Position Paper of the International Participants of the Symposium Held Prior to the Opening of the East Wing of the Humboldt Forum

News from 09/20/2022

During a three-day symposium held from September 12–14, approximately 80 international partners of the Humboldt Forum from Africa, America, Asia and Oceania developed their views on the prospects for long-term, sustainable cooperation with the Forum. In a statement titled “Dignity – Continuity – Transparency,” they formulated their ideas, proposals, and expectations.

Several people are sitting in a semicircle at tables, in the background people are sitting on the floor listening to the discussion
In the "Working together" workshop, the Berlin scientists and international partners exchanged views on the future of museums and objects. © SPK/photothek.de/Thomas Trutschel

Hermann Parzinger, President of the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz (Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation), commented: “We would have liked to have had our international partners present last year, when some of our first exhibitions opened at the Humboldt Forum, but the COVID-19 pandemic made that impossible. So I am all the more pleased that, last week, we were able to welcome so many representatives of the societies of origin from many different parts of the world. The experience of working together here was, in my judgement, immensely fruitful and enriching. The present position paper, for which I am immensely grateful, provides many ideas and principles for future collaboration – in the spirit of listening, forgoing the prerogative of interpretation, and jointly reappraising critical sets of collection objects.”

“The idea of composing a position paper came from the group of international partners,” noted Lars-Christian Koch, Director of the Ethnologisches Museum (Ethnological Museum) and the Museum für Asiatische Kunst (Asian Art Museum) of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (National Museums in Berlin). “They wanted to offer the museums and the Humboldt Forum something in writing. And in the process, they compiled the results of the individual workshops. During the opening program, a great variety of stakeholders also had the opportunity to compare notes and coordinate with one another for the first time – we would like to carry that momentum forward. We are going to launch more projects in the next three years, including longer-term residencies.”

The workshops had the character of discussion forums and were attended by approximately 140 international community representatives, indigenous experts, museum professionals from the regions of origin, artists, filmmakers, and researchers. The agendas for these workshops were drawn up in close consultation with the international stakeholders. These partners have, in some cases, been working with the Ethnologisches Museum and the Museum für Asiatische Kunst for many years, and they have contributed to the exhibitions in the Humboldt Forum in a variety of ways: by acting as co-curators, participating in collaborative research, providing information and advice, and supplying works of contemporary art. During the weekend of the public preview, they had the opportunity to engage directly with some of the 25,000 visitors in the course of numerous expert discussions and other events.

The position statement had already been signed by 47 international participants of the opening symposium by 6 pm on the day that was issued (September 18, 2022). Additional signatures are still being gathered.

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