How did objects come to be in museums and who is entitled to own them?

Title: How did objects come to be in museums and who is entitled to own them?
Authors: Vanessa von Gliszczynski and Julia Friedel
Media Outlet: Africa is a Country
Publish Date: November 2, 2018

“As the debate about how objects came into museums and who is entitled to own them is growing, it is essential for the Weltkulturen Museum to contribute to these important conversations. This is why we are very happy that “COLLECTED. BOUGHT. LOOTED?” (from 16 August 2018 to 27 January 2019), an exhibition we curated at the Weltkulturen Museum, is part of a major cooperation between four museums in Frankfurt, all of which examined their collections for objects that had been acquired under problematic circumstances. (…) The cases presented, reveal a wide range of contexts that show how the objects were acquired and the routes they took from the territories of origin to the museum. We decided to reconstruct their provenance in detail on the labels, not least in order to emphasize the gaps in our knowledge.

(…) The Weltkulturen museum’s own archive was largely destroyed in a 1944 bombing raid during World War II, and thus only by conducting research in other institutions and archives were we able to determine more or less how the objects came into the collection. Initially, this led to correspondences with dealers, descendants and institutions in the Netherlands, France and South-Africa with whom we exchanged information. It was not only important for us to determine the chain of ownership, but also to take into account the specific historical contexts in order to obtain a thorough picture of the objects’ biographies. Nonetheless, many details, particularly the names of local producers and previous owners, can hardly be reconstructed.”