foundation has already launched a number of programmes and initiatives that support processes of change, such as a contemporary and global orientation of museum collections. In addition to the Linden-Museum Stuttgart, the Hamburg MARKK — Museum am Rothenbaum, Kulturen und Künste der Welt, and the GRASSI Museum für Völkerkunde zu Leipzig are involved in the initiative for Ethnological Collections. In the future, all three museums will pursue new paths in coopera­tion with source communities, in experimenting with new forms of museum presentations, in opening up to local urban societies, and in provenance research. As part of these initiative, the three ethnological museums each receive one million euros over a period of up to four years.

Project Coordination
and Department
for Conceptual Redesign

Henrike Louise Hoffmann
Tel. +49.172.4720579

Linden-Museum Stuttgart
Hegelplatz 1
70174 Stuttgart

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