The RJM is committed to interdisciplinary postcolonial exploration of its collections. We support dialogue, knowledge exchange and cooperation with scholars, curators, activists, artists and actors of post-migrant society as well as with descendants of the societies from which the holdings originate. Polyphony and transparency are crucial elements of an ongoing decolonisation process: We are therefore currently working on a digitisation strategy while also seeking to discover and disclose the provenance of our collections. The aim of provenance research is to provide as complete as possible a picture of our collections’ history, from each object’s origin to its current place of storage – including the legal, political, cultural and scientific circumstances and perspectives under which it entered the museum. The topic is relevant enough for the city of Cologne to have established a Provenance Research Expert position at the Department of Art and Culture in 2007. So far, the focus has been on investigating the provenance of works of visual art confiscated as a result of Nazi persecution. Since 2017, the reappraisal of colonial contexts of injustice has also been discussed in a broader public context (“Provenance Research in Colonial Collections”). In this framework, we closely cooperate with the Colonial Provenances working group of the Provenance Research Committee, the German Lost Art Foundation, the Contact Point for Collections from Colonial Contexts in Germany and various international actors.

Projects & Returns

We are currently working on a concept for the systematic indexing of our holdings. Two further projects are dedicated to the collections of Wilhelm Joest and Max von Oppenheim. As a member of the Benin Dialogue Group, we are also questioning the 96 objects from the Kingdom of Benin that are among our holdings. Moreover, we participate in the interdisciplinary project International Inventories Programme on Kenyan cultural objects in the Global North. In June 2018, we were able to return a tattooed skull to New Zealand. We are currently studying the possibility of returning the head of a Vishnu sculpture to Cambodia. Our exhibition The Shadows of Things #1 explored how the skull and the Vishnu head ended up in our collection.

“TheMuseumsLab” cooperation

The RJM is part of “TheMuseumsLab”, a knowledge exchange programme for African and German museum professionals – an essential building block for future museum cooperation between Germany and Nigeria as well as other African countries. The RJM is one of ten cultural institutions from Germany participating in the pilot phase. For further information, please see the press dossier.