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100 Years of Points of View

On October 22nd 2004 the Museum der Weltkulturen will be 100 years old. Since its foundation the Museum has undergone many changes and developments. Until the 2nd World War it was known as the Völkermuseum and its home was in the Thurn und Taxis Palais in the city centre. This building, along with many artefacts not already in storage, and a large amount of achive material, was destroyed during the air raids made on Frankfurt in March 1944. After thirty years without a permanent home the Museum für Völkerkunde was finally re-established in three villas – Schaumainkai 29-37 – where it is now an integral component of the Museumsufer (the embankment of the river Main, along which there are many museums). In 1997 it received an UNESCO-Award for its work with contemporary non-western art in Galerie 37. In 2001 the museum was renamed as the Museum der Weltkulturen.

As scientific approaches in ethnology underwent changes so did the treatment of the museum’s collections. The museum’s collaborators, from different academic generations and traditions, always used their own methods of questioning when dealing with the artefacts in “their” collections. The way in which an item is described and scientifically processed is always a combination of information sources from the land of origin and the respective personality of the person doing the job.

This diversity of perspectives on collecting provides the theme of this Jubilee Exhibition, how in different contexts, pieces from the museum’s own collections from North and South America, from Indonesia, New Guinea and Europe can be displayed. The individual rooms were conceived by six of the museum’s female collaborators, the end result producing a wide variety of themes and points of view.

It becomes clear that many things come together when forming a statement about an exhibit, i.e. the indigenous meanings in the land of origin, the subject matter, based on the interpretation of european scientists, and the popular presentations, enabling the museum visitor to associate with the object. In addition, the personal feelings the individual collaborators have for the objects they have chosen can be clearly felt.

A book is being published to celebrate this exhibition - “Ansichtssachen aus 100 Jahren” (Points of view over 100 Years). Consisting of varying, and entertaining, contributions from many writers connected to the museum, this book brings to life the diversity of ethnological themes and the history of the museum itself.